Stefan (Klaus Grünberg) arrives in Paris. At a party, he meets the beautiful but mercurial American Estelle (Mimsy Farmer). When she leaves for Ibiza, he agrees to commit a robbery to raise the money to follow her. Once on the island, he succumbs to a lifestyle of nude sunbathing, sex. And drugs. Starting with pot, Stefan moves on to LSD and finally heroin.
Although I’d never call him a great director, Barbet Schroeder is certainly an interesting one. Born in Iran in 1941 of multi-national parentage, he’s made films over the world. He has been an important producer (much of Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette’s work), a documentarist and an occasional actor. More was his directorial debut, and it began a wayward career which at least at first specialised in pushing at the boundaries of what was acceptable. The drug-taking scenes and nudity in More were quite daring for its day. In Maitresse, a love story in which one participant is a dominatrix, he hired real masochists, some of whom brought their own instruments of torture with them…and made a film that was initially rejected outright by the BBFC and has only recently become available uncut in the UK. More recently he’s worked in Hollywood, and his films have gradually become more conventional, not to mention routine. There’s a wide gulf between his early films and a standard-issue thriller like Murder by Numbers, which is rather summed up by its title.
More was a popular success in France and the rest of Europe, not so in the UK and the USA, despite being mostly in the English language. It has since picked up a cult following, particularly for its use of “The Pink Floyd” (as the credits call them) on the soundtrack. (Floyd guitarist David Gilmour also has his name misspelled.) That isn’t too surprising, as More is much more “European” than “American” in its style and narrative methods. The story is character-led, and Schroeder adopts a cool, detached tone. Stefan, our nominal hero, is less than likeable: criminal and self-destructive. No doubt sexual politics have changed in the last thirty-five years, but the number of times that Stefan slaps Estelle won’t endear him to a significant fraction of today’s audiences! Blank performances from the two leads may not help either. Grünberg is still active as an actor, and Farmer is better known for the Italian horror movies she made in the following decade.
Nestor Almendros was the cinematographer. This was his third dramatic feature for the Spanish-born, Cuban-raised DP: he had previously shot some short films and La collectionneuse for Eric Rohmer and the European-based Roger Corman production The Wild Racers. Almendros and Schroeder got on well, and they worked together again on the The Valley Obscured by Clouds (similarly-themed to More, though shot in New Guinea), Maitresse and the documentaries General Idi Amin Dada and Koko the Talking Gorilla. Even this early in his career, Almendros’s classical style of cinematography was already well developed. There’s an insistence on natural light, or at least light that has a justified source. The early scenes of the Paris streets at night time, for example, were shot with a new fast film stock and the only lighting were the available streetlights. Artificial light that isn’t part of the scene itself is used sparingly, to augment what is there naturally. Almendros’s work adds considerably to a film, which does establish a mood. It did hold my interest. Not everyone will agree though, so proceed with caution.
More was cut by the BBFC for its cinema release and unfortunately still has to be cut on DVD. 1:28 has been removed. This comes from Stefan’s shooting-up scene, which is still present, but the details of preparation and injection have been deleted. There’s another scene shortly afterwards where Stefan is mixing something in a mortar and pestle: the sound drops out every time he names an ingredient. I don’t know if that’s the BBFC’s work or is part of the original film. The cuts are in accordance with the BBFC’s policy on instructional drug use. Which seems fair enough, though surely anyone so inclined could find out such details quite easily elsewhere. In any case, previously-cut “instructional” hard-drugs scenes have recently been reinstated by the BBFC to such films as Trainspotting, Bad Lieutenant and The Panic in Needle Park. To be fair, the cuts don’t make the film incomprehensible, but if you do want to see More uncut, it’s available in France to anyone over the age of twelve who wishes to see it.
The BFI’s DVD release is encoded for Region 2 only. The transfer is in the correct ratio of 1.66:1 but is non-anamorphic. Almendros’s natural-light camerawork isn’t always DVD-friendly, on this film and on others. The scenes in Ibiza shot in bright sunlight come over best: the sea has never looked such a deep blue. The darker scenes show a fair amount of grain and shadow detail is poor in parts. This is partly due to the original materials: Almendros’s policy was that if something was in shadow in real life than it should be so on screen, and the last thing he wanted to do was overlight unnaturally. Skin tones are orangey in places, due to suntans and that rather characteristic late Sixties film look. However, some faults can’t be attributed to that: the transfer is very soft in places, so maybe it should have been anamorphic.
The sound is the original mono, single-channel. More was entirely post-synchronised, but the sound mixers have done a good job with that as lip-synching is very good. The most noticeable exception I noticed was the hotel manager thirty minutes in. The dialogue is predominantly in English, though there are short exchanges in French, German or Spanish which are subtitled. These subtitles are white on a translucent grey background. More importantly, though, they aren’t 16:9 friendly. There are no other subtitles, which is a regrettable decision. There are twelve chapter stops.
Among the extras is a French trailer, a rather arty effort also in non-anamorphic 1.66:1 with 1.0 sound, running 1:06. It’s in noticeably worse condition than the feature. There’s no director’s commentary, but Schroeder is represented in an interview from 1969 comprising nine pages of text. The pages turn automatically after five seconds, but you can read at a faster pace or go back a page by using the buttons on your remote. This interview is also available on the disc as a PDF file, and Adobe Acrobat reader is provided if you don’t have it. The director’s biography comprises one still photograph followed by seven pages of text, navigable in a similar way to the interview. It’s commendably much more thorough than the usual lifted-from-IMDB job, though a filmography would have been useful. Finally, there’s a reproduction of the original poster, which is also on the inlay card inside the case. The case notes are a synopsis adapted from the Monthly Film Bulletin review and an extract from the interview on the disc.
More isn’t without interest, though I expect it will appeal more to those wanting to capture a certain place, time or mood. This DVD could be better, though the fact that the BBFC has cut it will be a distinct disincentive to buy it.