Vice & Virtue (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
May 19, 2015 by Dennis Amith
“Vice & Virtue” is an interesting moralistic tale of two sisters and the different paths they have chosen during Nazi occupation. While the film could have been darker and more sadistic, Roger Vadim chose a more artful format that focuses on theatrical style lighting and focuses on the performances of both Annie Girardot and Catherine Deneuve. Definitely a film worth checking out!
TITLE: Vice & Virtue
FILM RELEASE: 1963
DURATION: 106 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:35:1 Aspect Ratio, French Monaural with optional English Subtitles
COMPANY: Gaumont/Kino classics/Kino Lorber
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Directed by Roger Vadim
Based on the novel “Justine, ou les malheurs de la vertu” by Marquis de Sade
Original Screenplay and Adaptation by Roger Vadime, Roger Vailland
Adaptation by Claude Choublier
Produced by Alain Poire, Roger Vadim
Music by Michel Magne
Cinematography by Marcel Grignon
Edited by Victoria Mercanton
Set Decoration by Jean Andre
Costume Design by Marc Doelnitz
Annie Girardot as Juliette Morand
Catherine Deneuve as Justine Morand
Robert Hossein as SS Colonel Erik Schorndorf
O.E. Hasse as General von Bamberg
Philippe Lemaire as Hans Streicher
Luciana Paluzzi as Helena
Valeria Ciangottini as Manuela
Astrid Heeren as Danielle
Set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of France, VICE AND VIRTUE (La vice et le vertu) is a stylized retelling of the Marquis de Sade’s Justine, as envisioned by one of cinema’s most provocative filmmakers: Roger Vadim (Blood and Roses, Barbarella). Two sisters navigate very different courses as they struggle to survive within the morally corrupt fascist regime. Juliette (Annie Girardot, The Piano Teacher) is surrounded by the spoils of war, being the mistress of an SS colonel (Robert Hossein). Meanwhile, Justine (Catherine Deneuve, Repulsion, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), whose husband is seized by fascists on their wedding day, is taken to a chateau in the country, where she is groomed to become a concubine for the Nazi elite.
From Roger Vadim, the director of “Barbarella”, “..And God Created Woman” and “Spirits of the Dead” comes the war-time French film “Vices & Virtue”, a loose adaptation of Marquis De Sade’s “Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue”, which was originally set during the French revolution.
The film would star Annie Girardot (“The Piano Teacher”, “Cache”, The Discord”), Catherine Deneuve (“The Dancer in the Dark, “Repulsion”, “Belle de Jour”), Robert Hossein (“Rififi”, “The Secret Killer”, “Bolero”), O.E. Hasse (“I Confess”, “Canaris: Master Spy”, “State of Siege”), Phillippe Lemaire (“Adventures of Arsene Lupin”, “The Blood Rose”) and Luciana Paluzzi (“Thunderball”, “The Geen Slime”).
And the film was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber in March 2015.
“Vice and Virtue” takes place during World War II and begins with the pure Justine (portrayed by Catherine Deneuve) who is about to get married.
Unfortunately, right before they are to enter the church, her husband, who is a resistance fighter is captured by the Nazi’s.
As Justine hopes for her husband’s return, her older sister Juliette (portrayed by Annie Girardot) chooses not to fight the Nazi’s and becomes the mistress for General von Bamberg (portrayed by O.E. Hasse). Of course, Juliette uses her position to do all she can to protect herself and her sister.
But when SS Colonel Erik Schorndorf (portrayed by Robert Hossein) comes to visit General von Bamberg, he poisons and kills him. He creates an alibi of how the General had died and immediately has plans for Juliette to be interrogated and no one will know how the General had died.
Unfortunately, Justine is the one who is brought to interrogation and she and other beautiful French women are taken to a remote Austrian chalet.
The women are not sure why they are being taken to, but they are dressed up and are made to look beautiful around the chalet until they learn the horrors of what takes place in the chalet. The women are forced to have sex with Nazi leaders and if they do not follow the rules, they are tortured.
At first, the naive and pure Justine is defiant and will fight against her Nazi captors. But seeing how her defiance leads to others being tortured, she has no choice but to submit and become a victim.
Meanwhile, Juliette becomes the mistress of SS Colonel Schorndorff and because she is as cold and direct as he is, they see each other in equal footing, he being the king and she as his queen.
But what happens when sisters Juliette and Justine are to meet each other again?
“Vice & Virtue” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 aspect ratio). The film is sharp but white and grays are well-contrast. It is important to note that the film does use archived documentary footage, so there are differences between the primary film and the World War II scenes. Grain is still intact and I didn’t notice any blurriness or problematic issues with overall picture quality.
“Vice & Virtue” is presented in French LPCM 2.0 with English sbutitles. The lossless soundtrack is clear with no sign of any clicks, crackle or hiss during viewing.
“Vice & Virtue” comes with the original four minute theatrical trailer.
“Vice & Virtue” comes with a two-sided cover. One with the regular cover art and the other with the original 1963 poster artwork of the film.
Roger Vadim’s “Vice & Virtue” is looked as the romanticized version when compared to Pier Paolo Passolini’s “SALO”, in terms of the final year of World War II before the Nazi stronghold is squashed. But of course, there is not much comparison as “SALO” is a film that defies any expectation, while “Vice & Virtue” is a film that is dramatic and is not as tragic as what was featured in Marquis De Sade’s novel “Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue”.
The film touches upon the morality and decisions of two sisters who choose different paths. Justine, the pure virgin who submits to becoming a victim but as a way to become virtuous and standing up against her tormentors but also protective of the other women who are used as sex slaves.
Juliette who uses her vice as a way to get what she wants as a mistress for the Nazi. Two different decisions made by sisters that will come to a full head when each other confronts one another for a final moment.
While the film’s moralistic tale is quite interesting as a film, especially the toughness of Juliette, who is the more prominent character in the film, one can see this film as a distilled version of Marquis De Sade’s novel, which I have read summaries for and is much different than this film.
Of course, this is 1963 and to be a commercial film, the horror aspect of the Nazi tormentors are not brought to life but are seen through the faces of those affected.
Actress Annie Girardot does a great job when the cameras get close up, while actress Catherine Denueve was no doubt utilized for her beauty and emotional acting as Justine’s dignity is stripped away from her.
The film could have gone further, became much more darker but instead, it’s a film that chooses to showcase morality between two women versus putting the horrors in the chalet as a top priority. And perhaps, that is a good thing for those who can’t stomach atrocities or sadistic tragedies or anything dark or twisted as Passolini would definitely showcase in “SALO”.
The Blu-ray features very good picture quality while the lossless soundtrack is also very good. There are no special features but the theatrical trailer and a reversible cover.
Overall, “Vice & Virtue” is an interesting moralistic tale of two sisters and the different paths they have chosen during Nazi occupation. While the film could have been darker and more sadistic, Roger Vadim chose a more artful format that focuses on theatrical style lighting and focuses on the performances of both Annie Girardot and Catherine Deneuve.
Definitely a film worth checking out!
J!-ENT has not received any compensation from the company for this post. J!-ENT has no material connection to the brands, products, or services that are mentioned in this post.
For Product Reviews:
For product reviews, J!-ENT has purchased the above product for review purposes or may have received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free by the company which in no way affects our reviews, may it be positive or negative. We only recommend products or services we have tested/reviewed and believe will be good for our readers.
Some of the links in our posts are "affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, J!-ENT will receive an affiliate commission.
J!-ENT is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”