Ismael's Ghosts (2017) (NTSC)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 3-Oct-2018

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 134:25
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Arnaud Desplechin

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Mathieu Amalric
Marion Cotillard
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Laszlo Szabo
Louis Garrel
Alba Rohrwacher
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music None Given

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

†††† Ismael (Mathieu Amalric) is a movie director who is currently writing and directing a film based on the exploits of his brother Ivan Dedalus (Louis Garrel), French diplomat and spy. Ismael, as well as his father-in-law and esteemed film director, Henri Bloom (Laszlo Szabo), is still haunted by the sudden disappearance of his wife Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) twenty years ago, although recently Ismael has started to rebuild happiness with Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg). But Ismaelís new life, and his new film, spiral totally out of control when Carlotta suddenly reappears and wants her husband back. Sylvia, jealous and confused, leaves and Ismael abandons the film set to return alone to the city in which he grew up where his grasp upon reality is sorely tested.

†††† Ismaelís Ghosts (Les Fantomes díIsmael) is a film by French auteur Arnaud Desplechin that opened (out of competition) Cannes in 2017. His films have been nominated five times for the Palme díOr at Cannes in ten years and his Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse (My Golden Days (2015)) won Desplechin a best director Cesar. Ismaelís Ghosts is a sprawling and complex film dealing with creation, imagination, perspective, grief, loss, love and phantoms (which may be real or imagined). It jumps around in chronology while also frequently intercutting the story of Ismaelís present with the film he is making of the life and career of Ivan Dedalus. As Ismaelís Ghosts continues it becomes clear that Ismael indeed has ghosts in his past; not only Carlotta but a frictious relationship with his family including his brother; indeed, the screenplay and film Ismael is making about Ivan is not Ivanís story at all but an invention of Ivanís life and career, a life and career Ismael himself wished for.

†††† Ismaelís Ghosts frequently blurs the line between reality and imagination. Characters break the third wall to talk directly to the camera while Alba Rohrwacher is both Arielle, who is Ivanís wife in the film, and Faunia, an actress in Ismaelís life; Louis Garrel is both Ivan in Ismaelís film and Ismaelís real brother when he appears via Skype. The names in Ismaelís Ghosts are also important. The Biblical Ismael was expelled from the family of Abraham, his father, while Daedalus in Greek myth was the inventor who made the wings in which Icarus flew too close to the sun; our Ismael was expelled (or fled, depending on different versions of the story) and is alienated from his family, indeed from any family ties, while Dedalus is an invention, a resourceful brother but in reality a myth created by Ismael.

†††† Ismaelís Ghosts is at its core a film about art and creation, about myths and ghosts, leaving unanswered what is real and what is imagined. The film runs 134 minutes but does not feel padded because of a script that declines to explain very much at all and wonderful performances by Marion Cotillard, whose sad, doe eyes go right into oneís soul, and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Mathieu Amalric has had mixed reviews, some liking his manic performance while others call it mannered and unconvincing. In any case, Amalricís Ismael is an artist, driven, self-destructive and not necessarily a very nice person; he is the weakest link in the film and one could think he doesnít deserve either of those fascinating, intelligent women.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


†††† Ismaelís Ghosts is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced and in NTSC.

†††† This is a dark film with a dull colour scheme and many muted interiors. The exteriors on the beach are brighter, but not by much, the film sequences featuring Ivan have an even browner colour scheme. However, detail is fine, blacks and shadow detail good, skin tones natural enough and brightness and contrast consistent. There were no obvious artefacts or marks.

†††† English subtitles in a white text are burnt in. I did not notice any errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


†††† Audio is French Dolby Digital 5.1 at 384 Kbps.

†††† Dialogue is clear. For the first third of the film everything was so front oriented (L-C-R) that I checked my rear speakers to make sure they were working. Later, the rears did become active but mainly were used for the predominately classical sounding score by Gregoire Hetzel with a few added pop songs, including one by Bob Dylan. The subwoofer was not really active but did not need to be.

††††Lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


†††† Nothing. There is no menu, the programme starts when the DVD loads.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† The Region B UK Blu-ray of Ismaelís Ghosts contains, on two discs, both the Cannes and Directorís cuts of the film plus approximately 40 minutes of interviews with Arnaud Desplechin, Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg. I cannot find any information about whether the Region 2 DVD contains the same extras. The Region A US DVD is the same as our release, except for trailers for other films. For now, for DVD, call it a draw until more information about the UK DVD is available.


†††† Ismaelís Ghosts has received a lot of criticism from reviewers calling the film confusing, the plot and motivations a jumbled mess in which Arnaud Desplechin does not know quite what he is trying to say. Ismaelís Ghosts is certainly complex and refuses to explain itself which could be frustrating for those who like a good, clean, linear structure, but films that require an audience to think are rather too rare and Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg are a joy, which makes Ismaelís Ghosts worth visiting if you a looking for something a little different.

††††The video and audio are fine if nothing special while there are no extras Ė or even a menu.

††††Note: the DVD has been rated MA by the Australian Classifications Board for ďstrong violence and coarse languageĒ. This surprised me, for while there was strong language the violence is minimal and more cartoonish than anything else, including an exploding mobile phone; I would have thought the sex and full frontal female nudity should have had a stronger impact on the rating warnings.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, January 31, 2019
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE