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Fox Lorber presents
A Couch in New York (Un Divan à New York) (1996)

"I really think that this man is very deep... very interior. Someone a little—yes, in fact, someone a little like you, I mean, closed up. But that's curable. Some men can open up."
- Beatrice Saulnier (Juliette Binoche)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: August 12, 2000

Stars: Juliette Binoche, William Hurt
Other Stars: Stephanie Buttle, Paul Guilfoyle, Barbara Garrick
Director: Chantal Akerman

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for (occasional language)
Run Time: 01h:44m:02s
Release Date: August 15, 2000
UPC: 720917515823
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C-D+A- D

DVD Review

A Couch in New York (Un Divan à New York) is a 1996 French comedy set in New York and Paris, though most of the dialogue is in English (with English subtitles where necessary.) William Hurt stars as high-end NYC psychoanalyst Henry Harriston, who places an ad in a Paris newspaper seeking an apartment exchange to get away from his clingy patients for a few weeks; Juliette Binoche co-stars as the young woman who answers it, Beatrice Saulnier. The two exchange places without meeting, and while Harriston finds himself besieged by Beatrice's woeful rejected suitors, Beatrice finds herself coping with Harriston's neurotic patients...successfully. Harriston returns home to find Beatrice busy treating his clients and, while trying to find a way to speak with her, ends up becoming one himself. Through their "psychoanalysis" sessions, they both begin to open up emotionally, finding missing parts of themselves in each other.

While many a romantic comedy has been founded on thinner material, writer/director Chantal Akerman's film is still disappointing. The first act is wonderful as the characters are established and the situation develops, with some great fish-out-of-water moments and comic revelations as they learn about each other's lives from a distance. But after Harriston returns to New York, the film grinds to a repetitive thematic halt—Harriston can't talk to Beatrice; Beatrice can't talk to Harriston; Harriston can't open up to Beatrice, ad nauseam. A subplot about Harriston's former fianceé (Barbara Garrick) is addressed so briefly that it might as well have been cut altogether, and a lot of conversation that's meant to develop the characters doesn't. The film treads water this way for a good hour until at last it's time for Beatrice to return to Paris, forcing Harriston to find the courage to pursue her.

The talented cast does what it can to enliven the proceedings—Ms. Binoche is charming and luminous as Beatrice, Mr. Hurt is expressive and gently funny as he can be in the right role, and the two achieve considerable chemistry onscreen. But they're not given much to work with here—while both characters are clearly lovable, the depth of their relationship is unclear despite the screen time devoted to its development. We care what happens to them, but we care less and less as the film plods along. The end result is a contrived and slow-moving "comedy" bookended by two delightful sequences—unfortunately, not enough to make the 104-minute A Couch in New York enjoyable as a whole.

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


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Fox Lorber presents A Couch in New York in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, letterboxed with a rather poor non-anamorphic transfer. The image is quite soft and a tad smeary, with light black level, middling contrast, and some motion and moire artifacts. There's an odd image/audio glitch in one scene, and a few darker scenes are hard to "read." Color fidelity seems decent, and the film is certainly watchable, but the disc just doesn't look like a year-2000 release of a 1996 film should.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English/Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: A Couch in New York retains its theatrical Dolby Digital Stereo soundtrack, transferred cleanly to DVD as a DD 2.0 Surround track. The audio is nicely staged across the front, with effective placement in the left/center/right speakers, though the matrixed rear channel is used only for subtle surround and music effects. Frequency range is adequate, with a bit of low-end bass activity in Sonia Wieder-Atherton's score, and this is a solid, competent soundtrack that supports the dialogue-driven story nicely.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Weblink to Winstar/Fox Lorber Video web site
Extras Review: The A Couch in New York DVD features the standard set of Fox Lorber supplements, with static menus and 8 chapter stops. The minimal extras include:

Production Credits—

A static text screen crediting the individuals responsible for this DVD release.


The film's trailer is presented in a 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio with monophonic audio—the transfer from video is reasonably clean, though some NTSC artifacts appear.


Text screens with photos and comprehensive filmographies (no biographical information) for cast members Juliette Binoche, William Hurt, Stephanie Buttle, Paul Guilfoyle, Barbara Garrick and Richard Jenkins, plus director Chantal Akerman.


DVD-ROM drives access an .HTML file to reach the Winstar Video/Fox Lorber websites, while standard DVD players display a text screen with the www.winstarvideo.com address.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A Couch in New York aims for sweet, fluffy romance, but it drags and stumbles despite charming lead performances from Juliette Binoche and William Hurt. Fox Lorber's DVD transfer is below-average, with minimal supplements. Not a terrible rental choice, but there are better romantic comedies out there.


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