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Puzzle of a Downfall Child(1970)
Lou Andreas Sand, a once famous model, recalls her past as she tries to make success in the modeling world of New York...
For more about Puzzle of a Downfall Child and the Puzzle of a Downfall Child Blu-ray release, see Puzzle of a Downfall Child Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 4, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Jerry Schatzberg
Starring: Faye Dunaway, Barry Primus, Viveca Lindfors, Barry Morse, Roy Scheider, Barbara Carrera
» See full cast & crew
Puzzle of a Downfall Child Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 4, 2012
Screened at the 'Classics' section of the Cannes Film Festival, Jerry Schatzberg's "Puzzle of a Downfall Child" (1970) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Carlotta Films. The supplemental features on the disc include a new theatrical trailer; video interview with French film critic Pierre Rissient; and a video interview with director Jerry Schatzberg conducted by French film critic and Positif editor Michel Ciment. In English, with optional French subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
A secluded beach house. A man and a woman in their early 40s quietly talk about the past. She looks tired and at times somewhat confused. There is a lot she does not remember well. Next to the man, there is a microphone connected to a small tape recorder.
The woman is former fashion model Lou Andreas Sand (Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde, The Arrangement), who struggles with depression and lives alone. The man is Aaron (Barry Primus, Boxcar Bertha), a photographer and Lou's former lover, who is going to direct his first film. He feels that Lou's story would make a great film.
Lou does not remember well how she entered the world of professional modeling. She remembers bits of important shoots, the faces of some of the powerful people who visited them, some of the pretentious people who were always there and some of the strange people who asked her to do strange things - but not how things happened for her. Or why.
Lou remembers that she had a great time on the way up, while she was being 'discovered' by various publishers. She also remembers that a lot of people around her encouraged her to dream big. But when she reached the top, she became an object other people wanted to own or be seen with. The top was a lonely place, which eventually became a dark and dangerous place.
The nervous breakdown Lou suffered on the way down was terrible. A few people would show up when she called for help, but no one cared for her, no one really wanted to be with her, and she knew it. The agents, the photographers and the publishers she used to work with no longer needed her because her face had become old. She left the business and started drinking. Or was it the other way around?
It is time for Aaron to go now because he must catch the last ferry. He has heard enough and seen more than he probably should have – because it is clear now that the woman he interviewed isn't the woman he once fell in love with. This is a broken woman who has no one to love and nothing to believe in. All she has are memories, some of which are not hers.
Former fashion photographer Jerry Schatzberg's first feature film, Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970), was inspired by a series of recordings he made with his famous model Anne Saint Marie, who suffered a serious mental breakdown. A year after the film premiered in the United States (and received terrible reviews from the local critics), Schatzberg directed The Panic in Needle Park, with Al Pacino and Kitty Winn, who won Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Structured as a mosaic of overlapping memory flashbacks, Puzzle of a Downfall Child is incredibly beautiful and elegant but at the same time cold and unsettling film which offers a glimpse into the highly competitive world of professional modeling. The shooting sessions, in particular, are very well done, allowing the viewer to get a real sense of the intense pressure models have to endure in order to be successful.
Dunaway is terrific as the ambitious model who rises to the top and suddenly discovers that she has evolved into an expensive object. She struggles to come to terms with her discovery and on the way down suffers a massive breakdown that irreversibly damages her life. Dunaway's acting in the sequences where the model is seen attempting to regain her composure is some of the best she has ever done.
The film is beautifully lensed by cinematographer Adam Holender, who, a year earlier, collaborated with John Schlesinger on his Midnight Cowboy. The important music score (the music essentially separates Lou's dreams from reality) was composed by Michael Small (Klute, The Driver).
Puzzle of a Downfall Child Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jerry Schatzberg's Puzzle of a Downfall Child arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Carlotta Films.
Recently restored and screened in the 'Classics' section of the Cannes Film Festival, Puzzle of a Downfall Child looks lovely on Blu-ray. Generally speaking, most close-ups convey very pleasing depth (see screencapture #3) and good clarity. Some of the panoramic shots, such as the ones seen in the very beginning of the film, have elevated contrast levels and/or manipulated colors, but these are intended visual enhancements (see the bits with the Chinese fisherman). A few of the memory flashbacks also look slightly softer.
Some extremely light noise corrections have been applied, but the grain structure is very much intact. Unsurprisingly, the film has a pleasing organic look. Additionally, there are no traces of problematic post-production sharpening, though there are a couple of shooting sessions with plenty of bright lights that create the illusion that some sharpening might have been performed (see screencapture #13). Needless to say, the effect is created by the powerful projectors, and as the rest of the screencaptures convey edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern. There are no aliasing or banding patterns to report in this review either. To sum it all up, Puzzle of a Downfall Child is a beautiful and very elegant film that has been given a new life by French distributors Carlotta Films. (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).
Puzzle of a Downfall Child Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. For the record, Carlotta Films have provided optional French subtitles for the main feature.
Michael Small's soundtrack has a very important role in the film - it basically separates Lou's dreams from reality. Most of the time some of the melodies also reflect specific moods and feelings. The loseless audio track allows the soundtrack to breathe, and elsewhere, where music is absent, opens up the film quite well. Its overall dynamic amplitude, however, is rather limited. The dialog is very crisp, clean, always stable and easy to follow. There are sync issues or problematic dropouts and background hiss is not an issue of concern.
Puzzle of a Downfall Child Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Puzzle of a Downfall Child Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
French distributors Carlotta Films deserve a lot of credit for giving Jerry Schatzberg's directorial debut, Puzzle of a Downfall Child, a new life. I loved the film. Faye Dunaway is spectacular as Lou Andreas Sand, while Adam Holender's lensing is superb. Why the film received negative reviews in America in 1970 is a real mystery. Carlotta Films' presentation of the film is very good. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Puzzle of a Downfall Child Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Carlotta Films: Renoir, Kobayashi, Powell and Pressburger in 2012 - December 1, 2011
Last week, Carlotta Films announced that they will release on Blu-ray Jerry Schatzberg's Puzzle of a Downfall Child (February 22). Now the French distributors have revealed that they are also planning to release on Blu-ray Jean Renoir's The River (March 21), Michael ...
• Puzzle of a Downfall Child Blu-ray - November 26, 2011
Independent French distributors Carlotta Films have revealed that they are planning to release on Blu-ray director Jerry Schatzberg's Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970), starring Faye Dunaway, Viveca Lindfors, Barry Primus, and Roy Scheider. The film was recently ...
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