Moderato Cantabile (1960)

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Released 23-Sep-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 90:32
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Brook
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jeanne Moreau
Jean-Paul Belmondo
Pascale de Boysson
Jean Deschamps
Didier Haudepin
Colette Régis
Valeric Dobuzinsky
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI ? Music Antonio Diabelli


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, constantly
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Anne (Jeanne Moreau) is a bored middle class housewife trapped in an emotionless marriage to a wealthy industrialist. One day as she takes her pre-teen son to his piano lessons, a woman is murdered in the workmen’s bar next door in a seeming crime of passion. Anne is fascinated by this glimpse of another, more dangerous world and revisits the bar the next day where she meets Chauvin (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a witness to the murder. Anne is intrigued, wanting to know more about the killing of the woman by her lover and their back story and Chauvin seems willing to fill in the details, even if he has to make them up. Yet while Anne knows nothing about him, it appears that Chauvin knows quite a lot about Anne and may even have been watching her for some time. As Anne is drawn into his world she starts to fall in love with him but the more she seeks him out, the more he starts to push her away. After seven days, and seven nights, things come to a head.

     “Moderato Cantabile” is a musical term for playing “gently, melodiously” and Moderato Cantabile (aka Seven Days . . . Seven Nights) is indeed a gently building psychological drama with a hint of menace. Although it was directed by Englishman Peter Brook (Lord of the Flies 1963)), the film is a fine, if underappreciated, example of the French New Wave cinema.

     Moderato Cantabile is a beautiful looking film, wonderfully photographed by veteran cinematographer Armand Thirard (The Wages of Fear (1953), And God Created Woman (1956)). He uses the widescreen frame to excellent effect, portraying the bleak winter landscape of barren trees, growing at an angle due to the prevailing winds, the almost deserted harbour and docks as a reflection of the barrenness within Anne’s loveless existence. Indeed, although this film is part of the Belmondo DVD collection, Jeanne Moreau has top billing and she is superb, her longing and vulnerability evident in every frame; in one long, dialogue-less scene the camera lingers upon her face as the emotions play across her features. Moreau won the Best Actress award at Cannes in 1960 for this role before going on to star in the better known Jules and Jim for Francois Truffaut in 1962. In what is essentially a two hander, Belmondo’s Chauvin has less to do but is handsome, charismatic and enigmatic, with a hint of menace, and the attraction between the two doomed opposites is palpable.

     Moderato Cantabile is beautiful looking film with the sparse piano based score by Antonio Diabelli adding a haunting mood to the visuals. It is wonderfully acted by two stars of the French cinema and is a gem that deserves to be better known.

     Jean-Paul Belmondo is a genuine screen icon, an actor who appeared in over 80 films in a career that stretched between 1956 and 2008. No matter the film or genre, he was the epitome of “cool”, the nearest equivalent in English language films probably being Steve McQueen. Now, with this three disc set French Screen Icons: Jean-Paul Belmondo 1 from Madman that includes Moderato Cantabile (1960), A Man Called Rocca (1961) and Weekend At Dunkirk (1964) we have a chance to see what the fuss was about.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Moderato Cantabile is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a fabulous black and white print with stunning widescreen visuals courtesy of cinematographer Armand Thirard. The print is very sharp and has fine detail, solid blacks and excellent shadow detail. The black and white images were almost luminous, and such is their depth that many appear almost 3D, leaping off the screen. There was the expected film grain, some aliasing on rails and a slight contrast variation (about 51:03) but I noticed no obvious dirt marks or other artefacts. For a film that is 50 years old, I was stunned by the quality of the visuals.

     English subtitles are in a yellow font. I noticed no obvious spelling or grammatical errors, although occasionally the timing with the French dialogue seemed slightly off.

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

Audio

     Audio is a French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 224 Kbps. This is a film of dialogue and silences, and the track does its job without fuss. Dialogue is clear, the effects were predictably dull. The sparse piano sonata however came across nicely. There was obviously no surround or subwoofer use.

     As noted, the piano based score by Antonio Diabelli has haunting but sparsely used, providing a memorable support for the visuals.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

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

Extras

     None

R4 vs R1

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

     The only other release of Moderato Cantabile I can find is an all-Region version in the same correct aspect ratio, with French language audio and English and Korean subtitles. There is no reason to go past our release, which adds another two Belmondo films in the same package.

     I cannot find an equivalent Belmondo collection listed on sales sites. The only thing close is a Region 2 UK collection that includes Breathless, Pierrot Le Fou, Le Professional, Stavisky and A Double Tour.

Summary

     Moderato Cantabile is a beautiful looking film with a haunting piano based score and sublime performances by two genuine stars of the French cinema. The film is a gem that deserves to be better known.

     The video is superb for a 50 year old film, the audio is acceptable. There are no extras but the film is presented in a box set with two other films, which is great value for fans of Belmondo or French cinema.

     Moderato Cantabile is included in the three disc set French Screen Icons: Jean-Paul Belmondo 1 from Madman that also includes A Man Called Rocca (1961) and Weekend At Dunkirk (1964).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
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

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