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Koch Lorber presents
"If you tell them, it won't be a surprise."
DVD ReviewIt's a mild case of buyer beware with this release of Santiago Amigorena's directorial debut, with that snarky cover art that makes it look like a high-octane thriller. While Juliette Binoche does tote a gun—and actually uses it occasionally—A Few Days in September (Quelques jours en Septembre) uses the approaching backdrop of 9/11 as a loose structure for a tri-cornered relationship tale. While there is a poetry-spouting assassin (John Turturro) and a missing agent with important information, the core of Amigorena's screenplay drifts off into an interesting love/hate/love story that often seems to have nothing to do with international intrigue.
Binoche is Irene Montano, some sort of government agent sent to retrieve Orlando (Sara Forestier), the headstrong French daughter of mysterious missing CIA operative Mr. Elliott (Nick Nolte), and bring her to a meeting with her estranged father in Paris. Along the way the missing agent's American son David (Tom Riley) arrives, and suddenly Montano becomes babysitter/protector as they are tracked by Turturro's William Pound and are sent from Paris to Venice on their way to the inevitable meeting with Mr. Elliott. The film begins on September 5, 2001, and the rumors of something big about to happen seem clear.
Yet if Amigorena were to strip away all of the subtle intrigue bits, especially Turturro's therapy-addicted killer, what would remain is the moderately engaging tale of Binoche, Forestier, and Riley, an impromptu conglomerate of diverse personalities, all of whom see Mr. Elliott quite differently. Binoche is the mother figure, yet not entirely devoid of attraction to Riley, while Forestier pouts her dislike of American's cultural decadence while meeting half way on the road to falling for her half-brother. The trio's dysfunctionality is amusing, as Binoche leads and protects them, keeping one step ahead of Turturro and attempting to piece together shadowy clues about what is about to happen.
Binoche delivers another of those seemingly effortless performances that make her such an intriguing screen presence—wise and sensual and dangerous—and it is her character's habit of removing her glasses to see the world "differently" (aka blurry) that allows Amigorena to give A Few Days In September periodically arty textures, including a beautiful out of focus tracking shot to close the film. She is the true center, and while Forestier and Riley sweetly do the whole opposites attract thing, we're left to study Binoche, trying to keep everything together. Turturro is a quirk, reciting William Blake's Tyger while he kills a man, and the problem is that his character seems far too eccentric to fit with the much more watchable and natural interplay between Binoche, Forestier, and Riley.
It's not just the cover art that does this one something of a disservice, because the blurbs on the back paint A Few Days In September as "pure noir" and "a race against time." Those expecting some sort of Ludlum-y thriller will surely be disappointed in what is ultimately an overlong but often intriguing drama led by three solid performances, where family boundaries mean nothing to young love.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: Koch Lorber has issued Amigorena's film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. It's a clean print, with no major debris issues and one that sports a consistent—although slightly muted—color palette throughout, with fleshtones bucking the trend by seeming to appear more natural and lifelike. Edge details are not always razor sharp, but generally defined well enough to make night shots discernible.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Unlike the R2 release, which came equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, audio for this version is a Dolby Digital 2.0, presented in its original blend of French and English dialogue. Voice clarity is never an issue, though the mix is a fairly nondescript offering. Subtitles in English are available when dialogue is spoken in French, but are not present when characters speak English.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Comedy Of Power, La Moustache, Nathalie..., Le Petit Lieutenant, Changing Times, Children Of The Century
Extras Review: The only supplements are the film's theatrical trailer and a half dozen other Koch Lorber previews. The disc is cut into 12 chapters, with optional English subtitles.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsSantiago Amigorena's directorial debut gets a shaky marketing push, attempting to sell it as something it isn't. While it is certainly rooted in part in the pre-9/11 intelligence community, this is more of a dysfunctional family story, with Juliette Binoche playing a gun-toting mother hen to a pair of bickering half-siblings whose father is an enigmatic figure with information about an imminent catastrophe.
Nice performances from Binoche, Forestier, and Riley, but overall it feels like two films tossed in a blender.
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