Life of Riley (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
April 22, 2015 by Dennis Amith
I absolutely found the film to be entertaining and fun, but also enjoyed the changes of the characters through the course of the film and its vibrant set and fantastic acting. A film of pure exuberance and thoroughly entertaining, Alain Resnais’ final film, “Life of Riley” is recommended!
TITLE: Life of Riley
FILM RELEASE: 2014
DURATION: 108 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:55:1 Aspect Ratio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English Subtitles
COMPANY: Kino Lorber
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Directed by Alain Resnais
Play by Alan Ayckbourn
Dialogue by Jean-Marie Besset
Adaptation by Laurent Herbiet/Alain Resnais
Produced by Jean-Louis Livi
Executive Producer: Christophe Jeauffroy
Music by Mark Snow
Cinematography by Dominique Bouilleret
Edited by Herve de Luze
Production Design by Jacques Saulnier
Costume Design by Jackie Budin
Sabine Azema as Kathryn
Hippolyte Girardot as Colin
Caroline Sihol as Tamara
Michel Vuillermoz as Jack
Sandrine Kiberlain as Monica
Andre Dussollier as Simeon
Alba Gaia Kraghede Bellugi as Tilly
Life of Riley (Aimer, boire et chanter) is the joyous, life-affirming final film by French New Wave legend Alain Resnais (Last Year at Marienbad).
Resnais’ third adaptation of an Alan Ayckbourn play (after Smoking/No Smoking and Private Fears in Public Places), Life of Riley circles around the absent George Riley, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Three couples react to the news with various degrees of emotion. The women are each separately invited to a seaside resort by Riley, and hidden resentments and insecurities in each relationship bubble to the surface, causing a re-evaluation of each couple’s love.
Life of Riley features an exuberant cast of Sabine Azéma, Hippolyte Girardot, Caroline Silhol, Michel Vuillermoz, Sandrine Kiberlain and André Dussollier. Resnais shoots the film on artificial-looking sets, setting off actors against cross-hatched backgrounds as if inside of a candy-colored comic strip. The film is a beautifully realized, improbably upbeat confrontation with mortality, and a fitting capstone to a monumental career.
Alain Resnais, the French filmmaker has earned the respect of filmmakers, critics and cineaste with films such as “Hiroshima Mon Amour”, “Last Year at Marienbad”, “Muriel” and “My American Uncle”, including his short film “Night and Fog”.
Working for nearly 60-years in cinema, with the last films in his oeuvre, Resnais would create films that revolved around cinema and theater.
In 2014, Alain Resnais adapted Alan Ayckbourn’s 2010 play (his third adaptation of Ayckbourn’s work), “Life of Riley” which premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival and won a Alfred Bauer Prize.
While preparing another adaptation based on the 2013 play “Arrivals & Departures” and weeks after the film’s premiere, the great filmmaker passed away at the age of 91.
And now “Life of Riley” will be released on Blu-ray in April 2014.
“Life of Riley” is set in Yorkshire and focuses on three couples. Kathryn (portrayed by Sabine Azema) and Colin (portrayed by Hippolyte Girardot) are thespians, Tamara (portrayed by Caroline Silhol) and Jack (portrayed by Michel Vuillermoz)…a couple trying to raise their teenage daughter Tilly and Monica (portrayed by Sandrine Kiberlain) and Simeon (portrayed by Andre Dussollier)… Monica is the former wife of George Riley who left him to be with a wealthy farmer, Simeon.
The couples receive word that their friend George Riley is fatally ill and has a few months to live. They grieve about their good friend, try to help him and get him involved in their amateur dramatic group but as they work on their rehearsals, their past history start to affect them.
But when George invites each of the wives to accompany him on a final holiday in Tenerife, each of the women want to accompany him, but their husbands are torn by it and don’t agree.
“Life of Riley” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:55:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in HD. The film is shot with the actors on studio(as if they are on stage with theatrical style sets including painted curtains and props), while footage of people driving or footage of their home are edited into the film. The studio is well-lit, colors are vibrant, skin tones look natural and the overall film looks sharp and colorful.
“Life of Riley” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is primarily dialogue driven with music. The soundtrack is quite appropriate for this type of film, dialogue and music is crystal clear and front and center-channel driven.
“Life of Riley” comes with the following special features:
- Interviews – (16:24) Interviews with the cast who discuss working with Alain Resnais, his approach to film and theater and more.
- Theatrical Trailer – (1:34) The theatrical trailer for “Life of Riley”.
“Life of Riley” comes with a 16-page booklet with a word from the filmmaker and the essay “The Sense of an Ending: Alain Resnais’ Unintended Last Film” by Glenn Kenny.
A beautifully, entertaining final film from the great French filmmaker, Alain Resnais.
“Life of Riley” is a fascinating film about its group of characters and a humorous study on their thoughts and perspectives of their fatally ill friend, but how they begin to question the friend and his motives when he asks each of the wives to accompany him on a trip.
Working with talent that have experience working on Ayckbourn’s plays (with the exception of Sandrine Kiberlain), it’s interesting to see how Resnais was able to create the film with a very low budget but working with skilled designer Jacques Saulnier to use painted curtains to create the setting and perspective of facades of buildings and the outdoors.
As filmed theater, this type of film will of course, not attract everyone. For those who love theater will find the exuberance of “Life of Riley” and its fun and entertaining presentation. The film is well-acted and I felt it was a fitting final film for Resnais.
Those who can’t get over the fact that this is filmed theater will probably find the movie tedious and wish for something different. Nevertheless, when I said the film is fitting as the final film for Resnais is because even with the surreal “Last Year at Marienbad” (1961), people questioned Resnais films, some who praised the film for its uniqueness, others who panned the film because they were not able to understand it.
While “Life of Riley” is much more accessible, it’s just a style that shows Resnais’ appreciation for theater and filmed theater and working with theater actors is what he enjoyed, much more in his later years.
But I absolutely found the film to be entertaining and fun, but also enjoyed the changes of the characters through the course of the film and its vibrant set and fantastic acting. A film of pure exuberance and thoroughly entertaining, Alain Resnais’ final film, “Life of Riley” is recommended!
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