Alice et Martin Review

The first part of this review is a reprint of the one I wrote eight years ago about the Artificial Eye DVD. I wrote shorter reviews in those days.



At the age of ten, Martin – born illegitimately – left his mother and moved in with his father and three half-brothers. Ten years later, Martin (Alexis Loret) flees the house after his father dies and turns up at the Paris flat of his half-brother Benjamin (Mathieu Amalric). Benjamin, who is gay, shares his flat with music student Alice (Juliette Binoche). Martin finds work as a model and soon falls in love with Alice. But there are secrets that will soon come to light and put their relationship in jeopardy...

Juliette Binoche is the biggest name in the cast, and the face on the poster and DVD sleeve, but Alice et Martin is more even-handed in its sympathy, as the title suggests. The viewer begins with Martin, but gradually the focus shifts to Alice. She has her share of problems too: she hasn’t quite got over the death of her sister in childhood. Her platonic relationship with Benjamin is a stabilising force in her life, and is threatened by her sexual relationship with Martin. If some of the turns the plot takes teeter on the edge of melodrama, director Techiné and his cast keep it under control. Binoche worked with Techiné before in the 1985 film Rendez-vous early in her career. Now of course, she’s an actress of considerable stature and multiple awards, particularly in dramatic roles. Her performance here is remarkable for its naturalistic unshowiness – it's by no means a star turn. It’s a tribute to the much less experienced Loret that he’s not put in the shade. Former Pedro Almódovar leading lady Carmen Maura has a small role as Martin’s mother.



The DVD


Alice et Martin was originally released on DVD in December 2000 by Artificial Eye, who was also its theatrical distributor. Now, as part of the StudioCanal catalogue, it gets a re-release from Optimum on a dual-layered disc encoded for Region 2.

The transfer is in the correct ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced. I gave the Artificial Eye transfer a 10. I don't have a copy of that edition to hand, but I suspect I would be less generous nowadays. That said, there's nothing much wrong with the Optimum version, which (if memory serves) is probably on a par with it: it's sharp, well-coloured with excellent shadow detail. What was an exceptionally good transfer by 2000 standards is now really what you would expect from any new film.

I marked the Artificial Eye DVD down for only containing a 2.0 (Dolby Surround) soundtrack, when the film was shown in cinemas in Dolby Digital or DTS, as per the end credits. The Optimum is one up by having a Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as the 2.0. That said, this is very much a dialogue-driven film, and the surrounds are used mainly for music and ambience. Unusually for an Optimum disc, the English subtitles on this French-language film are optional.

The only extra is the theatrical trailer, which is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 and runs 1:44, with fixed subtitles. I described its equivalent on the Artificial Eye as looking very washed out, which is not the case here. Not carried over from the previous version are filmographies for the director and the four principal actors, but that's no great loss.

Film
8 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
1 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 21/06/2018 15:53:08

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