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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Don Juan (Or, If Don Juan Were a Woman) (1973)

"I had revealed my true self. Never had I been so beautiful yet so ugly. They're the same thing. He had seen me and it was too late. He knew who I was. He knew who I loved, and when a man knows these things, he is lost."
- Jeanne (Brigitte Bardot)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: November 12, 2001

Stars: Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, Mathieu Carrière, Lena Grinda, Robert Hossein
Other Stars: Maurice Ronet, Michèle Sand, , Sylvie Reichenbach, Laurent Vergez, Robert Favart, Aldo Bastoni, Paul Bisciglia, Colette Mareuil, Robert Benoît, Samson Fainsilber, Antoine Fontaine, Toni Arasse, Paul Cambo, Edith Perret, Jean Rupert, Georges Lewis, Dominique Zardi, Henri Attal, Denise Rolland, James Campbel Badiane
Director: Roger Vadim

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:34m:58s
Release Date: November 13, 2001
UPC: 037429161128
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- C+B+B C-

DVD Review

The origins of Don Juan date back to a play entitled The Seducer of Seville, written by Spaniard Tirso de Molina in 1630. The story spread throughout 17th Century Europe, and inspired a number of variations, including The Stone Feast, a 1665 play by Moliere, the lengthy Byron poem (pronounced Jew-en), and Mozart's 1787 opera, Don Giovanni. As a film subject, the IMDB lists 57 titles pertaining to the character, and the 1926 Warner Bros. version starring John Barrymore is credited as the very first sound feature film, which used the Vitaphone to play music and sound effects. According to the legend, Don Juan met his match after seducing the daughter of a Commander, whose ghost returned to take him to hell after the lover had slain the father in a duel.

For his 1973 effort, Roger Vadim would cast his ex-wife, and the woman he helped turn into a sex goddess, Brigitte Bardot, in her last starring role, in Don Juan 1973, released here under its UK title Don Juan (Or If Don Juan Was A Woman). Maurice Ronet (Purple Noon) reunites with Bardot after working with her on Jean Auriel's Les Femmes.

Bardot plays Jeanne, a woman whose satisfaction comes not from seducing men, but from possessing them. Living off her inherited wealth, and residing in a stylish bachelorette pad in a submarine, her conquests are innumerable, but the stakes are getting higher. She appears at a church where her cousin is performing a eulogy. He is not happy to see her, knowing the type of character she possesses. Still, he can't help but be drawn to her confession, especially when she confides she has killed a man. In the sanctity of her abode she begins to unravel the tale, not in a boastful manner, but as a consequence of her obsession for controlling and destroying men.

Her first prey is Pierre (Maurice Ronet), an upstanding and faithful husband and father, and while not adverse to one night stands, is not to be coerced into any kind of emotional attachment. The pursuit is relentless, but the lengths to which she will go to ensnare her victim drive the man to ruin, and when done with her fun, he is brushed aside as yesterday's challenge. Others will follow, each with their own plots for the undoing.

Vadim's talent for exploiting his leading ladies continues here, and though Bardot's titillating though non-explicit performances in earlier productions make way for more nudity in this film, the voyeuristic will be thankful the subtitles are removable, as these moments are rare and short. The look employed here is reminiscent of earlier Vadim works such as Barbarella, or Radley Metzger's Camille 2000, with similarly eccentric set dressings, and the choice of shooting into mirrors or using abstract reflections in metal, through objects or simply focusing on inanimate objects while the love scenes play off screen. Rack focus, odd angled long shots, and a variety of stylistic effects up the artiness of the film from a straight erotic subject, but also limit the amount of nudity actually seen, with the encounters focused on the set up, then cut away for the main event.

As some have noted, this may have been Bardot's revenge, and a fitting retreat from her film career, with a role reversal that objectifies males, rather than using her as the subject. Despite her sexual appeal to the men in the film, Bardot is no longer the vixen, she is portrayed with the morals and thought patterns of a male, freed of emotional entanglements, her motives are strictly superficial. There is no passion in her characterization, she proceeds in a somber, calculated fashion, with each of moves preconceived to meet her own goals. This comes across as a lack of depth, leaving the viewer with less attachment for her or her fate. The spin on the legend is interesting, and is certainly visually engaging, but the movie falls into a nether region between erotic cinema and art film, and doesn't seem to gel in either. For Bardot fans, this is a more serious and mature portrayal, lacking the jovial innocence of her previous Vadim work. Outside the flirtatious and playful context, even her two brief nude scenes lose their reward value to an extent. Don Juan is entertaining, but its atmosphere is much more downbeat than the comedies that showcased a lustful exuberance in the past—still a must for her fans, but more for completist reasons than its own merit.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Video presentation is very good for the most part, aside from a few areas that are a little grainy. Colors are well defined and rich, black levels solid, and contrast even. Print defects are minor and infrequent, detail is good and the image is sharp without the help of edge enhancement. A bit of shimmer in the odd place and a couple of interlace issues, otherwise a very nice transfer, windowboxed, though this actually slightly taller than the 1.66:1 aspect ratio listed on the package.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is serviceable, but does contain a number of technical deficiencies, although I would attribute the majority to the source. The soundtrack has a tendency to distort frequently on loud voices or music. Sibilance is excessive in many places, and hiss is also audible fairly often. Frequency bandwith is limited and quite midrange heavy, but nothing that unusual for a film of this age.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 0 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring ...And God Created Woman, Plucking The Daisy, The Night Heaven Fell
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Like the other Bardot discs available from Home Vision, this one contains a thorough Bardot filmography and trailers for ...And God Created Woman, The Night Heaven Fell, both presented in anamorphic widescreen and Plucking the Daisy in fullframe.

The main menu, an animated repeat of the cover art, is encoded in full-frame, which causes Bardot to gain some girth when viewed as an anamorphic image—I'm not sure she'd approve. Again, the cover lists newly translated subtitles, though they seem somewhat liberal in their translation, and tone down a few expletives.

The single fold inset booklet features the one sheet art for the film's original title Don Juan 1973, which also contains an essay on Vadim, contrasting Bardot's characters in Don Juan and ...And God Created Woman. This does contain spoilers so save it for afterwards.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Stylish, and an interesting perspective on the legend, Don Juan (Or If Don Juan Was A Woman) may disappoint due to its departure from the tried and true Bardot comedic vehicle. The lack of payoff in the love scenes will frustrate the erotic fan, though there is ample nudity throughout. Obviously, more sensitive viewers should stay away, as there is plenty to offend here from a moral standpoint. Due to its subject matter, it does make a fitting bookend to Bardot's film career, but its audience may be limited to the art film crowd, voyeur or completist.

 


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