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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "The Beautiful Captive" )


directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet
France 1983

In contemporary parlance, Alain Robbe-Grillet’s “La Belle Captive” (1983) might best be understood as a mashup or perhaps a proto-mashup. Based on a “collaborative” novel by Robbe-Grillet and René Magritte (even though Magritte was already dead), the story employs Magritte’s art work as the inspiration for a noir-ish detective story that also relies heavily on classical music and borrows liberally from the tradition of the vampire film: mysterious leather-clad boss-lady Sara Zeitgeist (Cyrielle Claire) appears to be an homage to the infamous Irma Vep.

As one might expect from one of the innovators both of the nouveau romain and the Nouvelle Vague, the film’s narrative has more twists than a Bavarian pretzel factory, and you attempt to untangle it only at great personal peril as the story’s shifting sands don’t allow much of an opportunity to gain purchase. I think you’d also be making a mistake in focusing too much on trying to figure out “what happens” in large part because “what happens” isn’t particularly interesting.

Walter Raim (Daniel Mesguich) is asked by his boss Sara to deliver a letter to an ambassador. On his way, he finds the lovely Marie-Ange (Gabrielle Lazure) sprawled in the middle of a highway and covered in blood. He attempts to drive her to safety, only to stumble on a gothic house full of perverts vaguely reminiscent of “Eyes Wide Shut.” There he engages in a zestful tryst with his rescued beauty… or perhaps not. When he wakes up, nobody is around and the house is in ruins: a neighbor tells him it has been vacant for years. Later, he finds out that Marie-Ange has been dead for almost as long… or maybe not. And then he dreams about getting killed by a crazy inspector’s goon squad… only maybe it wasn’t a dream.

You get the point. Playing the “is it a dream or not?” game only leads to irritation, but it’s also a mistake. The details of this surrealist exercise are far more interesting than the sum total: keep in mind that Man Ray allegedly watched movies through partially closed fingers so he could only see one part of the screen at a time, and I think you’ll get a sense of how this film is perhaps best appreciated. Robbe-Grillet works multiple references to Magritte’s art into the film in seamless fashion, as well as a few jokes of his own: in one scene, the titular novel is visible with Robbe-Grillet’s name legible on the cover.

Robbe-Grillet is, of course, best known as a novelist and screenwriter. As far as I’m concerned he wrote the greatest screenplay ever realized on film with “Last Year at Marienbad.” He also directed (to date) ten films beginning with the nifty “L’immortelle” (1963). “La belle captive” is not a masterpiece: where “Marienbad’s” shifting temporal structure remains mesmerizing today, the constantly morphing structure of this film annoys as often as it intrigues. But it’s a beautiful film (photographed by stalwart Henri Alekan, best known for shooting "Roman Holiday" and "Wings of Desire") packed with enough object and environment-based details to reward multiple viewings, particularly for viewers familiar with surrealist art and especially with Magritte’s work. It’s also surprisingly erotic, unlike many vampire movies that aspire to eroticism but settle for faux-goth instead.

Christopher Long

Theatrical Release: Feb 16, 1983 (France)

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DVD Comparison: 

Koch Lorber - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Christopher Long and to Per-Olof Strandberg for the Review!

DVD Box Cover




Koch Lorber

Region 1 - NTSC

Second Sight

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 85 min. 1:24:48 (4% PAL speedup)

1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.66 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1:1.66 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.49 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

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

Bitrate Koch

Bitrate Second Sight

Audio French French (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English English (Forced)
Features Release Information:
Studio: Koch Lorber

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 4:3 - 1.66:1

Edition Details:
• Original French Theatrical Trailer

DVD Release Date: 03-13-2007
Keep Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Second Sight

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1:1.66

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by Roch C. Smith andAnthony N. Fragola

DVD Release Date: Sept 14th, 2009
Keep Case

Chapters 17



ADDITION- Second Sight UK - September 09: Second Sight (UK) gives La Belle Captive on a single layered disc occupying 4.11 GB of space. This anamorphic transfer is in PAL standard and region 2 locked.

Even though I don't own the non-anamorphic Koch Lober, this Second Sight looks superior. It seems that the R1 disc was contrast boosted. The R2 is, according to the distributor, newly remastered from the original 35 mm negative. It looks good, but a little bit soft, and the dark scenes are blocked.

The film contains only the original mono sound. It's clean and audible.

The English subtitles are forced, but when choosing the English language commentary track they are not visible. I couldn't find a way to turn them off.

 - Per-Olof Strandberg



ON THE KOCH: The transfer looks a bit underlit throughout, but the colors are fairly sharp - they could be better, but for Koch Lorber this isn't a bad job. I don't know if it is a progressive transfer or not, but I didn't catch any obvious examples of combing, which used to be a big problem for this studio. The image is definitely soft in some spots, as you can see in some of the screen captures below. Overall, it's a adequate transfer, but nothing more.

Unfortunately, there are no extras besides a three minute French trailer for the film.

 - Christopher Long


DVD Menus


Screen Captures














DVD Box Cover




Koch Lorber

Region 1 - NTSC

Second Sight

Region 2 - PAL


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