While the French New Wave was taking the world of cinema by storm in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, one French filmmaker stood completely apart from his contemporaries – Philippe de Broca. While his career straddled between lavish big scale productions like King of Hearts (1966) and the more punchy and modern comedies like That Man from Rio (1964), de Broca himself largely defied the dual definition as he often blurred the line between dreams and reality in his movies. One of his best known works – working alongside French New Wave legend Jean-Paul Belmondo – is the swashbuckling adventure Cartouche (AKA Swords of Blood). Previously released on Region B Blu-ray, Kino has the movie available here in the States for the first time with this Blu-ray release.
The Production: 4/5
In 18th Century France, Louis Dominique Bourguignon alias Cartouche (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is a thief working for the Parisian gang of thieves under the control of Malichot (Marcel Dalio). Feeling that the gang is too unethical for his liking and defying Malichot, Cartouche strikes out on his own, first starting off in the army and finding two new associates in La Douceur (Jess Hahn) and La Taupe (Jean Rochefort) and later returning to Paris to start his own band of thieves. With the beautiful gypsy girl Venus (Claudia Cardinale) by his side, he soon becomes the Robin Hood of France with his exploits of stealing from the rich to give to the poor; however, the police soon learn of Cartouche’s main weakness and make plans to use it against him, eventually leading him down the road that may just lead to the gallows…
A rousing spectacle, Cartouche is a thrilling throwback to the Errol Flynn swashbucklers while carving out a path of its own. While the movie itself was based off the real life Cartouche, who was indeed a highwayman known for his criminal exploits in 18th Century France, the movie does takes some liberties with the real life source by the use of the legends and ballads printed in the many years following his death in the script. Also, the script does employ a solid yet subtle use of slapstick comedy, further underscoring the spoofing of the genre that’s not too self-aware or condescending of it either. There’s really not much to complain about here except for the obvious – the movie ends too soon, due to Philippe de Broca’s breezy direction that keeps the fun and adventure moving along that make the nearly two hour runtime feel shorter. In short, Cartouche is a highly entertaining adventure that’s both rousing and humorous and still maintains its devil-may-care charm nearly 60 years later.
An icon the French New Wave movement, Jean-Paul Belmondo proves that he can very much handle the sword like Flynn in his portrayal of the eponymous bandit; it’s a top notch role in an iconic career that has garnered international fame. In a breakthrough performance, Claudia Cardinale simply embodies beauty and longing for Cartouche in her role as the gypsy girl Venus; the next year she would become internationally known due to her appearances in Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, Federico Fellini’s 8½ and Blake Edwards’ The Pink Panther. Jess Hahn and Jean Rochefort serve as the Athos and Aramis to Cartouche’s D’Artagnan (in a strange Three Musketeers relationship) in their supporting parts; Hahn was an American expatriate character actor frequently in French films while Rochefort would go to have long and distinguished career on the French stage and screen, culminating in a Honorary César Award in 1999. Other notable appearances include Marcel Dalio as the devious Malichot, Philippe Lemaire as the head of police in Paris, Odile Versois as his wife, who also serves as the reason Cartouche’s heart might be his undoing, Noël Roquevert as the bumbling army recruitment sergeant, Lucien Raimbourg as an equally clueless marshal and Jacques Balutin as the monk Capucine, who helps both Cartouche and Venus escape from the army.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original 2:35:1 Dyaliscope aspect ratio for this release, taken from a brand new 4K restoration. Film grain is organic with fine details rendered faithfully as well as the vibrant color palette; there’s only minimal instances of problems like scratches, tears or dirt present. All in all, this is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video.
The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue is both strong and clear with Georges Delerue’s stirring score and the sound mix also given faithful representation and fidelity; there’s nearly no instances of crackling, hissing, popping or distortion present. This is easily the best the movie will ever sound on home video.
Special Features: 4/5
Commentary by film critic Simon Abrams – Recorded for this release, Abrams talks about the movie’s production history as well as some of the bios on the cast and crew.
Adventure with a Capital C (26:25) – This featurette from 2019 – presented in French with English subtitles – goes over the making of the film with Alexandra de Broca (the director’s daughter) and journalist Thomas Morales.
Theatrical Trailer (3:32)
Bonus KLSC Trailers – Le Magnifique, Leon Morin, Priest, Le Doulos, Le Professionel & The Outsider
A hit at the French box office, Cartouche cemented the status of both the film’s star and director and paved the way for their greatest success together, That Man from Rio. Kino has done right by the movie with a solid HD transfer and a pair of informative special features to go with it. Very highly recommended.
Amazon.com: Cartouche (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Claudia Cardinale, Jean Rochefort, Jess Hahn, Marcel Dalio, Philippe Lemaire, Noël Roquevert, Odile Versois, Philippe de Broca: Movies & TV
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