Saturday, November 17, 2012

A...Better Bilitis?

I've talked about different discs of Bilitis on this blog before, here and here. But it's time to do it again.

It has been alleged by a helpful poster in the comments to my last Bilitis post that the Australian disc might still be better than the new Pathfinder disc (and all the others). So I've now got a copy of the Australian disc (from Amsell Entertainment) in hand. And I have to say, he might just be right.

So, above is a screenshot from the Australian disc of the same screen I took a shot of from the Pathfinder disc.  [Note: after clicking these images to enlarge them, you can right click these images and click "View Image" to see them even larger than blogger's image viewer allows, and see these shots full-size]  Of course, the first thing you'll notice is that the image quality stinks, just like it does on all the others. The fact is, it's just a shame Pathfinder were unable to find 35mm masters to do a proper restoration. Casual fans will probably find this comparison academic - they all look poor, so you might as well just buy whichever Bilitis is the cheapest and easiest to obtain depending on where you live  But...

While the image is much more faded than the Pathfinder disc (who probably just upped the saturation), there appears to be more detail on-hand here. Granted, it can get a little hard to discern the grain/video noise (which there is plenty of on the Amstell disc) from actual detail. But let's look at a part of the shot closer up:
First of all, yuck to both. lol But okay, I definitely can make out vague, blurry facial features on the left (Amstell) that I don't see on the right (Pathfinder). I'm not sure we're talking about a superior image source... I suspect the difference might be that Pathfinder decided to DNR all the grain, thus scrubbing some detail and making everything a bit softer. I suppose there is still open debate about whether a smoothed out, less grainy image is preferable to a noisy image, where solid black backgrounds look like an army of crawling insects - at the cost of detail from the original images - but I think most purists would say (and I'd agree), that the DNR is too destructive.

I think we need another comparison to get a firmer idea of what's going on here. Pathfinder above, Amstell below:

The Pathfinder does have that waxier, smoothed-out look alright. Because the source is so poor, though, I'm not sure if we're actually losing any non-grain detail here. On a high end Blu-Ray transfer taken from a negative or film source, this kind of DNR would be untenable, but here? They may've made the right choice - or not. At this point, I think it boils down to preference. Both discs seem to be using the same source, but Pathfinder played with it some more, and whether they helped it or hurt it - I'll leave that up to you. What's less subjective is that the colors are better on the Path disc, but there's slightly more vertical information on the Amstell (look at the elbow on the left).

You might ask, why not have a look at the opening shot you used to compare Pathfinder to all those other versions in your last post? Oh I was intending to, but the Amstell disc is missing the opening shot! Amstell throws us in on the close-up, after the shot that pans out from a medium to a wide, showing Bilitis's bedroom, shoes etc. I have to say, I was not expecting that when I popped this disc in.

How do the discs compare outside of the image comparison? Well, here Pathfinder wins hands down. The Amstell disc has nothing but a simple Play button on the menu. Not only do you not get the extras (the soundtrack album, gallery and Breillat interview), you also don't get the subtitles or the alternate audio. While the English dub seems to use the original actress's voice (well, I'm not sure but our commenter seems confident that it's her), it's still obviously a pretty chintzy dub. The French audio track definitely sounds like the most naturalistic audio of the three, and the optional subs are a definite plus in cases like this.

You can really make a case for either disc (or perhaps more accurately, a case against either disc!)... Both have advantages over the other. Pathfinder has the French audio, subtitles, extras, and better colors (I'm not listing "less grain" as a plus, all things considered). Amstell has slightly better detail in at least some (I'd say most) shots, and isn't as over-cropped on the bottom edge. Of course, Amstell is also missing the opening shot, which isn't cool. Personally, considering the poverty of the image on all discs, I'll probably just hang onto my Pathfinder. But look at the shots and go for whatever makes you happiest. Hopefully someday a nice 35mm print will surface and we'll all be able to double-dip for a stunning Blu-Ray, anyway.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Social Corset Doc

There's a new, French documentary in town called Images de femmes ou Le corset social (or Images of Women or the Social Corset), which is now available on DVD in France. As you've probably gathered without my specifically stating, Catherine Breillat participates in it. And happily for us, the French DVD has English subtitles. So import away!

Here's the official description taken from the film's press kit: "A man wonders about the image of women offered to his gaze... A questioning about the criteria of beauty promulgated - imposed? - by the fashion world and its models. And little by little the film leads us to think about appearances by reflecting upon the mirages that fill the social universe, lingering on the representations that invade our unconscious desires. Fashion designers, philosophers, feminine magazine editors, advertisers, psychoanalysts, and poets unravel, for us, the laces of a "social corset" that imprisons women, and from which it has become difficult to escape."

The disc appears to be R0 (region free), which is great, but note that it is PAL. I haven't picked this one up myself, since it's focused on the fashion industry and issues of female beauty rather than Breillat and her work; but it has some extras, including additional interviews and a short film; so it could make a nice little pick-up for the Breillat fan who has everything.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Better Bilitis

Pathfinder's Bilitis DVD is here!  So, what do you want first?  The good news or the bad news?  Okay, let's start out with the bad news.  You may remember from earlier reports on this very blog that Pathfinder was looking for a 35mm print of this film to make a fresh, quality transfer. Well... they didn't find it. Apparently, there are no surviving prints to be found, and in that sense, you could add Bilitis to the tragic list of the world's lost films. And, so, the transfer on hand is just like the past discs I've covered: low quality and video sourced (see: above).

But wait; I did say there was good news, right? Disappointing as the above is (and it really is, especially to a film like this, where lush visuals and... a good look at the actresses... are a key part of the film's appeal), Pathfinder has put in the work to make this the best Bilitis disc yet. They've included the original French audio (with English subs, of course), which puts it a good length ahead of most of the other Bilitis discs out there, which only include the English dub. And that English dub is on here, too, if you want it... as well as even a German dub, which is perhaps getting carried away; but hey, I'll take it.

They've also included the Bilitis soundtrack album as a feature in the extras... for a long time, the soundtrack was easier to find than an actual DVD of the film. Now they're both on here. There's also a brief slide-show of what I'm guessing are publicity photos, and some bonus trailers of other Pathfinder releases. And most excitingly, especially for us Breillat.blogspotters, is a new video interview with Catherine Breillat about the film. It's a bit short, but very frank and forthcoming, and answers some questions a lot of us surely have about her involvement with the film.

It also appears to be the uncut version. On many discs (I think all of them except the PAL Australian disc), towards the end of the film where Melissa dances with Lucas and Bilitis runs off through a doorway, we cut back to them dancing. In this version, we first see Bilitis accidentally stumble upon two other characters' intense love scene, and run back out in disgust.  Also, many versions have a truncated ending, cutting out the final, silent shots of the film. This one has the full ending.

And while this image is disappointing, it looks better than I've seen it elsewhere... It's close to its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio (though so was the PAL Australian disc). And there's some screenshots comparisons I've made with it, one of the full-screen discs, and even a 1.66 TV print I found online (#3... you'll note the hint of a watermark mostly out of frame in the top left corner). Certainly the colors and details are best on the Pathfinder disc (#4, the last one at the bottom), and has much more visual information on the left and right sides of the screen.  It does look like it's been a teensy bit over-cropped vertically (it's the only one that crops out the bottom of her shoes); but it's very slight, and definitely the strongest image over-all. Click them and then select "view image" to see them full-size:

So, I'm calling it: this is the best of all the Bilitis discs, and barring a 35mm discovery, the best we're apt to ever get. So, if you already have an older disc, it may or may not be worth an upgrade; but if you don't, this is certainly the one to get, and conveniently, the easiest to find.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Marie-Hélène Breillat

So, I think it's time I tackled the films - and the availability of the films - of Marie-Hélène Breillat. Catherine's sister. I'm motivated by the upcoming (October 3) DVD debut of a complete 4-disc set of the TV miniseries Claudine, based on the series of novels by early 19th century French novelist Colette. Don't get too excited, though - the DVD set is only being released in France with no English language options. But Marie had the starring, titular role of Claudine; that's her on the box.

Now, Marie has been featured in several of her sister's films; and so of course, you can already find those covered on this blog. This post briefly touches on Claudine, as well as covers Le Dialogue dans le marécage, Dracula & Son and Last Tango In Paris, the last two of which she has small roles alongside her sister. And of course she plays a starring role in Catherine's Nocturnal Uproar, and did some uncredited voice work on A Real Young Girl. ...Some of those films have multiple posts, so check the sidebar to find even more on them.

But now let's look at all of the films I've never tackled because Catherine Breillat didn't happen to work on them.

Marie had a pretty major role in a 1972 mini-series called L'homme qui revient de loin (The Man Who Returns from Afar), based on the 1916 novel by Gaston Leroux (Phantom Of the Opera). This was released in a nice 2-disc set in France, but alas... no English language options.

And rolling with the disappointments (unless you speak French), here's another one with no English subs or dubs, L'affaire Lourdes. This is one of Marie's earliest roles: a TV movie from 1967, based on the life of a 19th century saint named Bernadette Soubirous, who had visions of the Virgin Mary. Her only earlier appearance was in an episode of the French series Allô police, which isn't even available on DVD in France.

In 1974, she had a smaller role in the mystery thriller, Les Suspects, about an American tourist found murdered in the streets of France, starring Mimsy Farmer.  Yes, it was released on DVD only in France, and no, it has no English language options... but this one was at least released on VHS here in the US from Simitar Video (dubbed, I believe) if you're up to tracking that down.

In 1979, she co-starred in the French television adaptation of Stefan Zweig's novel, La pitié dangereuse, about a soldier who visits a rich man's paralyzed woman out of pity, but can't return her affections when she falls hopelessly in love with him. This Seven7 DVD is full screen and, of course, has no English subtitles.

Marie had a secondary role in a controversial 1971 film called Mourir d'aimer, about the true story of Gabrielle Russier, a female teacher who fell in love with one of her high school-aged students and wound up committing suicide when the law intervened. That sounds like it would be pretty topical in the US today, but it's yet another film only released on DVD in France, with no English subtitles.

1972 saw the release of La mandarine (Sweet Deception), starring Annie Girardot (Marie has a secondary role). A British stranger arrives at a wealthy family's hotel, causing a rift between the residents. LCJ Editions issued this on DVD, in France only, with no English translation.

Hey! Here's something I bet you weren't expecting - A Marie-Hélène only released on DVD in France with no English... Oh, you were expecting it? Well, here's one more. Histoire de rire from 1976, based on the play by Armand Salacrou, about romantic mix-ups and infidelity.

So, okay, just what IS available in English?

How about Doktor Faustus, a 1982 German mini-series based, of course, on the novel by Thomas Mann? This famous tale of a composer who makes a deal with the devil was released here in the United States in 2010 by E1 Entertainment, with English subtitles. You can easily scoop it up on Amazon, rent it from Netflix, or wherever.

She also has a small (uncredited) part in Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece, Fanny & Alexander. This film has been released by many DVD companies around the world, but you won't do better than The Criterion Collection's recent special edition reissue on Blu-Ray. 

And, finally, what has she acted in that doesn't appear to be available anywhere at all?

She played the lead in the light-hearted romantic comedy Oublie-moi, Mandoline (Forget Me, Mandoline), a 1976 adaptation of the 1974 book by cartoonist Jacques Faizant.

She starred in one episode of the long running (60 episodes) French series, Les amours romantiques from the mid 80's, an anthology of love stories based on classic novels (Balzac, Dumas, etc). Her episode was La dame aux camélias, based on the novel by Alexander Dumas, about a man who falls in love with a courtesan suffering from tuberculosis.

In 1974, she starred in L'ironie du sort (The Irony of Chance), based on the novel by Paul Guimard, Two stories of different possibilities happening to the same character... like the US film Sliding Doors (which came later), except it takes place during World War II.

In 1970, she starred in a Claude Feraldo comedy called Bof... Anatomie d'un livreur (Who Cares... Anatomy of a Delivery Boy). It's the story of a delivery man who decides to quit his job... much to the chagrin of his wife.

In 1973, she had a major role in Le dialogue dans le marécage, an adaptation of a collection of playlets by Marguerite Yourcenar, based on Greek mythology.

In 1970, she starred in the Jean-Claude Sée L'apocalypse, based upon the novel by Christiane Rochefort.

She played Antigone in the French TV adaptation of the Sophocles play Antigone in 1974. Are you noticing a trend here? She tends to act in very literary works.

More recently, in 1982, she appeared in the Italian TV mini-series Progetti di allegria (notice, in the 80's, she took a lot more international roles), based on the novel by Carlo Castellaneta, about a former model who's life changes when her husband wants a separation.

In 1973, she had a major role in  Le chasseur de chez Maxim's (Maxim's Porter), a French romantic comedy by Calude Vital, based on the popular play by Yves Mirande and Gustave Quinson (it's been adapted many times over many decades).

 In 1976, she was in Dîner de famille, a French TV movie directed by Michael Wyn, who directed several of her aforementioned projects, including Les Suspects, Oublie-moi, Mandoline, and L'homme qui revient de loin. It's a three-act comedy adapted from Jean Bernard-Luc.

She played Sybil in a 1977 version of Oscar Wilde's Le portrait de Dorian Gray by Pierre Boutron.

She was Juliette in a French television adaptation of Shakespeare's Mesure pour mesure (Measure for Measure) in 1971.

In 1979, she played Nina in Anton Chekov's La mouette (The Seagull) for French TV.

In 1966, she starred in a black and white French TV movie titled La forêt noire (The Black Forest), inspired by the last three years of the life of Robert Schumann.

She appeared ina single episode of a 1969 television series called  En votre âme et conscience (In Your Conscience), a TV show which reenacted court cases. To be fair, you couldn't really expect something like this to turn up on DVD, let alone translated into English.

She had a smaller role in the French TV series Le miroir 2000, based on the novel by André Maheux, about skiing (the mayor of a small resort decides to open a ski resort). You can actually find episodes of this online, albeit untranslated.

In 1974, she appeared in an episode of Histoires insolites (Unsual Stories), Her episode, Un jour comme les autres avec des cacahuètes, seems to translate to A Day Like Any Other With Peanuts, which indeed sounds unusual. Based on a short story by American horror writer Shirley Jackson (The Haunting) and directed by Edouard Molinaro.

...That's a large body of impressive work. And I think you could say pretty seriously under-represented on DVD, especially outside of France. I'd really love to see some of this material get translated into English some day. A lot of these films and series seem pretty compelling even outside of Marie's involvement.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Breillat's Musical Side

So, you've seen all her films and read all her books (no easy feat, considering how many of both have yet to be released in English)... What's left to explore in Catherine Breillat's oeuvre? Well, how about her music videos? In the mid 2000s, Breillat shot three music videos for French singer Élodie Frégé. They're all readily available online, so I shall embed them for you now. :)

The first is "Je te dis non" off her self-titled debut album, released in 2004:

Next is "La fidélité" off her second album, 2008's Le Jeu Des 7 Erreurs:

And finally, there's "Si je reste (un peu)," also from Le Jeu Des 7 Erreurs:

Of course, like Breillat's films, these videos are in French, and there's no English translation available. But it's not Breillat's writing on showcase here; it's her visuals and how they compliment the music. So we're probably missing something in not being able to understand the lyrics, but hopefully it's not too integral to their appreciation.

Élodie has three albums in total, and you can find them all, plus heaps more info and stuff about her, at her official website:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Wild Japanese Bluebeard

I haven't delved much into Japanese DVDs of Breillat films, usually because they don't include English language options, and don't have much else to recommend them above domestic discs either. But I had to show you guys this Bluebeard disc, just for the fantastic cover.

If you're interested, the disc itself is anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1), Region 2 and can be ordered from (among other places); but again - no English. Still, it could make for a neat, little collectors' item.