The Second Wind (Le deuxième souffle) (2007) Review

The 1960s. Gustave Minda (Daniel Auteuil), nicknamed “Gu”, breaks out of jail. On the run with his girlfriend Manouche (Monica Bellucci), he hatches a plan for one last job to earn enough money for them both to leave the country. However Blot (Michel Blanc) engineers events so that it looks like Gu has betrayed his own colleagues. So with the cops and other crooks both after him, Gu is desperate to clear his name.

Le deuxième souffle, which the subtitles translate as Second Wind, is a remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's 1966 film of the same name, which was itself based on a 1958 novel by José Giovanni. Giovanni has a joint script credit with director Alain Corneau. I haven't seen Melville's film, but I'm told this new version is almost a scene-by-scene remake. As with countless US retreads, you have to wonder quite what the point is. What Corneau's film does add is a very “now” visual design, showing the signs of much digital manipulation. Yves Angelo's camerawork bathes virtually every scene in orange washes of various densities, which soon becomes visually oppressive. Also new is Corneau's taste for post-Peckinpah slow-motion blood spurts, which gains this film its 18 certificate.

A very strong cast does its best to lend some weight to the proceedings – literally so in Daniel Auteuil's case, bulked up and sporting a moustache. Monica Bellucci adopts long dyed blonde hair, and does what she can with an underwritten role, as does Michel Blanc as the representative of law and order. Eric Cantona is surprisingly effective as a club-owning associate of Gu's.

Director Alain Corneau has worked consistently for nearly forty years, but has never really been a name to conjure with outside France, as most of his films haven't been released in the UK – notably the Foreign Legion epic Fort Saganne which played in 70mm in Paris but crept out on video in the UK ten years later. His best-known film in the UK is an excellent historical drama, Tous les matins du monde. All that that film has in common with this one is an undeniable craftsmanship, but sadly The Second Wind leaves little impression after its two and a half hours have passed by.

The Second Wind is released by Optimum as part of their World Cinema line, on a dual-layered disc encoded for Region 2 only.

The DVD transfer is in the ratio of 2.40:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. As I say above, this film is an example of a present trend to manipulate a digital intermediate so much that the end result looks as much like HD video than it does film. But since that is clearly the director and DP's intention I can't mark this down for that. Blacks are certainly very deep and rich and colours are vibrant. The image seems a little soft, but I suspect that's intentional.

This French-language DVD has two soundtracks: Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 (analogue Dolby Surround). There's not much to choose between the two: the surrounds are mostly used for music and ambience. The subwoofer adds to the impact of the many gunshots fired in this film. Optional English subtitles are available.

The only extra is the theatrical trailer, which runs 2:23.

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