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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Va savoir (2001)

"Six characters searching..."
- Tagline

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: April 10, 2002

Stars: Jeanne Balibar, Sergio Castellitto, Marianna Basler
Other Stars: Jacques Bonnaffe, Helene De Fougerolles, Bruno Todeschini 
Director: Jacques Rivette

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief nudity
Run Time: 02h:34m:12s
Release Date: February 26, 2002
UPC: 043396079007
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A AB+B+ D-

DVD Review

Va Savoir is French director Jacques Rivette's newest film; it played at Cannes in 2001. Rivette, who, along with François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Eric Rohmer, developed cinema's French New Wave in the late 1950s, has done a marvelous thing with this picture. He's taken the chance meetings, unlikely coincidences, and increasingly manic absurdity of classical French farce—the kind of story Moliere might pen—and blended it with the long takes, measured pacing, and mobile cameras of La Nouvelle Vague. The result is a sublime comedy of relationships blooming at just the wrong moment, and an extremely satisfying cinematic soufflé.The plot, a complicated yarn that follows the lives of six different characters, is just as overdone as it needs to be to provide the right (or wrong) combinations of characters, and the most inconvenient times for them to fall for each other. Some of them are involved in the production of a play that concerns the lives and mistaken identities of a group of Italian lovers, which seems very appropriate. Others are old flames, or new conquests, or even innocent bystanders. The action is farcical, with characters locking each other into rooms, climbing around on roofs, involving themselves in jewel heists, and even, memorably, dueling high above the stage in a theatre. But the pace is leisurely, and the story becomes, if such a thing is possible, a realistic farce, one that unfolds naturally and plausibly, but not without the expected humor.Camille (Jeanne Balibar) is the lead in the aforementioned play, on tour in Paris. Her husband, Ugo (Sergio Castillitto) is directing. She left the city three years earlier, after breaking up with Pierre (Jacques Bonnaffe); she hunts him down only to discover he's now married to Sonia (Marianne Basler). Ugo, meanwhile, is trying to authenticate an unpublished play he's discovered to determine if it is a long lost masterwork, and he enlists the help of Do (Helene de Fougerolles), whose rich family owns a famous library. Her half-brother, the aloof Arthur (Bruno Todeschini), is, at the moment, having an affair with Sonia.Then things get complicated. Camille finds her attention wandering back to Pierre, who likewise is unhappy in his current marriage. Meanwhile, Ugo is taken with Do, and the two share cozy days together, studying in the library. Arthur, it seems, is only interested in Sonia for her very expensive diamond ring. Complications abound as Ugo discovers Camille's lingering feelings for Pierre and challenges him to a duel, and Sonia enlists Camille to help get the ring back from Arthur. Rivette allows his characters a lot of breathing room, and they seem fully developed creatures, rather than the overblown players in a farce. The cast is uniformly wonderful, particularly Balibar as Camille, arguably the centerpiece of the story. She has the luminescent presence of Audrey Tautou in Amelie or Audrey Hepburn in anything. Rivette's style, which allows for long takes and building emotion, certainly brings the performances to the forefront. In the end, Va Savoir isn't about much. It takes a while to get going, but once it does, the characters draw you in and keep you involved. There's no overarching message, but rather, a simple story about the intertwining lives of simple people, layered with a dollop of the unexpectedly absurd.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Sony Pictures Classics has been a little spotty with some of their transfers in the past (even for newer films), but I am happy to report that this one looks very nice. The film's rich color palette of golds and browns is translated quite nicely, with a muted, but intentional, overall cast. Slight ringing is apparent in some scenes, a product of too much edge enhancement, but it is a minor distraction at most. Other than that, though, I have few complaints. I noted no instances of artifacting or aliasing. Blacks look very solid, and shadow detail is likewise strong. The image shows a lot of fine detail and overall clarity. Source materials show no signs of scratches or marks and just a bit of grain.  

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: This DD 2.0 track is perfectly suited to the film, as the largely dialogue-based comedy doesn't require much in the way of an expanded soundfield. Dialogue always sounds clear (though of course, it is in French). Music is well-integrated into the mix, never too dominating, but spread out nicely across a fairly wide front soundstage. There is very limited directionality from the mains, but other than that, the mix is fairly plain, though, again, a fitting accompaniment to an undemanding film.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The House of Mirth, Me You Them
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: The only extras are trailers for the feature, The House of Mirth with Gillian Anderson, and the Brazilian film Me You Them.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Va Savoir is both a charming relationship comedy and a subtle farce, and a delightful treat for fans of foreign film.


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