Apart from Betty Blue and Diva, two films made more than twenty years ago, the work of contemporary French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Beineix is little known and unavailable on DVD in North America. Cinema Libre Studio intends to rectify this with six DVD releases of Beineix's work between now and November, culminating in a complete box set on December 1. Entitled The Jean-Jacques Beineix Collection: Locked in Syndrome, or alternatively, The Jean-Jacques Beineix Collection: Documentaries and Short, the first release includes the titular 27-minute documentary, along with two other odds and ends from Beineix's oeuvre - the 77-minute documentary Otaku (1994) and the 16-minute fictional short Mr. Michel's Dog (1977).
On December 8, 1995, 43-year-old French author and fashion magazine editor Jean-Dominque Bauby suffered a massive stroke. He was rendered completely paralyzed except for his left eyelid. Despite the debilitating injury, Bauby subsequently dictated a memoir, letter by letter, by blinking when the correct letter of the alphabet was read allowed to him. Bauby died on March 9, 1997, ten days after the memoir was published in France and five days before Jean-Jacques Beinneix's documentary Locked in Syndrome was televised.
There's little doubt that this documentary made with the cooperation of Bauby, his secretary, and his caregivers was an invaluable visual record for the theatrical adaptation of Bauby's memoir The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Fans of the book or film will no doubt want to see this fine short doc.
The lengthiest feature on this disc is Otaku (1994), a 77-minute documentary about Japanese people with supposedly obsessive interests in idols (young female singer/starlets), manga, cosplay, bondage, live war-gaming, model building, monsters, antique American motorcycles, guerrilla street theater, and half a dozen other pursuits. Beineix and co-director Jackie Bastide include a pair of stuffy Japanese social scientists to talk about the loss of social cohesion and purpose in the consumer-driven youth of the day, but they generally fail to look at the economic causes for the arrested development of the post-bubble youth, and they're too quick to pathologize interests which only infrequently appear obsessional. Though a few of the self-stylized Otaku appear, at least in the context of the brief and biased interviews, to allow their interests to overwhelm their lives, many others do not. Unfortunately, Otaku rarely rises above freak-show frog-march.
Rounding out this disc is Beineix's first short made in 1977, Mr. Michel's Dog (Le chien de Monsieur Michel), a black comedy about an indigent man whose white lie about a hungry pet snowballs into an elaborate charade. The scenario is rather thin and wouldn't have supported a longer runtime, but at less than sixteen minutes works well enough.
Everything on this release appears to be sourced from analog PAL video. Poor resolution, aliasing, enhancement, and color problems abound, leaving only the newest release, Locked in Syndrome, looking at all acceptable. Mr. Michel's Dog is presented in a letterbox (1.85:1 aspect ratio), while the other two programs are in their original full-screen.
Non-removable English subtitles are provided for Locked in Syndrome and Mr. Michel's Dog. While the subtitles for Locked in Syndrome look fine, those for Mr. Michel's Dog are burnt-in, small, and typographically odd. Burnt-in French subtitles appear occasionally in Otaku. No subtitles options are provided on this release.
Locked in Syndrome features a 2.0 DD audio track while the other two programs are monaural. Locked in Syndrome and Otaku have been prepared for an English-speaking audience: Locked in Syndrome uses a mix of English narration and subtitle, while Otaku is completely rendered into English. Only Mr. Michel's Dog features the original French audio in its entirety.
None of the audio sounds particularly good but it's all passable, though ideally the original French audio would have also been provided as an option on Locked in Syndrome and Mr. Michel's Dog.
Trailers for the complete Jean-Jacques Beineix Collection, Betty Blue and Tre are included.
Although all three features included in The Jean-Jacques Beineix Collection: Locked in Syndrome are of some interest, their value is undermined by the poor video and audio quality.