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Home Vision Entertainment presents
"My love is an illness which has reached the stage that it cannot be removed without destroying me."
DVD ReviewAhh, Proust. The variegated experiences of memory. The most grand of all French novels. The three-picture deal with gross points on the back end.
I'm not so foolishly doctrinaire as to insist that some books shouldn't be filmed, or that they can't be filmed. But the question, when it comes to Remembrance of Things Past, is: why would you want to? No obvious answer is provided by Volker Schlndorff, nor by the astonishingly talented credited script writers, Peter Brook and Jean-Claude Carrire. What's here, then, in this screen adaptation of the first portion of Proust's epic novel, is sort of Cliff Notes cinema, a movie that won't satisfy fans of Proust's prose, nor demonstrate to those who haven't read him why so many swoon over A la recherche du temps perdu. The filmmakers deserve some credit for making what's apparently the first-ever film based on Proust's prose; but the movie also suggests why so many of their predecessors dismissed the idea as an unworthy one.
Jeremy Irons, not long after his Brideshead Revisited period and before the darker turns of Dead Ringers and Reversal of Fortune, plays the title character, a French aristocrat hopelessly smitten with Odette de Crecy, a woman far beneath his station. His fighting off his own heart is what the drama is about, principallyÑthe heart wants what it wants, as a true cinematic master once said. Unrequited passion is one of the great themes of literature, and of Proust; but it doesn't come off here, in large measure because Ornella Muti, who plays Odette, is a pretty limp screen presence, and in this telling, Odette is no more than just a tart. Swann is too much of a gentleman to pour out his heart, and so what's here is all exteriorÑ the movie is beautifully shot by Bergman's cinematographer of choice, Sven Nykvist, but pretty pictures don't make up for the tedium of what we're watching. And while the period details have been re-created in exacting, almost excruciating fashion, they don't have much to support—after a time, it becomes pretty clear that this is a movie about monocles and smoking jackets.
Schlndorff does show us lots of exchanges of meaningful glances, but that's not Proust, and it's not drama, either. Some splendid-looking shots can't redeem this movie, which never brings Proust's passions to cinematic life.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: Perhaps Home Vision didn't have much of a source print to work with, but the movie certainly doesn't look very good. The colors are dull and muddy, and there are many scratches, discolorations and even reel change indicators throughout.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: There's some crackle and some of the dialogue is muffled and mumbled, but if you're reading this review, you'll probably be following along via the subtitles, anyway.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsAt times this movie is pretty as a postcard, and usually it's just about as deep. A largely unsuccessful effort to bring Proust to the screen, which may have the unfortunate unintended consequence of driving potential readers away from Remembrance of Things Past.
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