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Rosetta Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Archived Reviews' started by Matt Hough, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Matt Hough
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    The title character in Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s Rosetta is a fighter, not in the prize ring but in the ring of life. The 1999 Palme d’Or winner in Cannes captures bits and pieces of a frenzied life, simple on the surface but filled with the angst of a teen burdened with more responsibilities than anyone should have to bear at that age. It’s a claustrophobic tale of deep sadness, depressing at times and yet also exhilarating in the street-wise cinematic style for which these Belgian brothers are so famous.

    Rosetta (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1999
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 93 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 French
    Subtitles:  English

    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 39.95

    Release Date: August 14, 2012

    Review Date: August 9, 2012

    The Film


    Sixteen year old Rosetta (Emilie Dequenne) is saddled with an alcohol and sex-addicted mother (Anne Yernaux) living a hand-to-mouth existence in a run down trailer park, and desperately trying to keep a roof over their heads by tenaciously holding on to any job she’s lucky to land. When she’s let go from her most recent job, her only objective becomes landing another job, and she finally does making waffle batter for a man (Olivier Gourmet) who owns a fleet of lunch counters around the city. Even when she’s let go from that job when the boss’ son is kicked out of school and needs work, she strikes up a tentative friendship with Riquet (Fabrizio Rongione) who mans one of the counters, and during the course of their time together, she learns he’s scamming the boss a bit by selling waffles he’s made himself at home and keeping the money for himself. Rosetta must decide if having a friend and something akin to a normal life is worth more to her than having a job which she’d surely get if she turns Riquet in.

    The title of the movie is no accident as the brothers keep the handheld camera in the face or behind the back of their leading lady for almost the entire length of the movie. We see Rosetta in her most anguished moments dealing with her impossible mother or being fired from her latest job for no reason other than the company needs to save money. But we also see her in a few fleeting moments of joy: behind the counter helping patrons or clumsily learning to dance with Riquet when she first begins to taste what it would be like to have a normal life with a job, a place to live, and friends. The writer/directors have established their leading character with judicious clarity and with not a second of film wasted: she won’t accept charity, handouts, or welfare, she rigs her own fish traps for food so she can save money for rent, water, and propane, and she carefully preserves her good street shoes by wearing rubber boots while tramping through the woods to her trailer park (a shortcut so no one will know what low living conditions she’s been forced into enduring). The tale is simple, but the emotions are complex and heartrending for this girl, trapped in a situation not of her own choosing (we aren’t provided backstory on her father or why her mother has sunk to the point of not caring any more) and frantic to maintain some semblance of a regular routine.

    In addition to the film's winning the top prize at Cannes, Emilie Dequenne also won the top prize for her performance, a searing up-close-and-personal look at a teen who must be far older than her years trudging through each day trying to give her life meaning. It’s astonishing that she had no real experience as a film actress before this movie, but she’s gripping from her first seconds on the screen refusing to leave a place of work after being fired for no reason. Olivier Gourmet is reserved but solid as the boss who hires, fires, and hires her again, and Fabrizio Rongione is just fine as the friend she must either support or ultimately betray for her own sake. Anne Yernaux makes a vivid impression as the mother whose behavior is far more infantile than her daughter’s.

    Video Quality


    The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1 is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Shot on Super 16mm film and blown up for theatrical exhibition, the image is never razor sharp, but the images do maintain a consistency of look that is unmistakably film. Color is acceptably saturated, and flesh tones are natural throughout. There are no artifacts to distract from the viewing experience. The soft white subtitles are easy to read. The film has been divided into 23 chapters.

    Audio Quality


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround track is rather monocentric with the majority of the sound issuing from the center channel. Dialogue is well recorded, and the ambient sounds of the town (Riquet’s moped, the splashing water of the river where Rosetta fishes) come through distinctly if without a lot of heft in this simple audio mix.

    Special Features


    All of the bonus material is presented in 1080p.

    Brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne are interviewed by critic Scott Foundas in English (they respond mostly in French) about Rosetta. The writer/directors discuss where they got the idea for the movie, their directing technique, their method of casting the lead in the movie, the three year process for them to produce a film, the hardest things about making this particular picture, and how the character begins to write itself during the creative period before filming begins. This runs 61 ¾ minutes.

    A combined set of interviews with star Emilie Dequenne and co-star Olivier Gourmet focuses on their characters, the brothers’ directing techniques, and how they were cast. This runs 18 ¼ minutes.

    The theatrical trailer runs for 1 minute.

    The enclosed 14-page booklet contains cast and crew lists, a selection of color stills, and a laudatory analysis of the film by critic Kent Jones.

    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, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. 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)

    Another in the series of gritty street tales by Belgian filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Rosetta is a haunting piece that’s worth experiencing. The Blu-ray does all it can with the low budget film, and the bonus features add value to the package. Recommended!

    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC


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