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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Prix de Beaute
Prix de Beaute
Kino // Unrated // March 7, 2006
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted February 13, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Louise Brooks only made a couple dozen films, most in the late 20's when popular actors would release several movies a year, and never made it above the level of mid-line star.  After making some moderately successful films she left Hollywood in 1928 for Europe having tired of the LA scene and the way films were churned out under the studio system.  There she appeared in her best movies, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, both under director G. W. Pabst.

Soon afterwards Brooks returned to the US where she discovered that she had been forgotten.  She made a series of mostly B-movies over the next few years before retiring in 1938.  Though she was never a big star, Louise Brooks is better known today than many of her contemporaries who had bigger names and higher salaries back in the day.  Brooks films have aged very well mainly because she was a very talented and restrained actress who choose quality scripts to appear in.

Kino has now released one of Brooks lesser seen films, 1930's Prix de Beaute (UK title:  Miss Europe.)  Shot in France following her two Pabst films but before her return to America, this film finds Brooks at the top of her game playing an attractive and fun-loving girl who discovers that physical beauty can have a heavy price associated with it.

Lucienne Garnier (Brooks) is a typist in a pool for a large French newspaper.  Her work is dull and monotonous, and on a lark she sends her picture into a beauty contest.  Knowing that her finance, André (Georges Charlia), wouldn't like it, she decides not to tell him.  Much to her surprise, she is not only crowned Miss France, but soon after Miss Europe as well.

While competing for the Miss Europe title, André arrives at the pageant.  Jealous over the attention that she's receiving, he breaks off their engagement.  After she's won the crown though, Lucienne bolts to his train and makes up with her lover, promising to give up the high life for a quite home with him.  After she's had a taste of all that life has to offer and been courted by a prince, can Lucienne  settle for living on a blue collar workman's wages, and doing housework?

This was a good movie that does a wonderful job of contrasting the lives of the workers and upper class.  Lucienne and everyone she knows have banal jobs and their only pleasure is going to the seaside on the weekends or occasionally the circus.  Who wouldn't want to escape that?  She has very few options in that society though, and the fact that her fiancee won't allow her to even try to better herself is a strong statement about a woman's role in the early 30's.  The final scene in the film, though it has lost some of its impact over the years, is still fairly shocking and really makes the movie.

Louise Brooks does a very good job in this film, believably playing a working class girl who is thrust into the limelight and has trouble knowing what to do.  A role that could easily have devolved into melodrama, Brooks manages to keep the film dramatic without overplaying the sympathy card.

This early sound film, one of the first filmed in France, was also released in a silent version.  The audio portion was obviously dubbed in afterwards, and it detracts from the film.  The lip movements aren't in synch, and looks and sound more like the Sandy Frank version of a Godzilla movie than people actually talking.  The sound effects are rather poor too.  They sound tinny and they don't do a good job of creating a feel for the movie.  The clapping at the beauty pageant was particularly lame.  It sounded like a loop of three people clapping instead of a real audience.

The DVD:


 
Audio:

The only audio option is the original French mono soundtrack. This sounds very good for a film of this age.  As with all 30's films, the sound rather flat and not very dynamic.  There is only the slightest hint of tape hiss in the background, and this isn't noticeable at normal viewing volumes.  Distortion and dropouts are minimal.  Overall a solid presentation of a early talkie.  There are optional subtitles in English.

Video:

The full frame back and white looked pretty good for an old film such as this one.  There are some very light vertical lines through the image, but these aren't distracting.  The image had a good amount of detail, and the contrast was fine.  There was some grain to the image but not an unusual amount.

Unfortunately, the DVD was created from a PAL master and it has the defects that one associates with PAL to NTSC conversions including a 4% speed up.  Because of this, the image is jerky, especially in the fast sections, and the movements look unnatural.  If this had been a silent film I would have assumed that they presented it at the wrong speed, since it looks faster than the 4% speedup would lead me to believe.  Aside from this mastering issue though, the disc looks fine.

Extras:

The only extra included on this disc is a gallery of stills released to promote the film.

Final Thoughts:

This is a fine example of Louise Brooks' work, and a fine addition to a library of early sound pictures.  The presentation is marred by the PAL to NTSC conversation that makes the film play faster than it should though.  Because of this everyone's movements are unnatural (one scene where Brooks is writing is almost comical because the words are flowing from her pen so quickly) and the film is a little jerky.  Even with this defect though, this is a movie worth watching.  Recommended.

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