Zazie dans le métro Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jun 26, 2011.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough
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    Zazie dans le métro (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Louis Malle

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1960

    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 92 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: PCM 1.0 French
    Subtitles: English

    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 39.95

    Release Date: June 28, 2011

    Review Date: June 26, 2011

    The Film


    There is a moment in Louis Malle’s Zazie dans le métro where one character turns to another and describes his day as “a reverie within a dream.” What better way would there be to describe this zany, surreal comedic satire than that? Malle jumps head first into the French New Wave movement with a movie that breaks all of the rules and does so with relish. Seen today, the satirical edge is the least part of the experience. Rather, the absolute craziness of the conception and execution tramples nonstop over everyone and everything in its path. It’s a mixture of Mack Sennett farce with Tom and Jerry hijinks all with a modern (for 1960, that is) sass and a take-no-prisoners attitude that dares the audience not to like it. And truth be told, the overriding tone is that if you don’t like it, it’s your problem. This is one film that doesn’t genuflect for the audience’s embrace.

    When her mother (Odette Piquet) wants to have some alone time with her new lover, she dumps her ten year old daughter Zazie on her brother Gabriel (Philippe Noiret), a female impersonator in one of Paris’ exclusive drag clubs. She finds him and his wife (Carla Marlier) rather dull company, so she steals off the following morning to have her own adventures which involve a man (Vittorio Caprioli) who may be a cop or may be a child molester who takes her to, among other places, the Paris flea market and the Eiffel Tower, and later comes under the solicitous arm of the vapid Madame Mwack (Yvonne Clech) who’s on the make for the most available man she can find.

    Malle empties the entire cinematic bag of tricks into the film which results in a surprise-a-minute farce for even a casual viewer. No use trying to catch all of the techniques because it’d be almost impossible, but by undercranking the camera at certain times or speeding up the audio track at others, he throws the film out of balance almost from the start. He takes apart and rebuilds sets right before our eyes, sometimes lowering new set pieces from the flies all while the story continues around the characters. He uses camera tricks to make the Eiffel Tower sequence look far more dangerous than it is (it’s at the film’s midpoint and is easily one of the movie’s tour de force moments, especially the descent down a spiral staircase that’s just awe-inspiring), and then ends it with balloons bringing characters to light landings back on terra firma. The satirical swipes at union strikes (the Metro which Zazie wants to see so badly is closed due to striking workers), jammed traffic on the streets, and the population explosion are all pretty basic but nevertheless interesting.

     But the film does sometimes run out of steam. The Madame Mwach sequence that features just her chasing men around gets tiresome quickly, but the sight gags with her car becoming less and less a recognizable automobile and more a chassis on wheels are delicious (entering brilliant Jacques Tati-level territory). The movie also ends rather messily with the garbled nightclub sequence that turns into a free-for-all with every cast member showing up and the destruction of the set just a jagged jumble (Blake Edwards learned from the mistake here with The Great Race letting his climactic pie fight last just long enough for hilarity without wearing out its welcome; Mel Brooks was obviously inspired by this film in fashioning one of his many endings for Blazing Saddles).

    Catherine Demongeot’s Zazie certainly fits the bratty, precocious demands of the part not bothering to worry about being endearing or sympathetic. Philippe Noiret plays the entire film deadpan, probably for the best with such a frenzied, surreal production which surrounds him. One of the big jokes of the film revolves around his being a female impersonator, and yet, despite seeing the gown he’s desperate to get delivered to the club and endless questions from Zazie about his sexual orientation, we never see him for even one second in drag. Vittorio Caprioli expertly goes through a number of wig and make-up changes as his chameleon character, even at one point buying something from himself at the flea market.

    Video Quality


    The film is framed at its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Malle’s use of color is quite breathtaking, and the Blu-ray captures this unusual color design superbly with richly saturated hues that never bleed. Flesh tones are natural, and sharpness is usually (but not always) top-notch. Black levels leave something to be desired, but that’s the film’s only real lapse. The image is very clean and except for the aspect ratio never gives away the age of its production. The white subtitles are always easy to read. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.

    Audio Quality


    The PCM 1.0 audio track (1.1 Mbps) represents the typical sound design of its era. All of the dialogue was post synched and while there is a slight flatness and lack of spontaneity with the speech, the track is merely replicating the way the film has always sounded. Sound effects and Fiorenzo Carpi’s score are blended well with no single aspect of the track overpowering the other. Hiss and other problematic aural anomalies have been expertly removed so the track plays very smoothly.

    Special Features


    Apart from the trailer (which is in 1080p), all of the video featurettes are presented in 1080i.

    An interview with director Louis Malle, conducted for French television in 1960 after the smashing success of the movie in France, runs 5 minutes. He’s especially proud of the good review he had received from Charlie Chaplin after showing him his finished film.

    A French television interview with actress Catherine Demongeot in 1960 is a fairly frustrating affair as she answers most of the questions monosyllabically. Her parents are also interviewed in this vintage 7 ¾-minute piece.

    There are two interviews with original book author Raymond Queneau. The first was conducted in 1959 after the huge success of the book but before the movie was produced. It runs 9 ¼ minutes. The second, held in 1961 after the film’s release (though the film isn’t mentioned in the interview), lasts for 6 minutes. Both were conducted for French television.

    Le Paris de Zazie is a 2005 documentary featuring assistant director Philippe Collin discussing his memories of making the film with a quick tour of some of the locations used for filming. This feature runs 15 minutes.

    Co-writer Jean-Paul Rappeneau discusses his role in the adaptation of the book (his first time working with Malle) in this 10-minute piece.

    An audio interview with artistic consultant William Klein features the American writer-director talking about his job with the production, offering weird ideas to give the film as unusual an edge as a movie as the book had. The interview lasts 13 ¼ minutes and was taped in 2011.

    The theatrical trailer for the movie runs for 2 ¼ minutes.

    The enclosed 18-page booklet contains cast and crew lists, some color stills highly reminiscent of the movie, and an appreciative essay on the film by professor Ginette Vincendeau.

    The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)

    Unlike any other Louis Malle film you’ve ever seen, Zazie dans le métro defies rational description or explanation. It has to be seen and heard to be believed. The Blu-ray release offers sterling picture and sound quality for a film of this age and a nice assortment of bonus features. Highly recommended!

    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC


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