A sleepy town somewhere in provincial France. Madame Cuno (Stephane Audran), a wheel-chaired invalid, and her son Louis (Lucas Belvaux) are being offered a hefty amount of money for their property which appears in the way of a local development project. Unfortunately for the prospective contractor money is hardly an issue for Madame Cuno as the real value of the house in which she resides with her son can not be measured with banknotes. There is, however, something much more intriguing for her-reading the town's mail which Louis regularly brings home from the post office where he works. There, the local clerk Henriette (Pauline Lafont) desperately tries to seduce Louis, be it with a provocative dress, an expensive dinner at the town's chic chateau, or by threatening to expose his illegal exploits. In the meantime, someone is meticulously terrorizing the provincial town as dead bodies begin to pile up. Luckily for all law-abiding citizens inspector Jean Lavardin (Jean Poiret) is summoned to the rescue. He will clean up the mess and might even come up with a theory or two explaining the mysterious killings. The only problem is…things might be a tiny bit more complicated than what they seem.
Cop Au Vin is without a doubt a film that has all the right ingredients typically associated with old fashioned detective stories-there is a scorching affair gone wrong, a mysterious killer on the loose, and a cop that surely knows how to solve it all. However, in the hands of French new wave master Claude Chabrol Cop Au Vin actually transforms into more than a plain detective story, it becomes a stylish tale of provincial life in France where ordinary people commit extraordinary deeds.
The strongest quality of Cop Au Vin is Claude Chabrol's subtle camera work and the suspenseful manner in which he introduces his characters to the viewer. Each protagonist suffers from some sort of obsession revealing a tiny bit of the mystery surrounding Cop Au Vin. From Madame Cuno's guilty pleasure of reading other people's mail and Louis' submissive nature, to Henriette's sexual initiations and inspector Lavardin's daily stops at the local bistro, Cop Au Vin feels like an onion which begs to be peeled. Until, of course, Claude Chabrol surprises its viewers with a "logical" conclusion prompted by a tiny detail they failed to analyze within the context of this often misleading murder story.
The strongest quality of Cop Au Vin, however, is also what limits this film substantially. The element of surprise, prevalent for most of Claude Chabrol's works, never really delivers that convincing resolution which would gradually build up as it is the case for example in La Ceremonie (1995). The ending of Cop Au Vin feels a bit rushed and the climax lacks the eminence one would expect from a good detective story.
If anyone truly lives up to the expectations in Cop Au Vin it surely is the character of inspector Lavardin. He is uncompromising, forceful, and perhaps even abusive in his interrogation methods. Amongst the all too polished look of the film which Claude Chabrol has intentionally created the presence of inspector Lavardin delivers a harsh contrast reminding us that crime is a serious matter often necessitating unconventional approach.
To compliment the suspenseful spirit of his film Claude Chabrol has also managed to maintain a fitting for Cop Au Vin pace. Furthermore, even when all of the puzzle pieces begin to line up the film never really picks up substantially in terms of tempo. In fact this is what in my opinion makes Cop Au Vin very much an acquired taste. There are too many subtle references that prevent the story from being truly an engaging experience rivaling some of the director's more notorious works.
How Does the DVD Look?
Similar to Color of Lies, Cop Au Vin is presented with an extremely attractive transfer supplied by French producers/distributors MK2 (the film was released in France under the title Poulet Au Vinaigre). Again, I did not notice any '"ghosting" or "combing" often associated with improper PAL to NTSC transfers. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and fortunately enough it is also enhanced for widescreen TV's.
Yes, there are a few instances where I noticed some overdone contrast boosting but I don't think that this has anything to do with KINO. For what is worth the image quality of all of the Chabrol titles included in KINO's Kimstim Collection are more than satisfying as practically we get exact replicas of the MK2 boxset of Chabrol titles that was released in France quite some time ago. This is really an excellent presentation that is simply done right boasting a solid 1.66 anamorphic transfer (a rarity between R1 distributors but a MUST for those seeking high quality presentations), excellent print, progressive-image, and of course optional English subtitles.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Similar to the video presentation discussed above I am extremely satisfied with the audio quality. KINO offer the original French mono track which sounds just perfect. Clear, free of any digital imperfections, and balanced sound is what is what we get.
The following extras are present:
A Presentation by film scholar Joel Magny-
Original French Trailer-
KINO are once again delivering a spectacular transfer of a Chabrol film and I am extremely happy to report that this is not a PAL to NTSC transfer. Practically what the R1 film aficionado gets with this DVD and the rest of the Kimstim Collection is an exact replica(s) of the quality Chabrol releases MK2 delivered for the French market.
Someone at KINO has obviously done it right this time around and I wish that this person stays in charge with all future KINO releases (read- DO NOT USE improper PAL-NTSC ports). If they also manage to improve their cover designs a bit KINO might very well become the winning film distributor everyone wanted them to be. RECOMMENDED!!