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Zazie dans le métro(1960)
A brash and precocious eleven-year-old (Catherine Demongeot) comes to Paris for a whirlwind weekend with her rakish uncle (Philippe Noiret); he and the viewer get more than they bargained for in this anarchic comedy from Louis Malle, which treats the City of Light as though it were a pleasure island just waiting to be destroyed. Based on a popular novel by Raymond Queneau that had been considered unadaptable, Malle’s audacious hit Zazie dans le métro is a bit of stream-of-conscious slapstick, wall-to-wall with visual gags, editing tricks, and effects, and made with flair on the cusp of the French New Wave.
For more about Zazie dans le métro and the Zazie dans le métro Blu-ray release, see Zazie dans le métro Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 27, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Philippe Noiret, Catherine Demongeot, Hubert Deschamps, Annie Fratellini, Vittorio Caprioli
Director: Louis Malle
» See full cast & crew
Zazie dans le métro Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 27, 2011
Louis Malle's "Zazie dans le metro" a.k.a "Zazie in the Subway" (1960) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; exclusive audio interview with filmmaker William Klein; video interview with writer-director Jean-Paul Rappeneau; episode of the French television program Cinq colonnes a la une; two interviews with the author of Zazie dans le metro, Raymond Queneau; and more. The disc also arrives with 18-page illustrated booklet containing an essay by Professor Ginette Vincendeau. In French, with optional English subtitles. Region-A "locked".
Ten-year-old Zazie (Catherine Demongeot) arrives in Paris to spend the weekend with her eccentric Uncle Gabriel (Philippe Noiret, Cinema Paradiso, Coup de Torchon), while her mother (Odette Piquet) enjoys the company of her secret lover, and immediately announces her desire to see the famous metro (subway). Much to her disappointment, however, she is quickly informed that the metro has been closed due to a massive strike.
But the rest of Paris is not affected by the strike, and while Uncle Gabriel prepares for his latest drag show, Zazie begins exploring the city. Along the way she befriends a number of Uncle Gabriel's friends, some of which are in the middle of complicated love affairs.
Zazie quickly discovers that Paris is a jungle overpopulated with strange people - some incredibly rude, some remarkably naive, and some simply impossible to figure out. She also realizes that some of them are tourists, who are absolutely clueless about what they are shown and sold.
Determined to make the most of her weekend, Zazie embarks on a fascinating journey through the chaotic streets of Paris, followed by Uncle Gabriel, a few of his friends, and some of their friends.
Based on Raymond Queneau's famous novel, Louis Malle's Zazie dans le metro a.k.a Zazie in the Subway is a smart and remarkably original dramedy that pokes fun at most things French - from French language, culture and mannerisms to the cinematic language and aesthetics favored by French directors at the time the film was made.
Zazie dans le metro is fragmented into a series of episodes reminding a lot about Jacques Tati's Play Time. In the majority of these episodes, Zazie, like Monsieur Hulot, finds herself in the middle of awkward situations and amongst people who see the world differently. Unlike Monsieur Hulot, however, the overwhelming amount of Zazie's reactions and observations make perfect sense.
There is also a degree of social awareness in Zazie dans le metro that isn't present in Play Time. For example, there are subtle but very effective commentaries on gender equality, sexuality, urbanization, and culture that change the entire complexion of the film.
Technically, Zazie dans le metro is the boldest and most advanced of director Malle's films. The rapid camera moves, sudden tempo changes (emulating the wild tempo switches in Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton's early films), bizarre color manipulations, and outstanding special effects transform the film into a glorious surrealistic experiment that truly has to be seen to be believed.
The cast is fantastic. Demongeot's improvisations are incredibly convincing, lacking the over-the-top eagerness, or insouciance for that matter, which young actors typically exude when followed closely by the camera. Noiret, looking so young here, is also spectacular as the eccentric Uncle Gabriel.
Cinematographer Henri Raichi's (Jacques Deray's L'homme de Marrakech) lensing is incredibly wild, literally transforming Paris into a Wonderland where anything and everything is possible.
Note: Director Louis Malle dedicated Zazie dans le metro to Charlie Chaplin, who, after seeing the film in Switzerland, revealed that he was impressed by Zazie and shaken up by the filmâ€™s terrible vision of modern life.
Zazie dans le métro Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Louis Malle's Zazie dans le metro arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine colorist: Richard Deusy/Scanlab, Paris.
Blu-ray mastering: Radius60, Los Angeles.
I have seen only the R4 Australian SDVD release of Zazie dans le metro, which I understand uses the same transfer Optimum Home Entertainment had to work with in the United Kingdom when they prepared their Louis Malle boxset.
Criterion's Blu-ray release represents a strong upgrade in terms of image quality. This may not be immediately obvious if one compares the old R4 SDVD with the Blu-ray release strictly by looking at screencaptures, but detail and especially color reproduction are clearly superior. Furthermore, the macroblocking patterns that are noticeable on the SDVD are also effectively addressed. The background shimmer, particularly during the daylight footage, is eliminated as well. A layer of light grain is now easy to spot here, but not on the SDVD release. This being said, because of the intended cartoonish look - which favors plenty of unnaturally warm and soft colors and subdued contrast levels - the film has a tendency to look somewhat soft at times. This is not to say, however, that detail is compromised; this is a stylistic preference which compliments the satirical tone of the film. Lastly, edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern. The high-definition transfer is also free of debris, stains, cuts, and large damage marks. (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).
Zazie dans le métro 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 monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the positive print soundtrack. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
The French LPCM 1.0 audio track has a decent dynamic amplitude. Naturally, Fiorenzo Carpi and AndrÃ© Pontin's score gets a decent boost. The dialog also sounds slightly clearer than it does on the SDVD. Balance, however, is practically identical. For the record, I did not detect any annoying pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts to report in this review. The English translation is excellent.
Zazie dans le métro Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Zazie dans le métro Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I believe it is fair to say that without Louis Malle's wonderful Zazie dans le metro Jean-Pierre Jeunet would have never made Amelie. It is a beautiful, hilarious, witty and refreshingly politically incorrect film, the kind that it is no longer possible to shoot. Criterion's Blu-ray release is excellent - the film clearly looks the best it ever has. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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