Monday, August 1, 2011

DVD Review: CAMILLE 2000 - Extended Version (1969)

CAMILLE 2000 (1969)
Extended Version DVD
LABEL: Cult Epics
DURATION: 131Minutes
RATING: Unrated
VIDEO: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
AUDIO: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
DIRECTOR: Radley Metzger
CAST: Daniele Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo, Eleonora Rossi Drago
TAGLINE: The "NOW" Child

In CAMILLE 2000 the gorgeous French actress (Daniel Gaubert, SNOW JOB) portrays Marguerite, a promiscuous libertine kept in riches by a wealthy man. She's well-known for having multiple lovers and hosting a string of orgiastic parties in her luxurious villa. Her promiscuous lifestyle however falls into disarray when she finds herself smitten with a handsome bachelor named Armand (Nino Castelnuova, STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER), who insists on fidelity in their relationship. Despite her feelings for Armand the tart finds it difficult to maintain her fidelity, at the same time Armand's meddling father disapproves of the relationship and throws a wrench into the love works which threatens to destroy the lovers.

Of what I've seen of Radley Metzger films the director in my eyes is the undisputed master of the erotic arthouse cinema. A director who could have effortlessly infiltrated the mainstream cinema had it been his inclination. His cinematic style, while at times experimental and arthouse, seems compatible with the late-60's and early-70's sex comedies, thrillers and romantic dramas and never more so than with his adaptation of Alexandre Dumas Fils' novel Lady of the Camellias, CAMILLE 2000. More a sensuous melodrama than lusty erotica, at it's heart this a tale of doomed lovers set against late-60's high society and wealthy libertines with a most excellent lounge-lizard score from composer Peiro Piccioni. The film is the most stylish and visually lavish Metzger production I've seen, courtesy of Enrico Sabbatini's stylish art decoration and some sweet lensing from cinematographer Ennio Guarnieri (THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI CONTINI).

I came to know Metzger's films through the erotically charged SCORE (1974) and sadomasochistic luridness of THE IMAGE (1975) and I was a bit perplexed by the comparative lack of sexual voracity found here. It's likely that I'm just a pervert but this is not what I've come to expect from Metzger. CAMILLE 2000 is much more refined, more classical in it's approach, though skewed by eroticism. There is sex, but it's lacking charisma and the languid pace and relative chasteness of the film left me wanting. Perhaps this is indicative of the extended cut of this film or symptomatic of Metzger's earlier films which I've not been able to explore as of yet.

Much in the way that Dario Argento is criticized for his style over substance approach to filmmaking I think the same could be applied to CAMILLE 2000. French femme Gaubert is stunning, a true beauty, but I found both her and co-star Castelnuovo coldly detached in their performances, there's no sense of real intimacy and the characters felt distant to me. The film is dubbed so I guess that could be a symptom of the process, I'm not sure. Whatever the reason the passion of the film didn't connect with me but on a purely visual level the film is quite attractive. Metzger and Sabbatini are meticulous in their set decoration, art direction and shot composition, it's captivating stuff and it looks great, but the two leads, though alluring, do not  exactly burn down the screen with passionate performances. 

DVD: Cult Epics 2011 transfer of CAMILLE 2000 was made using the original 35mm negative with additional scenes being sourced from a 35mm interposit print. Sound and image have been restored to remove scratches and splice marks though according to the restoration featurette no noise reduction or edge enhancement was applied to the film in order to maintain it's film-like qualities, as such there is a good amount of grain in the image as well as white specks. Noise reduction has been applied to the audio which was sourced from a 35mm optical print to remove hiss, crackle and pops.

The film is presented in it's original scope aspect ratio of 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Audio options include the English Dolby Digital mono audio and a commentary track, there are no subtitle options. This marks my first home viewing of Metzger's films on standard definition DVD, previous films were screened on Blu-ray and this presentation   certainly lacks the clarity and depth of a 1080p presentation but it fares quite well, particularly when compared to the pre-restoration demo shots. The colors are strong, the film's grain structure is nicely intact (which I love) and the black levels are quite good. Likewise the mono audio while lacking depth is free of snap, crackle and pop. The dialogue is clear and consistent while the 60's lounge score sounds fantastic.

Cult Epics have given this release a wonderful selection of special features beginning with an audio commentary from Metzger and film historian Michael Bowen. It's a pleasant listen with loads of production notes and anecdotal bits as the director discusses his place in cinema, working abroad and the critical reception of his films. On the Set of Camille 2000 (20:05) is comprised of film clips and hand-held behind-the-scenes footage, it's an informative watch as Metzger's narration supplies a steady stream of trivia, and includes footage from the film's wrap-party plus a few shots of a scene between Marguerite and Armand's father on a beach, the weather not cooperating that day the scene was scrapped. I love these kind of intimate and voyeuristic featurettes, very cool. Restoration of Camille 2000 (6:24) is a before and after restoration demo of the film, it speaks for itself and to the integrity of the restoration. Sylviane's Bare Striptease Scene (2:48) features a completely off-the-wall striptease cut from the film and shot hand-held, odd and awesome. Finishing off the disc are a subdued alternate take of the 'Cube Love Scene' and anamorphic trailers for Metzger's SCORE, LICKERISH QUARTET and CAMILLE 2000. A great selection of supplemental materials that compliment the viewing of the film, good stuff all around.  The film is available from Cult Epics in separate edition of both the theatrical and extended versions on DVD and Blu-ray. Oddly, the Blu-ray does not offer both versions on the same disc via seamless branching, which would have been fantastic.  

Before/After Restoration demo Screen Grabs
- On the Set of Camille 2000 (20:35) 16x9
- Restoration of Camille 2000 (6:24) 16x9
- Sylviane's Bare Striptease Scene (2:48) 16x9
- Cube Love Scene (1:52) 16x9
- Audio Commentary with Radley Metzger and film historian Daniel Bowen
- Trailers: SCORE (3:38) 16x9, THE LICKERISH QUARTET (2:46) 16x9, CAMILLE 2000 (2:17) 16x9

VERDICT: Honestly when I come to a Radley Metzger film I'm looking for some arty erotica and I found that the lustier elements of CAMILLE 2000 had been overtaken by some admittedly spectacular art design. Perhaps a bit disappointing on that pervy level but still a sensual viewing experience with Metzger's distinct arthouse stamp. A recommend with the caveat that I wouldn't pass up THE IMAGE or SCORE if it came down to a choice amongst the three. Either way, a must-have for Metzger completest, it's been a fantastic year with no less than four of his titles coming to Blu-ray in remastered editions.