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Koch Lorber presents
The Red and the Black (1997)

"Proud boy! You hate the rich and scorn the poor. You hate where you came from and detest where you're going."
- Father Chelan (Maurice Garrel)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: February 22, 2006

Stars: Carole Bouquet, Kim Rossi Stuart, Judith Godreche, Claude Rich, Bernard Verley, Constanze Englebrecht
Director: Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for mild violence, sexual situations
Run Time: 03h:26m:50s
Release Date: February 07, 2006
UPC: 741952308591
Genre: foreign

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

DVD Review

In order to properly adapt a novel like Stendhal's The Red and the Black one needs a fairly large block of time, which explains why the last couple shots at making it have been made for television, where such projects can flourish. The 1990s saw two European productions, one a 1993 BBC miniseries starring Ewan McGregor as the anti-hero Julien Sorel. The other, a 1997 French production, has now come out here in the States courtesy of Koch Lorber.

Julien Sorel (Kim Stuart Rossi) is the son of a carpenter, and regularly beaten about by his brothers, who have little time for the scholarly Julien, who harbors plans of joining the priesthood. Before entering the seminary, he takes a position as the tutor to the son of Monsieur de Rénal, the town mayor. He and the boy get along well, and he gets along even better with the mayor's wife, Louise (Carole Bouquet), with whom he begins a torrid affair. When rumors begin to close in, Julien is forced to head to the seminary sooner than he planned. He finds seminary life a letdown, as the students lack what he views as the necessary attitude to properly serve God, being obsessed instead with money and social standing. The outgoing director, Abbé Pirard (Rudiger Vogler), befriends Julien; when Julien leaves the seminary, he looks up Pirard and Pirard enables him to gain a position as secretary to the Marquis de la M&oacirc;le (Claude Rich). The Marquis' headstrong daughter, Mathilde (Judith Godreche), ignites sparks with Julien that soon lead to Julien's downfall.

It's unfortunately been ages since I read the novel, so I'm not as equipped as I'd like to be able to comment on the quality of the adaptation. The script here flows along quite nicely, though, given the space to breathe, and it's up to the cast to carry it off. Generally speaking, they're fine, though Rossi presents a slight problem in that his lines are completely dubbed, and often fail to match his lip movements very well. When everyone's lines have been dubbed like that, I can live with it, but when it's only one actor, and the lead at that, it sometimes proves distracting. Your mileage may vary. Otherwise, Bouquet and Godreche both do well with roles at opposites ends of the attitude spectrum, as it were; Bouquet is cool and measured, Godreche capricious and passionate.

How you feel about the story depends how you feel about Julien's approach to his life. It's true that he betrays his feelings about societal hypocrisy in order to raise his position, but who doesn't? Living well beats living in poverty, generally speaking. On the other hand, Julien's final realization of his own hypocrisy leads to what he believes is his final redemption, but in the end, no one is saved, the world is not changed, and Julien meets his fate virtually alone and without any kind of fanfare. What has been gained, and what has he lost? Julien refuses to play by the rules of society any longer, and pays the ultimate price, but he also ruins other lives in the process. Viewers unacquainted with the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras and their respective politics may find the problems caused by Julien's devout admiration of Napoleon hard to fathom, though one can generally infer what is at stake.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The film is presented in its original ratio of 1.66:1, but the transfer is not anamorphically enhanced and also looks like a PAL conversion. This was a television movie, and it generally looks like it, with a reduced level of detail, though that is due in part to the nonanamorphic transfer. It's okay, though it will look worse the better the set-up one watches it on.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: A decent Dolby 2.0 track of the original French soundtrack is on hand, and it sounds perfectly fine. Nothing special, not that it would be needed.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Not a thing, unless you count chapters and subtitles.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

If you enjoy period dramas, you'll find enough to savor here, though the presentation is a bit iffy. No extras of any kind, but the movie has at least been spread over two discs to preserve some level of quality.


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