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Koch Lorber presents
The Pornographer (2001)

"As a boy, my son always asked me what I did."
- Jacques Laurent (Jean-Pierre Léaud)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: May 10, 2005

Stars: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jérémie Renier, Dominique Blanc
Other Stars: Thibault De Montalembei, Andre Marcon, Alice Houri, Ovidie, Catherine Mouchet, Laurent Lucas
Director: Bertrand Bonello

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:45m:56s
Release Date: May 10, 2005
UPC: 741952305590
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D+ D+B-B C-

DVD Review

It's probably best to start this off with a warning: there is a long, approximately 10-minute sequence near the beginning of The Pornographer that involves the filming of a pornographic film. This sequence is borderline pornographic itself as the sexual act is shown in graphic detail, and aside from a lack of close-up shots, is very much what one would see in your typical XXX video.

The Pornographer is the story of Jacques Laurent (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a movie director who specialized in pornographic films in the 1970s and '80s, but hasn't made on in over 20 years. With debts mounting, Laurent decides to come out of retirement and go back behind the camera of a porn film. Not realizing how much the industry has changed through the years, Laurent clashes with a young producer as to how a sex scene should be shot, casting doubts on his ability to pull this off.

Jacques hasn't seen his son, Joseph, for many years. Joseph withdrew from his father after learning the nature of his career, but when the two reunite, their mixed emotions for each other are discussed. Joseph hasn't given up the fight against "smut" like what his father peddles, and he plans a protest with a group of his friends. How Jacques will juggle his relationship with his estranged son and his problems with his latest film presents a real struggle.

Unfortunately, pretentious is the perfect word to describe this project. Lifeless performance combined with a script that seems to have a lot to say but no idea how to say it results in a mess of a film. There's an awful lot of actors standing around, brooding in front of the camera for unknown reasons. The subplot involving Jacques and Joseph is just plain uninteresting as well, essentially killing almost half of the film.

There is one very interesting sequence, though, and, while it does involve the aforementioned long, extremely graphic sex scene, the sex isn't the reason this part works. The actress involved in the scene is told by her director, Laurent, to not make any noise during the sequence, allowing him to bring the passion out in his directing and eventual editing. When it seems as if the scene lacks any heat at all, a much younger producer steps in and instructs the actress to be more vocal. The power of this scene, and how it shows the younger, hipper porn industry guy basically telling the "old man" to step aside to see how it's done in these modern times, amplifies the script's good intentions. It's just a shame that the rest of the film can't deliver on this level.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is rather impressive, but does feature quite a bit of grain and dirt. Otherwise, image detail is nice and everything looks very sharp. Shadow and contrast levels are also handled nicely, and the well-rendered colors sport a bright, vivid palette.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: There are both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks, and the 5.1 is the mix of choice, although it isn't that much livelier than the 2.0. The major difference is the wider dynamic range that the 5.1 sports, but both tracks feature nice separation and overall surround usage. There's basically no bass presence, and the dialogue is crystal clear in both mixes as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Donkey Skin, La Dolce Vita, The Five Obstructions, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 301/302, The Wooden Man's Bride, Sister My Sister, The Girl From Paris
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. The Adventures of James and Davis: A short film by Bertrand Bonello
Extras Review: The only extras are the original French theatrical trailer for the feature, trailers for other Fox Lorber DVD releases, and the short film, The Adventures of James and Davis. This project by the director of The Pornographer, Bertrand Bonello, is an interesting, 10-minute piece featuring two men talking in a barber shop while one is having his hair cut.

I need to mention these are some of the most annoying DVD menus in recent memory. I'm all for some form of animation in a menu structure, but the fact that a slow flowing image has to appear EVERY time you select something on any of the submenus can be a problem for many people. This is especially annoying when you're trying to go from page to page in the chapter selection submenu, so consider yourselves warned.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

I'm a huge fan of French cinema, but The Pornographer, is a huge misstep. Koch Lorber's DVD has its share of problems, at least as far as the menu system goes, but the technical aspects of the film's presentation are just fine.


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