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That Obscure Object of Desire [StudioCanal Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: French & English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz/16-bit)
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: NR
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 103 Mins.
  • Studio: Lionsgate
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 29, 2013
  • List Price: $29.99


The Film

[Rating:5/5]

Filmmaking auteur Luis Buñuel’s (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie; Belle de Jour; L’Age d’or) last work, 1977’s Cet obscur objet du désir (That Obscure Object of Desire) was and is one of the greatest swan songs in cinema. True to his surrealist roots, Buñuel put together a film that told a story examining the nearly impossible reconciliation of romance, love, lust, and power on multiple levels of symbolism and realism.

When the story proper begins, we are uncertain of what is going on, all that we know is there has been some sort of confrontation and the wealthy, middle-aged Frenchman Mathieu (Buñuel favorite Fernando Rey) is in a rush to catch the rail out of Spain back to France. It isn’t until he is on-board and he throws a bucket of water on a woman with two black-eyes that the story comes into focus. He is obliged to explain his actions to his fellow passengers. He begins to recount the story of how he fell in love with his former chambermaid, the lovely Conchita (played both by Carole Bouquet and Ángela Molina), a dancer from Seville. What unfolds between Mathieu and Conchita is a cat-and-mouse game of love, romance, and vying for the upper hand in the relationship as each tries to gain control over the other. Mathieu, of course, tries to use his vast wealth to win over the virginal Conchita, while Conchita withholds her affections – physically and emotionally – to let him know she cannot be bought. As with most of Buñuel’s films, there’s an undercurrent of politics running through it as Mathieu and Conchita’s relationship plays out against the backdrop of a string of seemingly unrelated terrorist attacks that keep appearing in the newspapers and nightly news reports.

In a twist of genius, Buñuel cast two equally enchanting actresses in the role of Conchita. This move captures symbolically and physically the outwardly capricious nature of Conchita while also questioning the honesty of love and lust. Does Mathieu truly love Conchita or does he, as she fears, really just see her as an interchangeable object, “a piece of furniture,” as she puts it? The question may never be answered, as the film ends just as enigmatically as it began, leaving viewers to come to their own conclusions once more.

(Editor’s note: portions of this review not related to this specific release were previously reviewed as our That Obscure Object of Desire [StudioCanal Collection] [UK] Blu-ray Review. All screen captures were taken from their respective releases.)

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

As I previously reviewed the UK edition of this StudioCanal Collection release, I was able to compare the two, and, as one would expect, and as has been the norm for these releases so far, there is no change in the video encodement. The two are identical. That Obscure Object of Desire appears to be a fine effort from StudioCanal with little processing anomalies and a thinly layered grain structure. Color reproduction has the typical look of the era, more subdued and true to life than stylistic, but the primaries pop nicely, particularly reds. Detail is strong and there is lots of texture to be seen in clothing in facial features.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The original French monaural soundtrack is offered up in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) configuration while an English dub is also provided as lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit). The French track is a good one with little crackle or hiss to be heard and a surprising amount of dynamic range taking its age into account.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

This StudioCanal Collection release of That Obscure Object of Desire from Lionsgate gets all of the video featurettes from its previously released UK counterpart ported over and converted from 1080i/50 to 1080p/24 (24Hz). This US version does lose the booklet that was included with the UK edition, however.

The supplements:

  • Interview with Carlos Saura (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:11:44) – The filmmaker discusses the career of Luis Buñuel and his friendship with the great auteur.
  • The Arbitrariness of Desire (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:33:16) – Insight into the literary influences of Luis Buñuel and its effects on the filming of That Obscure Object of Desire.
  • Lady Doubles (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:37:31) – The actresses offer up their remembrances of working with Luis Buñuel.
  • Portrait of an Impatient Filmmaker (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:16:12)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

A masterful film from a masterful filmmaker, That Obscure Object of Desire will be instantly relatable to anyone who has been through a rocky romance, encountered passion, lust, or unrequited love. Its imagery is meaningful on multiple levels as its performances are simultaneously provocative and humorous. Highly recommended.


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