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A retired businessman and his young, vivacious wife are living quietly on small British Island until two gangsters on the run stumble into their home and into their lives.
For more about Cul-De-Sac and the Cul-De-Sac Blu-ray release, see Cul-De-Sac Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 16, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Lionel Stander, Françoise Dorléac, Jack MacGowran, Renee Houston, Marie Kean
Director: Roman Polanski
» See full cast & crew
Cul-De-Sac Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 16, 2011
Winner of Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, Roman Polanski's "Cul-de sac" (1966) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include two theatrical trailers; video piece featuring director Roman Polanski and crew members; and an early interview with the Polish director, originally broadcast by the BBC. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac is a strange hybrid of a film. It is notably dark, irresistibly funny, at times disturbing yet deeply poetic film. It blends familiar elements from classic film noir, thriller, horror, and comedy, but it has a unique identity of its own. It was the second film the director made after he left Poland.
The film opens up with Richard (Lionel Stander, Gates to Paradise, The Senator Likes Women), an American gangster, and Albie (Jack MacGowran, The Fearless Vampire Killers), a seriously injured Irish gangster, looking for a quiet place to crash for a couple of days until it is time for them to get paid for a job well done. The man who will pay them is Mr. Katelbach.
The gangsters end up in a secluded beachfront castle in Northern England owned by George (Donald Pleasence, The Great Escape, Escape from New York) and Teresa (Catherine Deneuve's late sister Françoise Dorléac, The Dance, The Soft Skin). George is a bold, neurotic and pretentious Englishman who has recently sold his factory and become a painter. Teresa is French, much younger than George, and not as happy with her marriage as he assumes she is.
Richard and Albie's arrival immediately disturbs the harmony in George and Teresa's relationship. They are quickly instructed to keep quiet until Mr. Katelbach arrives and do their best not to make things any more complicated than they already are. And for awhile they do exactly as they are told, but then the frustrated Teresa urges George to step up and confront Richard, and when he fails, she decides to take matters into her own hands.
Meanwhile, a few of George's best friends decide to pay him a visit and meet his lovely French wife. Around the same time they arrive in the castle, Teresa's handsome young lover (Iain Quarrier, Separation) also shows up, hoping to convince her to spend the afternoon with him. The guests are offered refreshments and snacks by Richard, George and Teresa's cranky new gardener.
Polanski's Cul-de-sac belongs to the same group of absurdist films Marco Ferreri's La grande bouffe does. It is not as extreme and certainly not as far reaching, but it definitely houses many of the same seriously disturbing very dark comic overtones that earned Ferreri's film its cult status.
However, in Cul-de-sac the character transformations and consequently the anarchy they inspire are forced – without Richard and Albie present, George and Teresa would likely continue to be a normal and happy couple. In La grande bouffe the main protagonists plan the madness and go on to enjoy it.
Polanski does not offer much to his protagonists to enjoy. On the contrary, once they become frustrated they bombard each other with revelations that trigger a series of bitter disappointments. And once they realize that they have been played, they begin hurting each other.
Ultimately, however, none of these revelations are used to deliver an important social commentary - aside from a few quick remarks targeting the rich and narrow-minded guests Polanski remains content with his characters and their transgressions.
Shot on location in Northumberland in the North East of England, Cul-de-sac is an unusually beautiful film. However, while working on it, Polanski, cinematographer Gilbert Taylor (Repulsion), and the rest of the cast endured terrible weather and suffered a number of setbacks. Ironically, when the film ran over schedule, Polanski shot one of the most memorable - and famous for being one of the longest continuous sequences in cinematic history running at a little over seven minutes - scenes in the film in a single day.
Note: In 1966, Cul-de-sac won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Cul-De-Sac Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Approved by director Roman Polanski, this new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from the original 35mm composite fine-grain master positive. 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 and Phoenix systems were used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorists: Lee Kline; Trevor Brown/Deluxe 142, London."
Cul-de-sac looks very impressive on Blu-ray. Detail is outstanding even during the nighttime sequences, with clarity also dramatically improved during the panoramic vistas, while the daylight sequences often approach the quality witnessed in Criterion's Blu-ray release of Repulsion. Colors look rich but not artificially boosted - the blacks are deep and lush while the variety of grays and whites are gentle and natural. There are no traces of overzealous sharpening. Macroblocking patterns are also nowhere to be found (though there are plenty on the R2 UK SDVD release of Cul-de-sac). Some minor noise corrections have been applied, but the film grain has been retained and it appears well resolved throughout the entire film. Lastly, a thorough clean-up has been performed, and large debris, cuts, and stains have been removed. However, some extremely small traces of aging, which are practically impossible to spot in motion, remain (see the tiny line in screencapture #16). Nevertheless, this is a fantastic presentation of Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Cul-De-Sac Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm fine-grain master positive soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
There are a number of small optimizations in the audio department. I did a few quick comparisons with my R2 SDVD release of Cul-de-sac and the majority of the improvements appear in the mid and high-frequencies areas. The dialog is now crisper and marginally better rounded, while background hiss has been practically eliminated. Krzysztof Komeda's music score also gets a small boost. Overall balance has also been improved, though the range of nuanced dynamics remains limited.
Cul-De-Sac Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cul-De-Sac Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac is a notably dark, irresistibly funny, at times disturbing yet deeply poetic film - arguably his most original and inspired one. It was also the Polish director's last film before his foray into mainstream commercial filmmmaking. Criterion's presentation of Cul-de-sac is impressive, featuring a new and approved by Roman Polanski high-definition digital transfer. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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