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Two officers in Napoleon's army violently confront each other in a series of duels. The duels begin as a reaction to a minor incident and escalate into a consuming passion that rules the lives of both men for a period of 30 years. Based on Joseph Conrad's story.
For more about The Duellists and the The Duellists Blu-ray release, see the The Duellists Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 11, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel, Albert Finney, Edward Fox, Cristina Raines, Robert Stephens
» See full cast & crew
The Duellists Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 11, 2013
Ridley Scott's directorial debut, "The Duellists" (1977) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout Factory. The supplemental features on the disc include a video interview with actor Keith Carradine; audio commentary and isolated score by composer Howard Blake; audio commentary by Ridley Scott; and a video interview with director Kevin Reynolds and Ridley Scott. In English, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Ridley Scott's directorial debut The Duellists, which won Best First Work Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1977, is set during the Napoleonic Wars and tells the story of two French officers. The first, Feraud (Harvey Keitel, Death Watch), is a brash and argumentative man who consistently challenges those who disagree with him to duels. The second, D'Hubert (Keith Carradine, Southern Comfort), is a shrewd man who tends to speak only when it is absolutely necessary.
The two men meet for the first time in Mme. de Lionne's (Jenny Runacre, The Passenger) lavish salon. D'Hubert delivers an important message to Feraud which inadvertently compromises his image in front of Mme. de Lionne's guests. Seriously upset, Feraud challenges D'Hubert to a duel, which he is convinced will restore his honor. Aware of Feraud's reputation, at first D'Hubert refuses to get involved with him, but when Feraud questions his honor he accepts the challenge.
The duel, however, fails to resolve the situation. A second duel is then arranged and this time around Feraud seriously wounds D'Hubert. As the code dictates, the duel is quickly abandoned, and Feraud and D'Hubert agree to meet again when the latter is ready to defend himself. In the coming months and years Feraud and D'Hubert, both obsessed with each other, repeatedly clash, while Napoleon slowly begins to redraw the map of Europe.
Based on a short story by Joseph Conrad, The Duellists offers a fascinating exploration of a classist society in which honor is routinely used as a pretext to justify murder. Much like patriotism, its meaning is never questioned by the powerful but constantly readjusted to serve their interests.
The important events in the film are seen through D'Hubert's eyes; he is an intelligent man who understands the times he lives in and the often dangerous dilemmas they present to free-thinkers like him. As he repeatedly clashes with Feraud, he comes in touch with different people who represent or have connections with the country's elite. The overwhelming majority of them are as fanatical as Feraud, manipulators and willing to be manipulated so long as their goals are accomplished.
Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon might have influenced Scott, but The Duellists certainly has an identity of its own. The film's visual style clearly confirms the existence of a grand vision and ultimately a desire to impress without imitating someone else's work. (The lensing by first-time cinematographer Frank Tidy, in particular, is unusually elegant).
The cast is very convincing. Keitel is spectacular as the obsessed with his opponent officer who can't find peace throughout the years. The final scene where he quietly climbs the hill and looks over the valley is legendary. Carradine is equally impressive as D'Hubert. His facial expressions repeatedly reveal how difficult it is for him to control his emotions each time Feraud's name is mentioned.
Peter J. Hamton's (Shanghai Noon) production designs and especially Tom Rand's (The French Lieutenant's Woman) costume designs deserve a special mention. The outstanding costumes seen throughout the film are a good enough reason to recommend seeing it twice.
The Duellists Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Ridley Scott's The Duellists arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout Factory.
I like the presentation quite a lot. Despite the fact that the high-definition transfer has been struck from an older master, there are no traces of excessive degraining. Problematic sharpening corrections have not been applied either. Needless to say, the film has a consistently pleasing organic look. Detail is very good both during close-ups and larger panoramic shots. Despite the unique use of light - which changes the contrast and color tonality of the film as the action moves from one location to another - clarity is also very good. Colors look warm and natural, though more than likely a new scan and consequently high-definition transfer would probably introduce some noticeable corrections. Occasionally, some minor flecks pop up here and there but never become distracting. Compression is good and there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. To sum it all up, even though there is some room for improvement the Blu-ray release represents a very fine upgrade in quality over the R1 DVD release of The Duellists which Paramount Pictures produced years ago. (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).
The Duellists Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Shout Factory have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
I prefer the DTS-HD Master 2.0 track. While the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track has a marginally bigger range of nuanced dynamics, balance isn't overly convincing. There are portions of the film with sudden spikes and drops in dynamic movement that are avoided on the two-channel track. On the other hand, surround activity is definitely not an important factor. The dialog is crisp, stable, and easy to follow. Also, there are no distortions and problematic background hiss.
The Duellists Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Duellists Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Shout Factory's Blu-ray release of Ridley Scott's directorial debut, The Duellists, is extremely easy to recommend. While there is definitely some room for improvement, the film has a very pleasing organic look, which I am convinced its fans will be satisfied with. Additionally, the Blu-ray release has retained all of the important supplemental features from Paramount's out of print R1 DVD release. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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