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(aka 'Hail Mary')

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/godard.htm

and Anne-Marie Miéville
France 1985

 

Before “Hail Mary” ever reached theaters in 1985, the film had already generated enough controversy to earn Godard a stern reprimand from Pope John Paul 2, as well as a pie in the face at the Cannes Film Festival (which one upset Godard more, I have no idea.) Godard was accused of making a film that sullied the reputation of the Virgin Mary and offended Christians throughout the world. As is usual in such cases, the most vigorous protesters had not bothered with the formality of actually seeing the movie.

As far as the film itself is concerned, blasphemy appears to be the last thing on Godard’s mind. “Hail Mary” is really an attempt to demythologize the Madonna, a rescue action meant to restore humanity and dignity to a figure whose image has been marketed everywhere from rosaries to prayer cards to deformed tortillas for nearly two full millennia.

Marie (Myriem Roussel) is a teenage girl who plays basketball, works at her dad’s gas station, and hangs out with her boyfriend Joseph. One day, the archangel Gabriel visits her and tells her she’s going to have a baby. Needless to say, this idea takes a bit of getting used to, not only for the chosen vessel for the Christ child, but also for the poor boyfriend who can’t quite understand why he’s never allowed to get any action.

This scenario, especially in Godard’s hands, would seem to positively reek of irony, but the film plays it straight (admittedly with plenty of oblique collage-style editing). Godard takes great pains to ground Marie’s life, and her struggle to understand her situation, in the quotidian. She plays basketball; she irons clothes; she takes baths. And when she takes baths, she gets naked, which I suppose is the part that might offend certain religious sensibilities the most, but there’s nothing prurient about it (despite the fact that Roussel has a truly magnificent body.) The point is that Marie is an actual person, with a physical existence, and physical needs, something Gunnery Sgt. Hartman understood when he ordered Joker to make the bathroom so spotless “the Virgin Mary herself would be proud to go in there and take a dump.”

As you would expect, the film is exquisitely composed, making particularly effective use of sublime shots of the moon and sun. Marie understandably has cosmology on the mind, but Godard also links the cosmic with the corporeal, as Mary looks up at the sky and then down to her own body, from full moon to full bush as it were (is it blasphemous to observe that both are beautiful?) I’m reminded of the two most famous filmic incarnations of Joan of Arc (unless you’re a “Bill and Ted” fan): Dreyer’s, in which Joan always looks up; and Bresson’s, in which Joan always looks down. Here Godard splits the difference: as David Sterritt notes, spirituality (up) is intimately linked with abjection (down) in “Hail Mary.” Meanwhile, poor Joseph has to find the trust (faith) to believe Marie when she says there is no other man, and to come to terms with his role in the relationship (is such a thing possible when your girlfriend’s baby daddy happens to be omnipotent and omniscient?) His struggle is just as moving (and occasionally amusing) as Marie’s.

The film is actually a diptych, which begins with Anne-Marie Miéville’s “Book of Mary” (27 min.) and is followed by Godard’s “Hail Mary” (76 min.) The two films are linked more in style than in content, though both tell the story of a young girl coming to terms with a life-changing experience. Miéville’s film is strictly secular, focusing on 13 year-old Marie as she learns her parents are splitting up. “Book of Mary” appears deceptively slight at first, but its final scene is deeply moving. If you want to know the “proper” way to watch this DVD, just click the “Play All” button on the Feature Menu and you’ll be fine.

A third film text also springs to mind. “Hail Mary” can be seen as a mirror universe remake of “Rosemary’s Baby.” Is it any less intimidating to be carrying the Christ child than the Devil’s baby? Either way, you’ve got a whole world depending on your womb. Now that’s pressure.

Hail Mary” is generally not listed in the upper echelon of Godard’s films, but I find it quite potent. I think it’s at least a minor masterpiece. But even if it is only second-tier Godard, it is still first-tier cinema. Don’t miss it.

Christopher Long

Posters

Theatrical Release: January 23rd, 1985

Reviews                                      More Reviews                                  DVD Reviews

Comparison:

New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT

2) Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

Big thanks to Christopher Long for the DVD Review!

Box Cover

Distribution New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC Cohen Media - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:15:51  1:48:19.117 (includes 'Book of Mary')
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.93 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,703,021,801 bytes

Feature: 30,922,132,032 bytes

Video Bitrate: 32.23 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate:  Blu-ray

Audio French (Dolby Digital 2.0)  LPCM Audio French 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: New Yorker Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• "Notes About Hail Mary" featurette (19:35)

• The Book of Mary (26:38)
• Foreign theatrical trailer

DVD Release Date: October 10th, 2006

Keep Case
Chapters: 24

Release Information:
Studio: Cohen Media Group

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,703,021,801 bytes

Feature: 30,922,132,032 bytes

Video Bitrate: 32.23 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Feature Length audio commentary with Hal Hartley and Museum of the Moving Image Curator David Schwarz
• Note of Hail Mary (Godard's Video notebook, 1983) (20:32)
• JLG/MR a conversation with Myriem Roussel (2010) (17:27)
• JLG/ADB - a conversation with Antoine de Baecque - 2010 (14:38)

JLG/PR - a conversation with Pierre Rissient (2010  - 18:41)

Original French trailer (1:53)

2013 Re-release trailer (1:44)

16-page liner notes booklet with essays

Blu-ray Release Date: January 7th, 2014
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (January 2014): Cohen's new 1080P transfer has both Mieville's Book of Mary and Godard's Hail Mary playing consecutively. There is some inconsistency in the visuals but there are some impressive scenes showcasing depth - absent in the flat SD - and displaying more information in the frame. Close-ups export some impressive detail. This is dual-layered with a very high bitrate and supplies an excellent, overall, presentation.

 

Cohen transfer the film's audio via a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at reasonable 2304 kbps in original French. Notable is the music -Bach's Partitas, Dvorak even Coltrane. Mieville using Chopin and Mahler. The lossless benefit is also noted in the sequence where Mary dances and sings (in The Book of Mary). The quality is very strong - crisper and with more depth than the older DVD. There are optional English subtitles.

 

Cohen pile on the supplements with a feature-length audio commentary with Hal Hartley and Museum of the Moving Image Curator David Schwarz imparting essential, and interpretational, information on all facets of the film. The director Hartley was interesting to hear his opinions. Also included are the 20-minute long Note of Hail Mary (Godard's Video notebook) from 1983 - also found on the NY'er. There are three, seperate, 2010 'conversations' running almost 50-minutes in total (and with English subtitles) with actress Myriem Roussel, Antoine de Baecque (historian, film and theater critic and a French publisher) and Pierre Rissient (director, writer, producer.) There are also original French, and 2013 re-release, trailers and the package contains a 16-page liner notes booklet with multiple essays.

Cohen are continuing to distinguish themselves as an impressive Blu-ray producer - this is a fabulous package and I embraced Godard's film like never before with the help of the vastly improved a/v and the extensive supplement extras. This is easy to put in the 'must own' category for Godard fans. Strongly recommended!

***

ON THE NY'er DVD: Another NY'er interlaced transfer that doesn't really look that bad, especially if viewing through a CRT (tube). Detail is better than anticipated and colors (skin tones) look very good. Separated, but included, is Anne-Marie Miéville’s “Book of Mary” (27 min.) plus a featurette 'Notes About Hail Mary' at 20 minutes.

Audio and optional English subtitles (although not listed in the menu they were removable on my system) are fine and we thank NY'er for bringing this out as many have fans have patiently waited for its release. With an update of the Virgin birth relocated to contemporary Paris - one couldn't ask for a more enticing premise. Surely a 'must-own' for Godard fans.  

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus


 

Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) New Yorker - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Cohen Media Group - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures

'Book of Mary' Blu-ray Captures


Box Cover

Distribution New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC Cohen Media - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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