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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Black Moon [Blu-ray]

 

(Louis Malle, 1975)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Nouvelles Éditions de Films (NEF)

Video: Criterion Collection - Spine #571

 

Disc:

Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:40:34.445

Disc Size: 34,414,685,040 bytes

Feature Size: 29,644,732,416 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps

Chapters: 19

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 28th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, none

 

Extras:

• Archival video interview with director Louis Malle (12:04 in 1080i)
• Gallery of behind-the-scenes photos (33)
• Alternate French-dubbed soundtrack
• Original theatrical trailer (1:54 in 1080P)
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Louis Malle (The Lovers, Au revoir les enfants) meets Lewis Carroll in this bizarre and bewitching trip down the rabbit hole. After skirting the horrors of an unidentified war being waged in an anonymous countryside, a beautiful young woman (Cathryn Harrison) takes refuge in a remote farmhouse, where she becomes embroiled in the surreal domestic odyssey of a mysterious family. Evocatively shot by cinematographer Sven Nykvist (Cries and Whispers, Fanny and Alexander), Black Moon is a Freudian tale of adolescent sexuality set in a postapocalyptic world of shifting identities and talking animals. It is one of Malle’s most experimental films and a cinematic daydream like no other.

 

 

The Film:

Malle's weird surrealist fantasy updates Alice in Wonderland into a future society where men and women are engaged in deadly combat, seemingly coexistent with an alternative comradeship of talking rats and enchanted unicorns. Malle offers no explanation for his heroine's visionary odyssey through a world in which all history runs parallel with all realities. Yet a logic is there, even if its reference point is jabberwocky. A black moon, in astrological terms, refers to the time of chaos that preludes some cataclysmic change. And like Malle's other films around this time, Black Moon hopefully posits a social revolution in which such outmoded concepts as innocence and sin will appear in new guises..

Excerpt from TimeOut London located HERE

Louis Malle has never been the sort of filmmaker critics could easily pigeonhole in terms of his style and interests. He's worked in practically every film genre (thriller, social satire, melodrama, documentary, etc.) and his restless curiosity has led him to explore a vast array of subjects from underwater life (The Silent World, 1956) to sexual liberation (The Lovers, 1958) to life under the Nazi occupation (Au revoir les enfants, 1987). Yet, for even an iconoclast like Malle, his 1975 film Black Moon is unlike anything he's ever done before or since. "Opaque, sometimes clumsy, it is the most intimate of my films," he once said. "I see it as a strange voyage to the limits of the medium, or maybe my own limits."

The idea for Black Moon came to Malle while he was finishing production on Lacombe, Lucien (1974). "It began with the fact that I wanted to shoot the film in my own house," the director said in an interview with David Bartholomew for Cinefantastique magazine. "Black Moon certainly comes very much from the place where I live, the kind of countryside around the house. There's something very ancient, maybe archaic, about it, also something...hostile." Malle also wanted to work again with the legendary German actress Therese Giehse whom he had just directed in Lacombe, Lucien and was famous as the first actress to play Mother Courage in Bertolt Brecht's landmark play.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

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

The image quality on Criterion's dual-layered Blu-ray is striking. Visually it looks quite perfect - marginally thin, even + consistent grain, solid detail and contrast plus some depth.  Even the very dark scenes in the beginning seem flawless without undue noise or compression. There may have been a shade of boosting (slight frailty to the image) but it is relatively imperceptible. Director of photography Sven Nykvist adds to the quirky atmosphere with interesting, probingly long, shots. The overall image in-motion is impressive - especially the many outdoor animal scenes.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio comes in the form of a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps that sounds very clean and clear. Post-synchronization was not a distraction - actually dialogue is quite sparse. There is also a French DUB in standard compressed Dolby. There are sound design effects - notable via the dream sequence. It comes across as authentically flat yet crisp. There are both English (SDH) and an English subtitle translation of the French DUB as an option and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Supplements include a 12-minute archival video (1080i) excerpt of an interview with director Louis Malle from the French television program Pour le cinema. He offers some insight into Black Moon's characters, its setting in the French Countryside, and its unique look and sound. There is a Gallery of over 30 behind-the-scenes photos, the original theatrical trailer (in 1080P) and a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Even at my most serious Black Moon is still amusingly... weird. It is probably my favorite retelling of the Alice story yet. The post-apocalyptic aura runs through the story infused with the surrealism of Alice's universe. Your mind attempts constant references to the original story (just who is who?) but looking back it seems less obvious. This is where personal interpretation becomes a big part of the film. This can be looked upon as a deeply layered masterpiece that I look forward to seeing again - and Criterion's Blu-ray will delight with its pristine presentation. Strongly recommended!

Gary Tooze

June 6th, 2011

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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