The Return of Martin Guerre (Retour de Martin Guerre, Le) (1982)

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Released 21-Mar-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Trailer-Cyrano De Bergerac Collection, Manon Des Sources
Trailer-Jean De Florette
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 106:22
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Daniel Vigne
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Gérard Depardieu
Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu
Nathalie Baye
Roger Planchon
Maurice Jacquemont
Isabelle Sadoyan
Rose Thiéry
Maurice Barrier
Stéphane Peau
Sylvie Méda
Chantal Deruaz
Valérie Chassigneux
Tchéky Karyo
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Michel Portal


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

    As a fan of French cinema, this was a film of which I was aware but had not previously had the chance to see. It was made in 1982 and stars Gerard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye. It was remade by Hollywood in 1993 as Sommersby starring Richard Gere and Jodie Foster.

    The film is set in a rural French village in the mid 1500s and is a mystery/court room drama, based on a true story. The story concerns the eponymous Martin Guerre, who lives in the village. He is married by arrangement to a young girl, Bertrande De Rols (wonderfully played by the very beautiful Nathalie Baye) in order to link their families land holdings. Initially, he finds it difficult to consummate their union and eventually the priest is brought in to exorcise their demons. He is obviously fairly unhappy in village life and does not communicate much with his wife or other members of his family. One day, after being accused of stealing by his father, he resolves to run away to war, leaving his wife to care for their young son alone.

    Eight or nine years later, a man (Depardieu) comes to the village, claiming to be the returned Martin Guerre. He is welcomed by the villagers and Bertrande and settles into a life of farming and a loving marriage to Bertrande. Some members of the village are not convinced that he is actually Martin Guerre and over time this feeling grows, especially as he asks his uncle who has been farming his land to give him the money his land earned over the years. At this point local officials investigate. The central question which drives the plot is whether or not the man who has returned in actually Martin Guerre.

    This is a beautifully made film with an incredibly detailed reconstruction of French provincial life in the 1500s, some lovely cinematography and excellent acting especially from the two leads. Baye is wonderful as the strong, sensuous and loyal Bertrande. The costume design was Oscar nominated. There were a couple of spots early in the film where the pace seemed a little slow but the last 30-40 minutes is riveting. The music is very evocative and adds a wonderful extra dimension to the film. Watch out for Tcheky Karyo in his movie debut. Incidentally, the version of the film included here is the original theatrical cut at 106 minutes. A longer director's cut is available in some regions (see region comparison below).

    Recommended for lovers of fine cinema.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is reasonable but not without issue.

    The feature is presented in a 1.75:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is close to the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1.

    The picture was reasonably sharp although was quite badly affected by grain, especially in darker scenes which slipped into macro-blocking on occasion (e.g. the leaves in the first 20 seconds). There was no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was only average but not too bad considering the age of the film.

    The colour was quite warm, reflecting the provincial setting, however, there was some instability in brighter colours such as reds. An excellent example of this chroma noise can be seen at 86:48.

    Besides the issues mentioned above the only other artefacts were some very mild aliasing and shimmering for example on a wall at 67:05 and regular specks and dirt.

    There are subtitles in English. The English subtitles were a little small but quite clear. There were some spelling issues and according to my wife, some interesting translations. Having said that, they were not too bad. Even though the subtitles were automatic and there was no menu item to choose them, you could turn them off, which would be useful for French speakers.

    There is no layer change as this is a DVD5 single layer disc.
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is good.

    This DVD contains a French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s. This is in keeping with the original soundtrack of this film being mono.

    Dialogue seemed clear and easy to understand (considering that I don't understand French) and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film by Michel Portal is very good indeed featuring what I assume to be music of the style of the period with vocal accents.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu included music but was still and allowed for scene access only.

Trailers

    Trailers are included for the Cyrano De Bergerac two disc collection, Manon De Sources and Jean De Florette.

R4 vs R1

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

    There does not really seem to be a definitive DVD release of the film on the global market. The three other versions which I am aware of are an All Region NTSC version from Fox Lorber, a Region 2 PAL version from Arrow and a Region 3 Korean NTSC release from Premier.

    The All Region release (which was initially released in 1999 and then re-released with better video quality in 2002) has the following differences compared to our release:

    The Region 2 release seems very similar to ours except that it includes some text based extras.

    The Region 3 Korean release includes the filmographies and English subtitles but doesn't seem to have anything else to recommend it.

    On this basis, I personally would buy the local release due to the 16x9 enhancement, however, if you want the director's cut or absolute OAR, then the All Region release is the only one which includes it. Make sure you get the re-release, though, because reviews of the earlier version are scathing.

Summary

    An impressively made French film from the early 1980s set in medieval France. It was remade as Sommersby.

    The video quality is reasonable but has some problems.

    The audio quality is good.

    No real extras are included unless you count advertisements for other films.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Yamaha YST SW90 subwoofer

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