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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre (2005)

"Lautrec was the right artist in the right place at the right time." 
- narrator Ted van Griethuysen

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: March 01, 2005

Stars: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Director: Carroll Moore

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:35m:07s
Release Date: March 01, 2005
UPC: 037429201626
Genre: art

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B+B+ F

DVD Review

Toulouse-Lautrec's gallery of images of la vie boheme in late nineteenth-century Paris are indelibly twinned with our visual experience of the period; it's impossible to think of the Moulin Rouge without summoning one of Lautrec's posters, and a survey of his images is enough to get the can-can music humming in your head. The National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C., curated and held an exhibition that bears the same title as this documentary, which serves as a useful primer to the show, sort of a video catalog. It's not anything and everything about the artist, his work, his neighborhood and his time, but it's a great place to start.

This brief film buzzes us through the basics of the artist's biography: born in 1864 in Albi, in the south of France, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec descended from a high bourgeois family; his parents were first cousins, which may account for his medical difficulties. He stopped growing at age 14, and topped out at five feet. He always had artistic inclinations, and at age 18, in 1882, moved to Paris—specifically, to Montmartre, a neighborhood in transition. In Lautrec's time it was still peppered with vineyards and windmills, but was the epicenter of the burgeoning café culture, of which Lautrec became an inextricable part and a principal force in establishing its iconography.

As you might expect, we're treated to many, many details of Lautrec posters, paintings and drawings; in some respects what's far more interesting are the archival film clips and abundant photographs of Lautrec himself, who had a fondness both for trick photography and for dressing up in bizarre costumes. On hand to provide context and insight are a number of art historians, most notably the curators of the D.C. show, Richard Thomson and Mary Weaver Chapin; we learn about the political, artistic and social climate of the time, and of the particular influences on Lautrec. (He revered Degas, and had a friendship with Vincent van Gogh, whose brother Theo bought one of Lautrec's paintings.) The details of Lautrec's favorite cafés and cabarets are particularly interesting, as is the impact on him of Japanese art.

The documentary makes you hungry to queue up for the exhibition, and the principal knock against this DVD is its brevity, especially considering its price. $19.95 gets you just over half an hour, which isn't much of a bargain; then again, the re-opened MoMA is charging $20 for admission, reinforcing the notion that art of the first caliber doesn't come cheap.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: No quibbles with the transfer, which presents both the newer and archival footage with clarity.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: A bit too much room tone, but overall it's all perfectly audible.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras at all, not even chapter stops; seems like a missed opportunity, to include more information about the artist and/or the exhibition, or to show us some of Lautrec's work.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

An informative if very brief introduction to the work of Lautrec and the Paris neighborhood to which he will forever be linked. If you can't make it to the National Gallery for a look at the accompanying exhibition, you'll get a dollop of café life here.


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