(aka "Fire and Ice" )

 

directed by Alain Cavalier
France 1961

 

It's that moment in a marriage that every woman dreads. You're doing a spot of light housework and you find an anti-tank bazooka in your husband's closet. For Anne (Romy Schneider) it's the last straw. She walks out on her abusive husband Clément (Jean-Louis Trintignant), driving him further into the activities of a far-right paramilitary group. By the time they next meet, he is involved in political assassination...

Alain Cavalier's first feature is a surprisingly effective combination of political thriller, social commentary, romantic melodrama and New Wave stylism. You can spot influences of Bresson throughout, though of course Bresson would never have cast Trintignant or Schneider. The two actors are both at their absolute peak in this film. Romy Schneider, in particular, seems to be relishing the opportunity to escape from those endless Sissi confections. The love-fear relationship between their characters (with Henri Serre forming the third corner of the triangle) is drawn with great skill and subtlety, often through fragmentary but telling details.

There is evocative location work in the hustle of 60s Paris and some breathtakingly beautiful cinematography (by Pierre Lhomme) around the countryside retreat that Anne and Clément flee to. The theme of right-wing extremism gives "Le Combat dans l'île" a continued social relevance. This is one of the hidden gems of the Nouvelle Vague that deserves to be better known.

Michael St Aubyn

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 7, 1962

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DVD Review: C'Est La Vie - Region 2 - PAL

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Distribution

C'Est La Vie

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:40:01 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

4:3 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Audio French
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: C'Est La Vie

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 4:3

Edition Details:
• Gallery of production stills
• Cast biographies
• Clips from other C'Est La Vie titles

DVD Release Date: October 25, 2004
Keep Case

Chapters 16

 

Comments:

This is a serviceable DVD transfer, no more. The image is soft and grainy, and can get very murky with loss of detail in the night scenes. A constant vertical banding effect is a distraction in the dark portions of the image (see the final capture below). A further problem is the pronounced edge enhancement haloing that occasionally shows up along high contrast borders. Look, for example, at Romy Schneider's back and Trintignant's sleeve in the second screen capture. Speckles, dirt and scratches on the print are also apparent.

The aspect ratio is 4:3, slightly letterboxed to about 1.4:1. I suspect the image has been cropped left and right, as indicated by the tight framing of the opening credits and certain shots.

Audio is as good as one can expect from a film of this vintage, crisp and with only a slight background hiss. It is easy to tell that most of the dialogue has been post-synchronized. The optional English subtitles are clear and well-translated.

The extras on the disc are a gallery of production stills, some cast bios and a "trailer reel". The latter has nothing to do with this film, being a compilation of brief clips from other C'Est La Vie titles. The box insert (described on the case as a "colour booklet") is a foldout sheet with a bio of Jean-Louis Trintignant and a chapter menu.

Not a great effort by C'Est La Vie. However, since I like this film so much, and since there is no other DVD, and probably won't be any time soon, I find myself recommending this release in spite of its flaws.

 - Michael St Aubyn

 



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Screen Captures


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Vertical banding evident in the dark portions of the image

 

 

 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

Distribution

C'Est La Vie

Region 2 - PAL




 

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