Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too.
Several labels go after obvious past classics, but some have made a habit of delivering films most of us have never heard of before. Kino Classics and Cohen Film Collection release their share of recognizable titles — Metropolis and Intolerance for example — but they don’t shy away from lesser known films choosing instead to champion them and prevent them from fading into oblivion. Both labels reached into French cinema’s past this week to find two very different movies.
Keep reading for a look at Kino Classics’ release of We Won’t Grow Old Together and Cohen Film Collection’s new Blu-ray of Favorites of the Moon.
We Won’t Grow Old Together (1972)
Jean (Jean Yanne) and Catherine (Marlène Jobert) are madly in love with each other. Kind of. They’re also pretty sick of each other. Mostly.
We first meet them as they lay in bed, her relating a growing disinterest in the relationship and him just trying to sleep. Jean’s a videographer of some kind, and she’s an assistant of sorts, but some things are immediately clear about their relationship. Foremost among them is the casual yet calculated cruelty he dispenses her direction on an alarmingly regular basis. It’s verbal and emotional, although hints of physical violence are brushed aside by all involved, and it’s almost never followed by an apology. Did I mention he’s married and lives with his wife Françoise (Macha Méril)?
As much of a bastard as he clearly is, Jean is only half of this couple’s problem as their dysfunction is a partnership. She tests and challenges him by giving him limits she knows he can’t maintain and then rewarding him when he crosses the line. Catherine knows she’s poorly treated, but she returns to him again and again. “Promise you won’t try to come back,” she tells him after breaking up, and the very next cut is to them both smiling as he holds the car door for her and gives her roses.
Writer/director Maurice Pialat‘s film is unrelenting in showing the couple’s multiple, ongoing rough spots, but part of the genius here is in a structure that allows no accounting for time passed. They curse each other and express their affection, sometimes in the same breath, but more often than not the jump between emotions is over a longer period. A day, a week, a month — any of these could be accurate, but while we’ll never know the detail of time isn’t nearly as important as the detail of the heart it seems. Catherine’s love for Jean is palpable and goes wholly against her best interest, but it’s not until she (appears to) finally end the “romance” that Jean’s love — or at least his version of it — comes clear. It spoils nothing to assume that they, in fact, do not grow old together.
Kino Classics’ new Blu-ray marks the film’s first home video appearance in the United States, and the picture quality is smoothly attractive for a forty two year old film. The release comes with a booklet featuring an essay by Nick Pinkerton, and the disc includes a theatrical trailer along with the following special features.
- Video Appreciation [3:46] – It shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the films of Alex Ross Perry that he’s a big fan of this movie. His latest film, the excellent Listen Up Philip, is itself a fantastic example of “asshole cinema,” and he recounts here in this too-brief voice-over how Pialat’s film helped him shape his own work and even points out a stolen shot.
- Marlène Jobert Interview [19:58] – The actress shares her memories of the film, the character and her friendship with Pialat and the real “Catherine.” She also shares thoughts on her co-star (Yanne) who resisted his character’s “boorish behavior” at first as being too unreasonable to play.
Buy We Won’t Grow Old Together from Amazon.
Favorites of the Moon (1984)
An exquisite plate is crafted by hand in the 1700s. A nude portrait is painted nearly a hundred years later in the same house. More than a century after that we watch as these two items change hands through transactions, thefts and accidents, their owners often oblivious to any real value.
These objects, the plate and the painting, are little more than modes of narrative transmission here — unimportant to anyone but their possessor at any given time — as their point is simply to move the story to the next character. Thieves and the police, prostitutes and johns, upper and lower class, they all weave through the film sometimes only long enough to reveal that all of them — all of us — are agents of our own destruction even on a miniscule scale.
Writer/director Otar Iosseliani is not a talent I’m familiar with, but the way his giant ensemble cast and loosely flowing “story” jump around make it easy to see why the film receives comparisons to the likes of Robert Altman. The characters and observations on life and human behaviors are universal in a film that feels like a comedy sprinkled with serious moments and layered lightly with commentary. The tone never quite gibes though as heavy observations are paired with absurd events or reactions leaving both somewhat disjointed and underwhelming.
The performances are fine, including a silent one by a ridiculously young-looking Mathieu Amalric, but none really stand out apart from the pack. Unfortunately the same can be said of the film’s themes. The harried and hectic lifestyle of the average Parisian seems center stage here — with the focus on the effects both big and small that people truly have on each other — but the end result, including a circular structure and a handful of somewhat absurd deaths, doesn’t land with much weight.
Cohen Film Collection’s Blu-ray offers a strong picture, albeit one with natural artifacts, and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Giovanni Vimercati. The disc’s special features are limited to a trailer and commentary track by critic Phillip Lopate.
Buy Favorites of the Moon from Amazon.