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DVD ReviewWhen I see a movie at a theater that makes me want to rush home and read more about it, I chalk it up as an incredible achievement in filmmaking. Such was 2003's Swimming Pool, the product of director Francois Ozon, the French filmmaker of the moment, a man responsible not only for that mind-bending gem, but also the masterful works 8 Women and Under the Sand. His latest, 5X2 played the film festival circuit, but never made it to many U.S. theaters, although it's finally getting the ultimate in wide distribution thanks to this new DVD.
5X2 unfolds in a similar manner to the recent films Memento and Irreversible, but is actually more similar to the latter than the former, only without the excessive violent imagery (although a sequence near the beginning of the film is almost as disturbing as the endless rape scene in that amazing Gaspar Noe film). However, 5X2's reverse chronology is much more subtle than in those other projects, basically breaking the film up into four separate time periods, taking us through a troubled couple's relationship from its unfortunate end to the romantic beginning.
The film opens with said couple, Marion (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) and Gilles (Stephane Freiss) finalizing their divorce. After all of the financial and custodial (in regards to their son) details are ironed out, they retire to a hotel room for a final fling. After the awkward nature of this encounter, we are taken back in time to the couple at home during slightly happier times. Major secrets are revealed when Gilles' brother and male lover are over for dinner; a sign that this marriage is definitely on the rocks.
The couple's problems seem to have started somewhere around the premature birth of their son. After complications arose, Marion had to give birth earlier than expected. When Gilles doesn't even bother showing up during Marion's agonizing labor (the pain medication didn't take), Gilles is taken to task by his mother-in-law as well as his wife.
Going into 5X2 I was completely torn as to what to expect. Mostly intrigued as to how Francois Ozon could follow up Swimming Pool, I was also hesitant that a director was possibly dipping into the backwards storytelling well that is filling up fast. Fortunately, Ozon doesn't fall into the trip of using this method as a gimmick, instead using it to establish from the outset just how truly sad it is when a seemingly endless love dies. It's even more powerful when we see that such a love seemed to come to fruition due to fate, only furthering the argument that there really isn't such a concept.
The lead roles are handled with the utmost professionalism by Bruni-Tedeschi and Freiss. The role of Gilles is one of a man who is seen as a scumbag from the beginning, and Freiss does a great job accepting the challenge of taking these initial perceptions and not only showing us how he became this way, but also trying to drum up at least a little bit of sympathy by the film's final reel.
Bruni-Tedeschi delivers an Oscar-worthy performance, and should actually win such an award for her work in the early, post-divorce sex scene. This sequence is very difficult to watch, as we are still trying to figure out just why this couple is having one last sexual encounter, and then asked to watch Marion go through something that she clearly does not want to happen.
The final shot of 5X2 is breathtaking, showing our couple during the earliest stage of their relationship as they, literally walk off into the sunset. This gorgeous shot is a prime example of how Ozon has really outdone himself with this film, cementing his stance as one of the most compelling and mature directors in the world.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: 5X2 appears in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen format that is solid across the board. Regardless of the setting, ranging from a hotel room, to a tropical beach, the colors are well-rendered with amazingly accurate flesh tones throughout. The images are always sharp and finely detailed, and the transfer greatly benefits from a complete lack of grain, dirt, or other blemishes.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The French-language film is available in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mixes, with the former easily being the track to go with. The musical interludes that takes us between time periods sound much fuller in the 5.1, benefiting from expansive dynamic range, and a nice bass presence. The dialogue is great in both mixes, but is just a bit clearer in the 5.1 mix.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Kontroll, Born Into Brothels, Second Best
6 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Keep Case
"Making of" 5X2 is a 16-minute look at what went into the filming of the wedding reception sequence, via candid, on-set footage.
We also get six minutes of cast auditions (focusing on Bruni-Tedeschi and Freiss), a minute of lighting tests, and a trailer gallery.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsAn excellent study in the downfall, then rise, of a marriage, Francois Ozon's 5X2 is a difficult film to turn away from, no matter how tragic the subject. THINKFilm's DVD release features solid audio and video and a few nice extras, including a nice reel of deleted scenes.
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