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Le beau Serge(1958)
A young man returns to his home village to find that an old friend has become an unhappily married alcoholic.
For more about Le beau Serge and the Le beau Serge Blu-ray release, see Le beau Serge Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 22, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Gérard Blain, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michèle Méritz, Bernadette Lafont, Claude Cerval, Claude Chabrol
Director: Claude Chabrol
» See full cast & crew
Le beau Serge Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 22, 2011
Screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Claude Chabrol's "Le beau Serge" (1958) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; segment from an episode of the French television series L'invite du dimanche; documentary film directed by Francis Girod; and a new audio commentary with Newcastle University professor Guy Austin. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring Terrence Rafferty's essay "Homecomings". In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Claude Chabrol's debut film Le beau Serge is set in small village in the French countryside and follows a young man (Jean-Claude Brialy, (Une femme est une femme, La mariée était en noir) who returns home for a short vacation. The man's name is Francois and he has been away for more than a decade.
Francois' first impression is that the village hasn't changed much. The streets, the local inn and shops look exactly as he left them. The people, however, look different. They seem bitter and disillusioned, a few also appear completely defeated.
A day after his arrival Francois talks to his best friend Serge (Gérard Blain, Les Cousins, Les vierges), finally sober and aware of his presence, and quickly realizes that he has also changed. He has become an almost impossible to tolerate abusive alcoholic whose only friend now is his equally wretched and always drunk father-in-law Glomaud (Edmond Beauchamp, Le bossu).
Serge's pregnant wife (Michele Meritz, Classe tous risques) is seriously depressed. She is also hurting because she has lost a baby and started realizing that now she is on the verge of losing her husband. She wants Serge back in her life, but the more she tries to regain his love, the more he ignores her. She can only love him when he has had so much to drink that he could no longer keep track of his surroundings.
The only person in the village who seems to enjoy her life is Marie (Bernadette Lafont, La maman et la putain, Les bonnes femmes), a naïve young girl who likes teasing older men. Like those before him, Francois quickly falls for her charms and she begins manipulating him.
Meanwhile, realizing how different their lives have turned out Serge becomes increasingly hostile and disrespectful towards Francois. Shocked and hurt, Francois considers leaving but then changes his mind and decides to stay and help his friend get back on his feet.
Widely considered to be the first film of the French New Wave, Le beau Serge has a lot in common with the films of the Italian neorealists. Rossellini's influence, in particular, is quite obvious, as the tone and structure of the film very much remind about Desiderio, while the decision to use primarily non-professional actors was clearly inspired by Visconti's La Terra Trema.
Unlike the big New Wave films, such as Les quatre cents coups and A bout de soufflé, Le beau Serge is a fairly straightforward film that did not challenge established perceptions about style and narrative. With it Chabrol simply suggested possibilities, which the Cahier du Cinema directors explored. The relationship between Francois and Serge, for instance, is incredibly moving but never infused with the type of melodrama that is often present in the films of Rene Clement, Jean Delannoy, Marc Allegret, and Henri-Georges Clouzot. On the other hand, Marie's behavior is unusually bold - she seduces Francois and after she gets what she needs provokes Serge to confront him - for a female character of her age. Obviously, it isn't comparable to that of Anna Karina's Nana in Vivre Sa Vie, but it set an important precedent for other directors to consider.
Technically, the film does not break any new boundaries, but there are clearly new ideas and moves on display in it. For example, there is a very unique relationship between the main characters and nature (their identities are slowly altered by it, but by the time the final credits roll one gets the feeling that nature has also evolved because of the different character transformations), while on the other hand the camera is no longer a casual and mostly passive observer. Though the film still looks quite raw, there is a certain new and unusual fluidity in the way the camera moves.
Note: In 1958, Le beau Serge was screened at the Cannes Film Festival (Out of Competition). During the same year, the film won Silver Sail Award for Best Director at the Locarno International Film Festival.
Le beau Serge Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.34:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Claude Chabrol's Le beau Serge arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears in the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using Revival, Flame, and Smoke, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine colorist: Bruno Patin/Eclair, Paris."
I don't currently own Le beau Serge on SDVD in my library and therefore I cannot comment on how this Blu-ray release compares to previous releases. However, I will be shocked if there is a SDVD release, in R1 or R2 land, that comes even remotely close in matching its quality.
The high-definition transfer is wonderful. I assume that it is more or less identical to the one french distributors Gaumont have used for their Blu-ray release of Le beau Serge, but I do not yet know for sure (I will probably pick up the French release at some point in the future to compare it to the Criterion release). Detail is wonderful throughout the entire film, even when light is restricted. Clarity is also pleasing, particularly during close-ups. Colors are well balanced, though I am going to speculate that blacks have been slightly boosted, as occasionally they seem just a tiny bit oversaturated. A light layer of well resolved grain is present throughout the entire film. There are no traces of problematic sharpening, though a few harsh edges pop up here and there. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. All in all, this is an impressive release of a classic film which does not appear to have ever been treated with the respect it deserves on this side of the Atlantic. (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).
Le beau Serge Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English 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 soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The loseless audio track handles Émile Delpierre's somewhat unsettling soundtrack very well. The music has pleasing organic qualities and there are absolutely no distortions to report in this review. The dialog is clean, stable, clear, and easy to follow. Additionally, there are no pops, cracks, excessive hiss, or dropouts. The English translation is excellent.
Le beau Serge Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Le beau Serge Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Claude Chabrol's directorial debut is a raw but also beautiful film about friendship and sacrifice that signaled the arrival of a group of visionary directors that would eventually change the way movies were made. Recently restored, Le beau Serge arrives on Blu-ray with a handsome new transfer and a good set of supplemental features, including a brand new audio commentary, courtesy of Criterion. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Le beau Serge Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion's September Line-Up: Altman, Chabrol, Hallström, Assaya... - June 15, 2011
The Criterion Collection has unveiled their Blu-ray line-up for September 2011. Announced titles include Robert Altman's 3 Women, Olivier Assayas'Carlos, Lasse Hallstrom's My Life as a Dog, Claude Chabrol's Les Cousins and Le Beau Serge and the 1920 silent classic ...
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