Place Vendôme Review

Marianne (Catherine Deneuve), a recovering alcoholic, is the wife of Vincent Malivert (Bernard Fresson), who runs a jewellery business in the Place Vendôme, Paris. The business is badly in debt. Vincent shows Marianne seven priceless diamonds which he intends to hide from his creditors. Meanwhile, his assistant Nathalie (Emmanuelle Seigner) is leaving Jean-Pierre (Jean-Pierre Bacri) for rival jewel dealer Battistelli (Jacques Dutronc), who happens to be an ex-lover of Marianne's. Then Vincent kills himself by crashing his car into a lorry, leaving Marianne to run the business on her own...

There's plenty of intrigue in this film, set amongst the high-gloss world of the international jewellery business. Director Nicole Garcia and her cinematographer, Laurent Dailland, shooting in Scope, capture the surface of this luxurious, well-appointed world perfectly. There are several striking overhead shots of the Parisian square of the title. But Place Vendôme is less a thriller than a character study, helped along by a fine performance from Catherine Deneuve. The film traces Marianne's recovery and taking charge of herself. She turns the business around, copes with lovers past and present and learns to control her drinking problem. Place Vendôme is a stylish film about a stylish milieu and characters, and it holds your attention for the two hours that it’s on, though on the basis of a single viewing perhaps not the most essential or memorable foreign film of recent years. Catherine Deneuve was the model for “Marianne” (the personification of France, in the same way that Britannia is for Britain), so the naming of her character here has to be ironic. Her performance is one of her best of recent years: she’s still a beautiful woman, but now in a mature way (“une femme mûre” as the French say). She won the Best Actress ward at the 1998 Venice Film Festival for her work here.

Much of what I have said about Artificial Eye DVDs in my review of Alice et Martin and Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train applies here too. There is little wrong with the transfer, anamorphic at a ratio of 2.35:1: it's sharp and colourful with strong blacks. There is some artefacting, but nothing that distracts too much. The soundtrack could certainly bear improvement – it's plain Dolby Surround. There is a French-label edition of this film which has both French and English-dubbed 5.1 soundtracks, with several subtitle options including English, so Artificial Eye are certainly selling this film short. Extras are the usual trailer and filmographies. There are twenty-five chapter stops.

Place Vendôme is certainly worth seeing, though whether it's worth buying at a RRP of £19.99 is another matter. Artificial Eye are a distributor worth supporting, but their DVDs do show room for improvement, particularly in their soundtracks – especially as online purchasers have access to an on-the-face-of-it superior French Region 2 edition.

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