Monday, February 18, 2013

Blu-ray Review: CAMILLE 2000 (1969)

CAMILLE 2000 (1969)
Blu-ray + DVD Special Edition 
Label: Arrow Video  
Duration: 131 Minutes 
Region Code: ALL
Rating: 18 Certificate
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: PCM Mono 2.0 Stereo with Optional English SDH Sutitles
Director: Radley Metzger
Cast: Daniele Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo, Eleonora Rossi Drago 
Tagline: The "NOW" Child

Synopsis: When Marguerite, a promiscuous woman 
(Daniel Gaubert, Snow Jobwith a troubled past and a deep distrust of men meets Armand (Nino Castelnuova, Strip Nude for Your Killer), she lets her guard down and falls in love. But can they resist old habits and latent emotions in order to stay together? Find out in this visual, sensual cinematic feast of multiple sexual partners, from the director of Score and The Opening Of Misty Beethoven.

Radley Metzger in my eyes is the undisputed master of the erotic arthouse cinema, easily 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 (1969). 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 Finzo 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 romance 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. The French femme Gaubert is simply stunning, a true classical 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 feel distant throughout. The film is English language 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 an attractive entry. 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 passion, it's a smoldering arthouse entry but it never quite ignited the carnal passion I was hoping it would.

Blu-ray: Up front just be aware that Arrow's special edition is derived from the same HD master as Cult Epics Extended Version (2010) and features identical supplemental materials. The 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 widescreen with an MPEG-4 AVC encode and the 1080p transfer benefits from improved clarity and more vibrant colors over my Cult Epic DVD, the black levels are quite good and there's a nice layer of film grain present, great stuff. The lone audio option is an English LPCM 2.0.  mono audio track, with optional English SDH subtitles which my Cult Epics DVD had none.  The Blu-ray's lossless mono audio while lacking much dynamic range does get a boost in depth and clarity  it's track is free of snap, crackle and pop leaving the dialogue clear and consistent, Piero Piccioni's 60's psychedelic-lounge score sounds truly fantastic, too.

Mirroring Cult Epics array of extras om the Extended Version (2010) we get 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 (30:36) 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 widescreen trailers for Metzger's Score, The Lickerish Quartet and Camille 2000. The screener I was sent did not include the the reversible artwork or the Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Robin Bougie but just the same this is a great selection of supplemental materials that compliment the viewing of the film, good stuff all around and the ephemeral packaging extras put this right above the Cult Epics Blu-ray as the edition of choice, remember it's region-FREE and playable throughout the world. . 

Before/After Restoration Demo Shot
Special Features: 
- High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD Presentation
- Brand new high definition restoration of the extended cut – available for the first time in the UK
- Optional English SDH subtitles
- Audio commentary with director Radley Metzger and film historian Michael Bowen
- On the set of Camille 2000 – featuring stars Daniele Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo and Radley Metzger 
(30:36) 16:9
- Sylviana’s Bare Striptease – previously cut scene from the feature 
(2:48) 16:9 
- Cube Love Scene – A newly discovered alternate take 
(1:52) 16:9 
- Restoration Comparison
 (6:24) 16:9
- Score Trailer (3:38) 16:9

- The Lickerish Quartet (2:46) 16:9
- Camille 2000 (2:17) 16:9 
- Reversible Artwork featuring original and newly illustrated art by The Red Dress
- Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Robin Bougie

Verdict: Watching Camille 2000 (1969) for the second time, and in 1080p, I must say I found this tragic slice of erotica a bit more satisfying the second time around a few years later. When I first took it in after recent viewings of Metzger's Score (1972) and The Image (1975) I was a bit disappointed, that pervy part of my reptilian brain yearned for more visceral, raw carnal exploitation, I felt the film's erotic elements had been overtaken by some spectacular art design and outrageous 60's fashions and lacked the dark and satisfying erotic pleasures of Score. At that time I recommended the film with the caveat that I wouldn't pass up either The Image or Score if it came down to a choice between the trio and I maintain that opinion while giving the film a bit more love today. Either way, Arrow's Blu-ray is a must-have for Metzger completest, a sensual and erotic feast of mod 60's artiness and bare skin beauty. 3.5 Outta 5