The Discreet Charm of French DVDs - November 2002

Costa-Gavras' latest film Amen was released very discreetly in the UK last July maybe since the topic of the Vatican's involvement with the Nazi party was not deemed to be a crowd winner. Regardless of this, the film did quite well in France (probably thanks to the casting of Kassowitz in the lead) and gets an extras-laden double DVD release with commentary and documentaries. Pathé have the habit of releasing films with English subtitles but given that it was filmed in English in this case these won't be necessary... France's other most versatile actor, Vincent Cassel is currently filming a screen adaptation of Blueberry, a famous comic-strip character in the French speaking world, with Jan "Dobermann" Kounen but in the meanwhile we can enjoy Cassel's latest UK outing, Read My Lips, which has been given an excellent French release including English subtitles on the main feature and features one of the best commentaries about (sadly not subtitled in English)...


Mystery still surrounds MK2's upcoming release of Fire Walk With Me which doesn't show much sign of appearing any time soon. Still they have been doing a fair amount of good work on various releases (Hôtel du Nord, L'Enfer, Betty) and are set to give Chaplin's complete works the best possible release featuring extras galore and remastered image and soundtracks with English subtitles. Although MK2 seemed to have stopped subtitling all their DVDs in English, they have now apparently returned to doing this if their latest releases are anything to go by. They have also recently released Abbas Kiarostami The Wind Will Carry Us with an extra DVD featuring two very interesting documentaries. The main feature has been subtitled in English as are the extras... Given that ICA are not going to release it on DVD in the UK given the poor VHS sales (!!!), this is a must buy...

Mamoru Oshii's Avalon (currently on limited release in UK cinemas) is an eye-catching film showcasing all that modern technology now allows a director to do. The French have been given a very good 2-DVD release but once again there are no English subtitles included. A great shame given the low likelihood of this getting a half decent release here in the near future. However if your French or Polish (the filming language!) is any good, this is worthwhile importing but the Japanese release remains the sole option for those with money to burn since it does feature English subtitles over the film but a very high price tag...

On the anime side of things, Spirited Away is set for a decent DVD release - however, the current information indicates that the collector's edition does not contain English subtitles but the Prestige edition does as well as an English dub meaning that those wanting to own it will have to pay a little more than €30 for it... Still this edition will not suffer from the red-tint phenomena which was present on the Japanese release so this may be the best image transfer yet...

Finally François Ozon's 8 femmes featuring a cast made up of all of our favourite French divas (Ardant, Deneuve, Béart, Huppert...) has been released in a staggering 3 DVD release with the soundtrack on a separate CD - the extras feature the usual commentaries, interviews, deleted scenes, outtakes ad infinitum but also the complete stage play, archival footage of the singers that feature on the soundtrack and TV appearances by the cast on their promotional tour. No English subtitles have been included sadly and I very much doubt we'll be seeing this kind of release in the UK for it (in fact, I'd be surprised if a recent British film would get that kind of release!)

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