- Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
- Audio Codec: French LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
- Subtitles: English
- Subtitles Color: White
- Region: B (Region-Locked)
- Certificate: 12
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Digital Copies: N/A
- Run Time: 99 Mins.
- Studio: Eureka Entertainment/Masters of Cinema
- Blu-ray Release Date: April 8, 2013
- List Price: £20.42
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(The below TheaterByte screen captures are taken directly from the Blu-ray Discs and losslessly compressed in the PNG format. There should be no loss of picture quality with this format. All screen captures should be regarded only as an approximation of the full capabilities of the Blu-ray format.
Claude Chabrol would launch the nouvelle vague with his 1958 feature-length debut, Le beau Serge becoming the first of the famous Cathiers du cinéma critics to step behind the lens and direct a feature-length film. His vision for his freshman outing would hardly seem as progressive or energetic as the films of the movement that were to follow, such as Truffaut’s The 400 Blows only a few months later or Godard’s Breathless, but it is an innovative and provocative piece nonetheless.
Chabrol would show he was a more than adept director behind the lens with Le beau Serge, a poignant look at the struggles of the working class, far from the glitz and glamor of the big city, shot in stark black and white and natural light. It focuses on François (Jean-Claude Brialy), a successful twenty-something man on break from university who returns to the small village of his boyhood after over a decade away to recover from illness, possibly tuberculosis, only to find not much has changed, but his once dear friend Serge (Gérard Blain) has become a pitiful, self-loathing alcoholic. François takes it upon himself to help Serge’s lot in life, but his presence only aggravates Serge’s realization that he his stuck in his marriage and the same sleepy town of his birth with no way out which he can see. In fact, François’ presence rakes up the muck that has been percolating beneath the surface of the town and as the film progresses François slowly turns from heralded returning hero to the outsider he truly was even from the outset.
Through Chabrol’s inherent understanding of the quiet and isolated nature of small village life (the director himself was from Sardent where Le beau Serge was filmed) he sculpted a melancholic look at the lives of the desperate swathed in seemingly insignificant moments of realism – schoolchildren at play, or a man in the background peeking into a tavern to see what a commotion is – that would come to define the nouvelle vague. These moments of minutiae would also help Le beau Serge carry a sense of almost documentary style at times, not unlike the voyeuristic reality shows that so fascinate the public today.
(Editor’s note: portions of this review were previously published as our Le beau Serge [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review. All screen captures were taken from their respective releases.)
I had the chance to previously review this film on Blu-ray in from the Criterion Collection. Here, I see very slight differences in image quality with this Masters of Cinema series edition from Eureka. While the Criterion had the usual crispness and appearance of perhaps being slightly tweaked in the high frequency region, this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement looks just a little more subtle, maybe a little bit softer, but also more natural at times. While contrast is strong in either edition, here the black detail is ever so slightly more nuanced, offering up a tad more shadow detail and delineation of different levels of greys. I also spot less scratches in the source here.
Just as on the Criterion Collection disc, the monaural soundtrack, supplied here in LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) sounds clear and somewhat dynamic for its age.
The included booklet contains writings from 1958 and 1959 by Chabrol, Truffaut, and Douchet, and a 1984 essay by Jean-Claude Biette as well as Eureka’s usual disc credits and viewing suggestions. The readings contained inside are an absolute must for a fuller understanding of the films and the filmmakers.
The Definitive Word
Still gorgeous, sad, and eloquently understated, this nouvelle vague classic from Chabrol shines in its Blu-ray debut from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series.
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