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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 March 20, 2013 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, March 20, 2013
Claude Chabrol's "Le beau Serge" (1958) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; part one of Pierre-Henri Gibert's documentary film "Chabrol Launches the Wave"; and a segment from the 1962 omnibus film "Les sept péchés capitaux" a.k.a "The Seven Deadly Sins". The release also arrives with a 32-page illustrated booklet with writings on the film. In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "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 British distributors Eureka Entertainment.
The release uses as a foundation Gaumont's recent restoration of Le beau Serge. This leads me to believe that Eureka Entertainment's release looks identical to the French release. I also did some comparisons with Criterion's release, whose high-definition transfer was also sourced from the Gaumont restoration, but could not see any serious discrepancies to address in our review. Similar to Les Cousins, Le beau Serge looks very good in high-definition. Detail and especially image depth are quite impressive. Clarity and contrast levels are also consistent. Close-ups and larger panoramic shots are equally stable and boasting good fluidity (see screencapture #6). There are no traces of excessive degraining corrections. Problematic sharpening corrections have not been applied either, but I suspect that the black levels might have been slightly elevated during the restoration of the film. On this release I also noticed some light chroma noise. It is not distracting, but while viewing the film I noticed its presence during two short sequences (I've attempted to capture the most obvious example in screencapture #15). Other than that, I think that the technical presentation is indeed very good. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B 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 2.0. For the record, Eureka Entertainment have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The soundtrack by Émile Delpierre is simple but very effective. The strings and the flute constantly interact, adding plenty of flavor to the film. There are even some great pizzicati and bassoon solos. Fortunately, the strong lossless track exposes the modest dynamic movement in the film very well. The dialog is also stable, very clean, and exceptionally easy to follow. Also, there are no audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review. The English translation is very good.
Le beau Serge Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Le beau Serge Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Eureka Entertainment's release of Claude Chabrol's Le beau Serge uses as a foundation Gaumont's recent restoration of the film. As it was the case with the upcoming release of Les Cousins, all of the supplemental features from the French release have been included, with optional English subtitles, as well as a 32-page illustrated booklet with writings on the film. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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