Among the Italian filmmakers of the ’50s-’60s that were forgotten and have now been rediscovered by today’s cineaste, Antonio Pietrangeli’s “La Visita” is true commedia all’italiana. Featuring a wonderful performance by Sandra Milo and Francois Perier, “La Visita” is an enjoyable comedy that takes on a disillusioned point of view of life between two lonely individuals who meet each other after corresponding by mail. Captivating, fun and highly recommended!
©RAROVIDEO 2012. All rights reserved.
DVD TITLE: La Visita (The Visitor)
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1963
DURATION: 111 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: B&W, 1:85:1, 4:3 Letterboxed, Italian Digital mono 2.0 with English subtitles
RATED: NOT RATED
RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2012
Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli
Story by Gino De Santis, Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari
Written by Ruggero Maccari, Antonio Pietrangeli
Produced by Moris Ergas
Music by Armando Trovajoli
Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi
Edited by Eraldo Da Roma
Production Design by Luigi Scaccianoce
Set Decoration by Sergio Dona
Costume Design by Margherita Ferrone, Piero Tosi
Sandra Milo as Pina
Francois Perier as Adolfo Di Palma
Mario Adorf as Cucaracha
Gastone Moschin as Renato Gusso
Angela Minervini as Chiaretta
Didi Perego as Nella
Thirty-something stunning beauty Pina (Sandra Milo) takes out an ad in the personal column hoping to find a man to take her away from the tiny Italian village where she lives. For months now she has been trying to find the right one – a man with a solid career, a family in mind, and plenty of stamina. Adolfo (Francois Perier) lives in Rome running a profitable business. Looking to share his life with that special person willing to raise a family Adolfo replies to Pina’s ad. The couple arrange to meet in the village where Pina lives. Incorporating flashbacks that highlight Pina’s and Adolfo’s lives, the complexity of the characters are slowly revelaed and when the two finally meet Pina quickly concludes that Adolfo is the one. He appears noble, cultured, and ready for a serious commitment – Pina can hardly believe her luck!
I spoke with a friend on the phone the other day and a friend who is absolutely passionate about cinema. I told him about a film that I watched recently, “La Visita” directed by Antonio Pietrangeli.
My friend replied with, “Who is Antonio Pietrangeli?”.
And I’m sure that within the last few decades, many have replied similarly when hearing about this director for the first time.
But it’s not surprising. In the 1950′s and 1960′s, there were Italian filmmakers who were known for their post-war Italian neorealism films or sexual comedies. Similar to other countries in Europe, there was a huge growth of filmmakers and writers who worked on cinema and very few were known for their work in the genre.
Others were forgotten until now. Among those filmmakers who were forgotten was Antonio Pietrangeli (“March’s Child”, “I Knew Her Well”, “Empty Eyes”), a filmmaker known for Commedia all’italiana (Italian style comedy) and worked in the Italian neorealism movement.
While Pietrangeli is also known in Italy for his cinema articles for “Bianco e Nero” and “Cinema” magazines, his films didn’t garner too much attention as his other associates were creating films with deep storylines and films that had the best actors or actresses of that era in time.
But in 1963, Pietrangeli would go on to create a film known as “La Visita” (The Visitor) that was truly Commedia all’italiana and have not only captured the attention of today’s cineaste but also for many to recognize Antonio Pietrangeli as one of Italy’s finest filmmakers. The film would also go against other Commedia all’italiana films in terms of structure and instead of focusing on a male character, “La Visita” would feature a strong female character who was independent and also self-sufficient, which was rare to see in Italian cinema.
The film would star Sandra Milo (“Il generale della Rovere”, “8 1/2″, “Juliet of the Spirits”, “Classe Tous Risques”) and French actor Francois Perier (“Nights of Cabiria”, “Le Samourai”, “Z”, “Orpheus”).
“La Visita” would be nominated for a Golden Bear Award at the 1964 Berlin International Film Festival and would win the FIPRESCI Prize.
And now, “La Visita” will be released on DVD in March 2012 courtesy of RaroVideo.
“La Visita” is a film that focuses on two individuals: Pina (played by Sandra Milo) and Adolfo Di Palma (played by Francois Perier).
Pina is a 36-year-old woman who lives in a small town. She lives alone with her parrot, a dog and a turtle and put an ad in a personal column hoping to correspond with a man who is wanting to raise a family, has a career and is healthy.
And sure enough, the man that responds to her ad is Francois, who lives in the city of Rome and the two begin corresponding with each other via letters.
And now, it’s the big day as Pina has invited Francois to her village to stay with her at her home for a few days. Hoping that he will be “Mr. Right”.
As the two meet each other, Adolfo is taken by Pina’s beauty (and big derriere, which he likes). But immediately when he goes to her home, he starts to impress her with his city knowledge and how much things cost. And as the two try to become acquainted with each other, we start to see flashbacks of their lives prior to the two meeting with each other.
For Pina, she is a lonely woman and she has been having an affair with a truck driver named Renato Gusso (played by Gastone Moschin). He is happily married with two children but he looks at Pina as a woman he can have sex with during his truck stops in her village. But for Pina, she wants a relationship, a man that she can love, have a family with and if needed, take her away from her small village if needed.
While Renato does know this, he wishes her the best in finding a man that will treat her right. Even though he knows that Pina would love to be with him.
As for Francois, we find out that he works for a book store and is not well-appreciated by his boss. In fact, his boss enjoys him more when he’s not working. Unlike the kind man that he portrays himself, he is rude, a chauvinist and a racist. He is also living alone and lonely. Even though he has sexual experience with a woman who cleans his clothes.
And whenever Pina leaves the room, his thoughts are more of how he can move his antique furniture to her home and getting rid of her pets (which is like family to Pina).
As Pina tries to get him used to her small village, Francois runs into a few people such as the town lunatic named Cucaracha (played by Mario Adorf). Cucaracha loves to dance and he also likes Pina and hates Francois.
Another person that Francois meets is the beautiful teenager Chiaretta (played by Angela Minervini) who likes to use her sexuality to get Francois’ attention. And for Francois, being the man that is constantly thinking about sex, he even is allured by her.
And as Pina and Francois talk about their life together, both start to wonder if its impossible for them to find true love.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“La Visita” is presented in 1:85:1 black and white and in Digital Mono 2.0 Italian with English subtitles.
The following DVD features a new digitally restored transfer from the original 35mm negative print. I was pretty amazed by how beautiful the film looks, considering it is 50-years-old. There is no sign of aging, contrast is amazing as black levels are deep, whites and grays are well-done. There is some scratches and a scene with a few damage but it’s only a few seconds long but the entire film looked magnificent. In fact, I was hoping this was one title that would receive a Blu-ray release from RaroVideo, but for the most part, this film looks fantastic on DVD.
As for audio, dialogue is clear and understandable. I didn’t hear any hiss or clicks or any crackle during my viewing of the film. Subtitles are easy to read.
“La Visita” comes with the following special features:
- Interview with Ettore Scola - (18:37) Director writer Ettore Scola talks about perceptions of Antonio Pietrangeli than and how people are discovering his work now.
- Interview with Armando Trovajoli – (9:49) Interview with composer Armando Trovajoli who talks about working with Pietrangeli.
- Interview with Paolo Pietrangeli – (14:45) Interview with director and musician Paolo Pietrangeli about his relationship with his father and how he has been forgotten in Italy but probably be remembered if he directed in other countries.
- PDF Booklet – Featuring a wonderful 16-page booklet which includes a film analysis by Gabrielle Lucantonio, “Comments of the Director” by director Antonio Pietrangeli (“Bianco e Nero, 1967) and “Comments of the Leading Actress: Sandra Milo” by Patrizia Pistagnesi, “Hommage a Anna” (1989).
“La Visita” comes with a slipcover case.
Among the Italian filmmakers of the ’50s-’60s that were forgotten and have now been rediscovered by today’s cineaste, Antonio Pietrangeli’s “La Visita” is true commedia all’italiana. Featuring a wonderful performance by Sandra Milo and Francois Perier, “La Visita” is an enjoyable comedy that takes on a disillusioned point of view of life between two lonely individuals who meet each other after corresponding by mail.
But I have to admit, even I have not heard of Antonio Pietrangeli and this is rare considering he has made films that were nominated for awards, he was a film critic for major Italian magazines, he helped jumpstart the career of Sandra Milo and for a filmmaker and screenwriter of this caliber, how is it that his name has been forgotten?
The fact is that with Italian cinema, there was always a focus on Italian neorealism and commedia all’italiana and very few filmmakers were remembered because their work played worldwide. They were written about in cinema magazines all over the world but access to films, especially during that era in time when so many were being released and only the films by notable filmmakers were being focused on, a number of Italian filmmakers fell through the cracks to never be remembered.
But that was then, this is now.
Like in America who many had forgotten actor Harold Lloyd, who is one of the three kings of comedy of silent film, Lloyd started to receive recognition nearly 50-years after his films were released. While Lloyd’s awareness was low because he had control over his films, in Italy, Pietrangeli was forgotten because his films were unlike Fellini, Mastroianni, De Sica, Rossellini. In fact, unlike France where many film critics for Caheres went on to write and direct their own films, it was not really appreciated in Italy.
And thus, many people ask, who is Antonio Pietrangeli? And now, here we are with RaroVideo’s release of a digitally restored “La Visita”, one of the cinema highlights in the career of Pietrangeli but also talents such as Sandra Milo and Francois Perier.
For some, the whole storyline may seem banal. Two lonely people who have corresponded with each other and are perhaps destined to fall in love. But this is not an Ersnt Lubitsch “The Shop Arround the Corner” type of film. These characters are flawed, disillusioned and total opposites and there is no “opposites attract” and trying to sugarcoat it.
Sandra Milo does a fantastic job playing Pina, a woman that is well-known for her posterior that she puts Kim Kardashian to shame. Pietrangeli was especially hard on the actress in order to get her character right, especially having to wear so much butt padding that she eventually realized that the reason why the director was tough on her is because he wanted to get that sense of delusion, that sense of loneliness and she succeeds. She is 36-years-old, absolutely beautiful but perhaps her standards are too high? Or perhaps she needs to travel and find herself elsewhere. But instead, she tries her chances on a newspaper ad.
But unlike female characters in Italian cinema, this woman doesn’t rely on her man. She is self-sufficient, she is independent, has her own house, servant and vehicle. So, her character was quite different than what was usually seen in Italian cinema during that era.
Francois Perier is equally wonderful as the disillusioned Francois. A man who lives a ho-hum life, no excitement and because he is treated like a nobody, he has a negative outlook on his life and when he arrives to meet Pina, immediately he looks at her as a plaything, her home as his place to do what he wants. An arrogant man who thinks he can spank any woman’s behind whenever he wants, speaks what he wants and eventually the more we get to know him, we are turned off by his attitude.
Which leads us to the director Antonio Pietrangeli. We know that filmmakers Michelangelo Antonioni who take on relationships focus on alienation. Pietrangeli doesn’t go for alienation but he does share his disillusion of society with his two characters, two total opposites that don’t deserve each other. As Hollywood was about total opposites finding love, this was not going to follow that banality of regurgitating storylines. Nor was this film going to have the same supporting characters. Who would imagine that you would have a character named Cucaracha who is a buffoon that is constantly dancing or tries to wash Pina’s car in the rain, who would expect to see a teenager named Chiaretta trying to use her sexuality and see if she can get Francois all hot and bothered.
You just don’t come across films like “La Visita” that often and for me, it was refreshing to watch a film and really enjoying it, despite knowing that these two characters are flawed.
As for the DVD release, RaroVideo has done cineaste a great service in releasing this digitally remastered version of the film. For a film that is 50-years-0ld, it looks fantastic on DVD but with that being said, having gone through digital restoration, I really do feel that this film should be released on Blu-ray. It’s too beautiful of a film to be only on DVD, so I hope RaroVideo considers an HD release in the near future.
As for special features, you get three interviews that try to focus on how can a filmmaker such as Antonio Pietrangeli be forgotten. Interesting and intriguing interviews and also a wonderful booklet via PDF.
Overall, “La Visita” is captivating, fun and highly entertaining! “La Visita” is true commedia all’italiana, a rare gem that you rarely come across and should be recognized as a masterpiece by Italian filmmaker/writer Antonio Pietrangeli.
One of the greatest, visually poetic films of all time. Jean Cocteau’s “Orpheus” (the second film of “The Orphic Trilogy”) is a wonderful film and those who owned the previous box set will definitely want to pick this Blu-ray release up because it contains plenty of new, lengthy special features. Highly recommended!
Image courtesy of © Comite Cocteau, 1950. 2011 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Orpheus – The Criterion Collection #68 (Orphée)
MOVIE RELEASE: 1950
DURATION: 95 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, 1:33:1 Aspect Ratio, 1:19:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural in French with Optional English Subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection
RELEASE DATE: August 30, 2011
Directed and Written by Jean Cocteau
Executive Producer: Andre Paulve
Music by Georges Auric
Cinematography by Nicolas Hayer
Edited by Jacqueline Sadoul
Production Design by Jean d’Eaubonne
Set Decoration by Albert Volper
Costume Design by Marcel Escoffier
Jean Marais as Orphee
Francois Perier as Heurtebise
Maria Casares as The Princess – Death
Marie Dea as Eurydice
Henri Cremieux as L’editeur
Juliette Greco as Aglaconice
Roger Blin as The Poet
Edouard Dermithe as Jacques Cegeste
Jean Cocteau’s update of the Orpheus myth depicts a famous poet (Jean Marais), scorned by the Left Bank youth, and his love for both his wife, Eurydice (Marie Déa), and a mysterious princess (Maria Casarès). Seeking inspiration, the poet follows the princess from the world of the living to the land of the dead, through Cocteau’s famous mirrored portal. Orpheus’s peerless visual poetry and dreamlike storytelling represent the legendary Cocteau at the height of his powers.
In French cinema, there are many filmmakers named Jean Renoir, Jean Vigo, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, to name a few. But among these filmmakers who really never craved the spotlight was Jean Cocteau. A proud man with humility and creative talent that extends beyond cinema.
Before Cocteau was a playwright, a screenwriter, a director…he was one of the most prestigious, talented poets living in France.
At a young age, similar to Jean Vigo who suffered through pain throughout his childhood after the death of his father, Jean Cocteau lived a different life. Coming from a prominent family, like Vigo, at a young age, Jean Cocteau lost his father (who committed suicide).
Where a filmmaker like Vigo had cinema at a young age to escape reality, Cocteau had poetry.
In fact, his first volume of poems titled “Aladdin’s Lamp” was created at the age of 19 and would eventually become popular through his poetry.
But it was World War I which changed Cocteau. He would meet poet Guillaume Apollinaire, artist Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani and would later collaborate with many talents which include Russian choreographer Sergei Diaghilev, who persuaded the poet to write a scenario for his ballet “Parade” in 1917.
As one of the great poets, the introduction to writing for a ballet would lead him to writing and directing plays but also novels. Among the novels he is known for are “Les Enfants Terribles” (1929), “The Blood of the Poet” (1930), “Les Parents Terribles” (1948), “Beauty and the Beast” (1946) and “Orpheus” (1949).
In 1930, is Cocteau’s “The Blood of a Poet” would be the first film that would become the start of a trilogy known as “The Orphic Trilogy”, followed by film adaptations of his novels “Orphee” and “Testament of Orpheus” (1960). The trilogy which are not connected to each other in terms of story would showcase Jean Cocteau the writer, the poet, the novelist, the playwright and filmmaker. Utilizing the Orphic myth to explore the relationship between artist and their creations, reality and imagination.
In 2000, the Criterion Collection released “The Orphic Trilogy” on DVD but recently, Cocteau films/works are now being released in the US by the Criterion Collection on Blu-ray. While “Beauty and the Beast” is the first Cocteau film to be released on Blu-ray in America, the second is “Orpheus” (Orphee) which is also the second film of “The Orphic Trilogy”.
A film that remains poetic and influential for many artists today. In fact, for music fans, an image from the film is used in the Smith’s single “This Charming Man”, the music video for “Take On Me” was inspired by “Orpheus” and radio messages from the film were sampled in “DJ Culture” by the Pet Shop Boys. And in 2010, the film was voted in Empire Magazine’s “100 Best Films of World Cinema”.
And while the film has its place in cinema and also pop culture, from a cultural, poetic and creative artist such as as Jean Cocteau, its the symbolic nature of the film, people who want to delve further into the life of Jean Cocteau and the era of when the film was written, to grasp how World War II had an impact in the making of the film but also, at 60-years-old, “Orpheus” was also a film that included elements of how Cocteau was feeling about his past-life, how he felt about his peers.
How he saw the new generation of poets being free, but at the same time, showing disdain towards how they lived their lives. A different experience when Cocteau was younger.
But as for the story of “Orpheus”, it was a chance for the talented artist to bring his passion but also part of his life to cinema. In a much different style than what he had done years earlier with “Blood of a Poet”.
“Orpheus” is a story that begins with the Greek myth of the legendary musician, poet and prophet Orpheus. The Man who has the ability to charm all living things through his music.
But one day, his wife Eurydice died after being bitten by a viper. Orpheus attempted to retrieve his wife from the underworld and his music managed to soften the hearts of Hades and Persephone. Orpheus is told that Eurydice will be given a chance on one condition, he could never look at her ever again until they reach the upper world. While going back to the upper world, he accidentally looks at her right before he and Eurydice reach the upper world and loses her forever.
The film then switches to modern day Paris, as the famous poet Orpheus (played by Jean Marais) meets with his editor (played by Henri Cremieux), a rich woman known as the Princess (played by Maria Casares) comes out of a Rolls Royce to help a drunken young man named Cegeste (played by Edouard Dermithe).
As some of the men at the cafe try to talk and flirt with the woman, Cegeste becomes jealous and a brawl ensues. The police come in and arrest Cegeste but as Cegeste tries to make a run for it, he is run over by two motorcyclist.
Instead of calling the hospital, the Princess tells the police to bring Cegeste into her car. She sees Orpheus and tells him to join her in the car as he is a witness of what happened.
Thinking that he may be going to a police station, the Princess is vague of where they are going and instructs her driver to drive out to an unknown area. Orpheus tells her that the young man, Cegeste is dead but the Princess keeps rejecting each question that Orpheus tries to ask. During their drive, unusual radio announcements are being played inside the car.
As the Princess and the motorcyclist carry the dead young man to a room, Orpheus is surprised to see unusual things happen. The Princess is able to bring the dead Cegeste back to life and to make things even more surprising, she and Cegeste, along with the two motorcyclist walk into a mirror and disappear.
As Orpheus goes towards the mirror, he is shocked of what has happened and thinks it is all a dream.
When he wakes up in the morning, he tries to talk to the driver named Heurtebise of what happened? And Heurtebise tries to answer the best he can.
Meanwhile, at Orpheus’ home, his wife Eurydice is worried that something bad may have happened to him. Pregnant and wanting to share the good news with him, Orpheus is driven to wanting to meet the mysterious woman, the Princess, he met the other day. And rather spend his time going into the car that Heurtebise drives and listening to the radio in hopes of getting close to her.
Meanwhile, Heurtebise starts to fall for Eurydice and wants to be with her and comfort her because Orpheus is hardly there to talk to her.
But we learn that Heurtebise is not a normal person, nor is the Princess. The Princess is actually death and Heurtebise works for death. And for some reason, both are interested in taking the lives of Orpheus and Eurydice but for what reason? Is it because Death has fallen for Orpheus? Heurtebise has fallen for Eurydice?
And what about Orpheus’ love for Eurydice? Has Death won his heart?
“Orpheus” is one of cinema’s celebrated, visually poetic films ever created and a true representation of the creative genius of writer/director Jean Cocteau.
“Orpheus” is presented in 1080p High Definition, black and white (1:33:1 aspect ratio). As a previous owner of “The Orphic Trilogy” DVD Box set, as expected from the Criterion Collection, the contrast of the film looks fantastic! Black levels are inky and deep, contrasting whites and grays are magnificent and while there may be signs of mild flickering at the beginning, by no means does it ruin one’s viewing pleasure of this 1950 film.
According to the Criterion Collection, the new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 2K Datacine from a 35 mm fine-grain internegative struck from the original nitrate negative. The restoration of Orpheus was carried out in a collaboration with the Archives francaise du film in Bois-d’Arcy, France, under the supervision of assistant director Claude Pinoteau. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean system, while Digital Vision’s DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Orpheus” is presented in French monaural with English subtitles. The film is dialogue driven and dialogue is crystal clear through the center channel.
According to the Criterion Collection, the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm optical track print. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using Audio Cube’s integrated workstation.
“Orpheus – The Criterion Collection #68″ on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:
- Audio commentary – An excellent and in-depth audio commentary byFrench-film scholar James S. Williams.
- Edgardo Cozarinsky’s “Jean Cocteau: Autoportrait d’un Inconnu (Autobigraphy of an Unknown) – (1:08:51) The longest feature of this entire DVD is the 1984 documentary about Jean Cocteau. For those interested in knowing more about the filmmaker/poet, this documentary is very informative as Cocteau talks about his childhood, his artistic contemporaries and more.
- In Search of Jazz – (17:38) An interview from April 24, 1956 as Cocteau discusses the use of music in his films.
- Jean Cocteau and His Tricks – (13:29) A 2008 video interview with assistant director Claude Pinoteau by Marc Cairo.
- 40 Minutes with Jean Cocteau – (40:37) From an interview back in August 28, 1957, for the TV series “At Home With…” featuring Francois Chalais talking to Jean Cocteau.
- La villa Santo-Sospir – (36:26) Jean Cocteau’s 16 mm color film from 1951. A visit of Francine Weisweiller’s Villa in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferat, on Côte d’Azur, which was decorated by Jean Cocteau.
- Gallery of images by French-film portrait photographer Roger Corbeau – Using your remote (or computer arrow button), you can scroll through a gallery of images.
- Saint-Cyr Military Academy Ruins – (1:41) Raw newsreel footage from 1950 of the , a location used for “The Zone” in “Orpheus”.
- Theatrical trailer – (3:31) Theatrical trailer for “Orpheus”.
“Orpheus – The Criterion Collection #68″ comes with a 30-page booklet, which includes the following essays: “Through a Glass, Amorously” by Mark Polizzotti, “Cocteau on Orpheus”, “Cocteau’s La villa Santo-Sospir” by James S. Williams.
Filmmaker Francois Truffaut once asked the question, “Do we still have to prove how important a filmmaker Jean Cocteau is?”
In 2011, there is no arguing of Jean Cocteau’s place in cinema. There is no arguing how influential and how multi-talented he was not only as a poet, a playwright, novelist, filmmaker, etc. He was a person who embodied the life of artistic creation and a man who lived life at the beat of his own drum. A man who lived with humility and lived a long life of being wanted because of his talent.
I use a juxtaposition with Jean Vigo and Jean Cocteau, not to compare their talent but to show how a few films created by these two individuals, would remain as an inspiration for other filmmakers not just in the ’50s but also to filmmakers today.
For Cocteau, while “The Blood of a Poet” and “Testament of Orpheus” were very different kind of films when compared to “Orpheus”, many probably were attracted or repulsed by the level of surrealism in his films, “Orpheus” was not surreal but it was poetic in nature, especially when you work with an actor such as Jean Marais.
You just don’t see films like Cocteau films. Others have their own way of taking on surrealism, but when you have a creative poet wanting to make poetry visual for cinema, its a rarity in cinema.
There is a visually poetic and creative way he directs his talent but also knows what to get out of them. From the way the film is acted, it is like watching a play as Orpheus reactions when he comes home to his wife and is haunted by his exchange with the Princess (Death). From the scene where he wakes up on top of the mirror on the sand, it’s a classic yet artist shot or when we see Death coming out of the mirror to visit Orpheus when he is asleep.
It’s a fantastic blend of fantasy and reality which we have seen before, especially in “Beauty and the Beast”. A whimsical probe of a character done intelligently, a bit of surrealism but a film that show us why Cocteau is an important and unique filmmaker with a style that can never be duplicated.
These are intoxicating images that are strong, beautiful and you feel almost as if you are part of that dreamlike environment that the characters are part of. There have been films where one tries to reach out to their dead spouse, but the film is more sci-fi in nature because of the focus and over-reliance of visual effects.
The people from the netherworld are not shown in demonic forms. Death is not the typical look of a robe with a hand holding a sickle, death is beautiful, death is emotional, death wants to find love in Orpheus, as Orpheus also finds love in the death. And that is something that should not happen.
The film shows us the anguish each side feels towards the unknown. Death loves Orpheus, who loves Death but also loves his wife Eurydice who loves him, but feels alone because of his focus is more on lady death and thus, we see one man staying with her (Heurtebise) when the other, Orpheus is consumed with his passion to find death.
Sure this is somewhat a modern 1950′s retelling of the Greek myth but who else can craft something so genius and mesmerizing? No other than Jean Cocteau. And suffice to say, if you watch “Blood of a Poet” and then you go this film, you realize how far the filmmaker has come since his last film.
But when it all comes down to it, there is nothing like “Orpheus”. It’s a great film and its exciting to see The Criterion Collection bring this out on Blu-ray but most importantly, to showcase the career of Jean Cocteau through many lengthy special features.
I know that many of the Jean Cocteau fans own “The Orphic Trilogy” and in some cases, typically when Criterion releases a classic that was on DVD for Blu-ray, the special features are the same.
In this case, it is not the same. The original DVD version of “Orpheus” didn’t come with hardly any special features but the other films included in the trilogy did. The 1984 documentary and “Villa Santo Sospir” were included in the trilogy DVD box set on the discs of “The Blood of a Poet” and “Testament of Orpheus” but everything else on this Blu-ray is new.
From listening to the in-depth and wonderful commentary and just the sheer amount of well-done documentaries and also classic interviews, this Blu-ray release of “Orpheus” is a wonderful tribute to Jean Cocteau.
And I can tell you right now, because of the enhanced picture quality, the booklet and the additional special features, “Orpheus” on Blu-ray is obviously worth the upgrade, especially if you are a Jean Cocteau fan. It’s a 5-star release and I give it my highest recommendation.
But with that being said, for the newbie Criterion Collection fans who are used to more literal storylines, Jean Cocteau films, especially “Orpheus” is creative and is visually poetic, for some people, Cocteau’s films may not be for them. “Orpheus” may not be for them. It takes an appreciation of Cocteau’s work and his style to really enjoy this film.
So, for those who adore Cocteau’s films, especially “The Orphic Trilogy”, will be happy to know that with this Blu-ray release, you are not only getting a better version of the film to date, there are also a good number of special features included.
Once again, another fantastic Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection that is highly recommended!
Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterpiece “Le Samourai” which inspired directors such as John Woo and Quentin Tarentino is simply stylish, suave and a very cool minimalistic film noir!
Image courtesy of
TITLE: Le Samourai – The Criterion Collection #306
DURATION: 105 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural in French with English Subtitles
COMPANY: The Criterion Collection
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Based on the novel “The Ronin” by Joan McLeod
Written by Jean Pierre Melville, Georges Pellegrin
Produced by Raymond Borderie, Eugene Lepicier
Music by Francois de Roubaix
Cinematography by Henri Decae
Edited by Monique Bonnot, Yolande Maurette
Production Design by Francois de Lamothe
Set Decoration by Francois de Lamothe
Alain Delon as Jef Costello
Francois Perier as The Superintendant
Nathalie Delon as Jane Lagrange
Cathy Rosier as Valerie, the Pianist
Michel Boisrond as Wiener
Robert Favart as Barkeeper
In a career-defining performance, Alain Delon plays a contract killer with samurai instincts. A razor-sharp cocktail of 1940s American gangster cinema and 1960s French pop culture—with a liberal dose of Japanese lone-warrior mythology—maverick director Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterpiece Le Samouraï defines cool.
“Melville is God to me. ‘Le Samourai’ was the first of his films that I saw. In fact, it changed a whole generation of filmgoers.” – John Woo
“Le Samourai”, considered as one of Jean-Pierre Melville’s top films and a stylish and minimalistic take on film noir. The film that inspired many including John Woo who has said his masterpiece “The Killer” was a tribute to “Melville” and have used certain scenes in his own films to pay homage to “Le Samourai”.
Jean-Pierre Melville, the director known for directing films such as “Les Enfants terribles”, “Bob le flambeur”, “Le Doulos” and later “Le Cercle rouge” would create his masterpiece “Le Samourai” in 1967. The title of the film to describe a lone tiger in the jungle, the film about a hitman named Jef Costello (played by Alain Delon, “L’Eclisse”, “Mr. Klein”, “Mort d’un pourri”, “Notre histoire”) who is hired to kill a nightclub owner.
Jef is a perfectionist and lives a simple life. He is the best at what he does and in this situation, he goes into the packed nightclub and kills the nightclub owner. But through the process of going to the nightclub, he had been seen by many of the nightclub staff (even when wearing his fedora) and most being seen by the pianist Valerie (played by Cathy Rosier).
Despite leaving the club, losing the weapon and not getting caught, the police go after anyone who is wearing a fedora and trenchcoat and thus Jef is brought into the police station. All wearing a trench coat and fedora must go through an interview process by the police and also must be seen by the nightclub staff to see if one of them is the killer. Because a few nightclub staff think that Jef may be involved, the police superintendent (played by Francois Perier) believes Jef is the killer. But Jef has an airtight alibi with his girlfriend Jane (played by Nathalie Delon) and the pianist Valerie even tells police that he is not the man (despite knowing that he is the person responsible) and thus is let go.
After being released from police custody, he goes to his meet the people who arranged for the hit and collect his money but upon meeting one of the men, it appears that they are not to thrilled that Jef was held and questioned by the police and thus, the man shoots Jef but not killing him.
Now Jef wants revenge against the people who hired him but with the police trying to watch and spy on his every move, Jef needs to use his skills in order to avoid being caught by the police and also the people who want him dead.
“Le Samourai” is presented in 1:85:1 aspect ratio. For a 1967 film, “Le Samourai” looks very good and I saw no blemishes, major artifacting on the film. The cinematography by Henri Decae captures the stoic look of Jef Costello and his non-emotion. From beginning to end, Jef Costello shows no sadness, no happiness, he’s the same man who lives life the same as when he kills someone.
It’s important to note that Melville was a director that doesn’t want to situate his characters in time and didn’t want the characters to be representative of 1968, nor did he want to be a documentarian or re-create life during that time period. In his words “a film is first and foremost a dream; and it’s absurd to copy life in an attempt to produce an exact re-creation of it.”
According to the Criterion Collection, the high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from teh 35mm original camera negative and 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Le Samourai” is presented in monaural French. According to the Criterion Collection, the soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from the 35mm magnetic audio track and audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss and crackle. Overall, dialogue is clear and as for the subtitles, they are in English.
“Le Samourai – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #306″ comes with the following special features:
- Authors on Melville: Rui Nogueira - (13:00) Nogueira talks about meeting Melville, his direction, offering Delon the role of Jef Costello and the summit of Melville’s art.
- Authors on Melville: Ginette Vincendeau - (18:42) Vincendeau talks about the precursor to the New Wave, control and minimalism, Belmondo to Delon, origins of Le Samourai and more.
- The Lineup – (24:12) Featuring various interviews with director Jean-Pierre Melville, actors Alain Delon, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier, Francois Perier and also clips from the Institut National de L’Audiovisuel, Paris from 1967-1982. Also, included is the news clip when Melville’s studio was burned down and his response that it may have been due to arson by rival studios.
- The Trailer - (50:37) The original theatrical trailer for “Le Samourai”.
- 34-Page Booklet – Featuring the essay “Death in White Gloves” by David Thomson, “The Melville Style” by John Woo and “Melville on Le Samourai”, an excerpt from “Melville on Melville” by Rui Nogueira.
“Le Samourai” is a film that is not difficult to enjoy. It’s rather a simple film but its the presentation that captures your attention. Where hit men are typically not the main focal point of a film, Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samourai” focuses on giving the viewer a chance to see an unperturbed hitman, methodical, cool and in Melville’s words…a schizophrenic.
Alain Delon is simply fantastic as Jef Costello. His style as the cool and suave hitman is on one side visual, but when it comes to the performance, Costello is not trying to be ravishing, nor is he trying to be anything. The man is stoic and expressionless. Like a lone samurai, this is where the title of the film is derived. He is paid to kill and even though he is a skilled hitman, you wonder what he does with the money he has made throughout the years. His home shows no sense of any luxury but a bird in its cage, a bed, a chair and a fridge. He doesn’t own the best cars, he drives stolen cars and carries around a hold carrying many keys which can be used to break into a car or home.
There is definitely a sense of style when it comes to “Le Samourai”, much different than many of the American film noir that most have been accustomed to seeing. And again, it is not that Jef Costello is trying to show off that he has style but its the man Alain Delon as Jef Costello that truly shines with the lost expression, donning the fedora, black or beige trenchcoat, black tie, white shirt and at times, wearing the white gloves when making the kill. There are no cracked jokes, there are no James Bond flirtations with the beautiful women in the film. It’s a whole different type of character 0ne is not used to seeing on film and “Le Samurai” proved to a be a wonderful hybrid of French and American cinema.
The Criterion Collection presentation is well-done as the DVD contains wonderful interviews looking back on Melville’s career and “Le Samourai” but also interviews with the talent around that time (especially the day of the burning of Melville’s studio). But I have no doubt that the booklet with John Woo’s essay about how Melville and “Le Samourai” changed his life will be of amazing interest to Melville and Woo fans.
Overall, “Le Samourai” is probably one of Melville’s most accessible and entertaining films. Definitely a Criterion Collection DVD worth checking out!