It took awhile for local distribs to release Andre Techine's Le Lieu du Crime a.k.a Scene of the Crime (1986). Initially available only through an import French disc without the much needed English subtitles the film has finally found its place on the US market.
The story evolves around a young boy (Nicolas Giraudi) and his divorced mother (Catherine Deneuve) who encounters a runaway convict (Wadeck Stanczak) not too far away from their house in the French countryside. The convict asks the boy to bring him money while patiently awaiting the appearance of an out of town accomplice. When the boy returns a tragic event takes place linking the convict to the youngster's mother.
Scene of the Crime isn't a whodunit picture with a complicated subplot. The killer, its victim, and those affected by the crime are easily recognizable here. The killer's motives are obvious.
What isn't as transparent is the ensuing relationship between the killer and the boy's mother. Unrealistic and too far-fetched for those who like to follow the thread of logic the semi-romantic affair Techine introduces is, surprisingly, marred by a string of genre clichés.
Furthermore, the overwhelming sense of desperation that sets in (with the mother unable to manage her personal life, the killer slowly succumbing to his fears, and the boy failing to make sense of it all) eventually transforms pic into a too difficult to absorb emotional puzzle. Logically, even though the philosophical context Techine aims for is detectable as a whole the story isn't comparable to his more convincing works (Les Egares).
The beautiful cinematography only partially redeems Scene of the Crime. Impressive shots of the French countryside are inserted with confidence but ultimately feel out of place, attached only as to give the viewer a breather. In the grand scheme of events they barely provide any additional support to the story.
All else being considered this isn't a bad film at all. The leads are convincing in their roles and for the most part stay away from over-dramatizing their imperfect characters. They also provide a good dose of authenticity where the script (with a notable contribution by Pascal Bonitzer and Olivier Assayas) unfortunately dictates otherwise.
In 1986 the film was nominated for Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival (Andre Techine). In 1987 the film received a Cesar nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Danielle Darrieux).
How Does the DVD Look?
In one word: bad. Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TVs KINO have provided a direct PAL port of the MK2 released disc rife of "ghosting" and unbearable shimmering. Furthermore, there is so much edge-enhancement here that the great outdoor shots from the countryside are practically unwatchable. Believe it or not half-way through the film I had to stop my disc and take a breather because I felt a vertigo-effect. This being said, the color-scheme was just as flat and unconvincing - pale and unstable the film looked as if it has been sourced from a third generation master. To sum it all up even for hardcore Techine fans as myself this disc was a tremendous test I failed to successfully endure.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with a French DD track and optional English subtitles the audio treatment is manageable. Dialog is easy to follow while not exceptionally crisp while music is generally well balanced. The English subtitles in large yellow.
Aside from a text-format director's biography there is nothing else to be found on this disc.
Scene of the Crime is one of Andre Techine's less convincing films which up until now has been impossible to see in an English-friendly form. Thus, it is commendable that KINO have made the effort to at least provide English-speakers with a disc they could benefit from. Unfortunately the actual presentation is far and away from what we have come to expect from DVD as an advanced medium. The most I could do here is recommend that you rent this disc provided you are aware of the technical description above.