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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Love Street (Rue des plaisirs)
Love Street (Rue des plaisirs)
Seville Pictures // Unrated // October 23, 2002
List Price: $18.55 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted November 10, 2002 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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Marion's world is about to fall apart. The year is 1945; the place is Paris, France. She's a prostitute in the Oriental Palace, a high-class brothel that's booming with business from men who want to "buy a dream" to escape from the drudgery and tension of life in the war years. But the French government has decreed that the brothels are to be shut down, leaving Marion, and her fellow prostitutes, with an uncertain future.

The story of Love Street (Rue des plaisirs) is multi-layered: on one level, it's the story of Marion (Laetitita Casta), the lovely prostitute who dreams of making something of her life. It's also the story of Petit Louis (Patrick Timsit), the brothel's handyman, who is madly in love with Marion and will do anything to make her happy. In fact, since he doesn't believe that Marion could ever be happy with him, he devotes himself to finding the one man who truly can make her happy. Love Street is also the story, on another level, of the three post-1945 streetwalkers who serve as narrators, chorus, and commentators for the story of Marion and Petit Louis. For them, standing in the rain waiting for their customers, Marion and Louis are creatures of fable, from a colorful, magical world that might as well have been a hundred years ago, though in reality it only a few years have passed.

There's a layer of nostalgic fantasy to the entire story as told by these three women, which means that their narrative isn't necessarily entirely reliable. To them, Marion is an emblem of "one of their own" who made good... but there are hints in what we see that her fairytale-like vaudeville success may be a gloss added in memory by her friends, rather than the plain facts. Or the narrators may be telling the exact truth; but in any case, the story is in many ways a very subjective one, a legend that the women pass on almost as a talisman to say "it could happen to me."

Despite the slightly dreamy elements of the story, the fact remains that it's the tale of a prostitute trying to make a living in a difficult world; Love Street rests on hard foundations, and refuses to dodge the thorny issues that come up. Petit Louis gives everything he's got to find happiness for Marion, but even he ends up with doubts about what he brings her. Handsome Dmitri Josco (Vincent Elbaz) appears to be Marion's Prince Charming, but what if he is really a "dark horse," with dangerous secrets of his own? Love Street is a story about people desperately grasping for happiness even when it may turn on them... but at the same time, it suggests that even if her search for love fails, Marion's life is richer than it would have been if she'd simply accepted the hand she'd been dealt in life.

Love Street is a very polished piece, both in the narrative and in the visual presentation of the film. The narration provided by the three women recounting the story on their dark, rainy street corner is consistently used throughout the film to enrich the story of Marion and Petit Louis and to provide a darker frame for the vivid lives of the characters they're remembering. Petit Louis himself has an interesting relationship with the audience, as he often acts as a sort of narrator of his own life, sometimes even addressing the camera. We even see parts of the film through his own perspective, including his self-image as a little boy who just wants to take care of one special woman.

Many parts of the film feel timeless, and overall it's not an aggressively "period" piece; character, narrative, and cinematography rather than costumes and sets are the main pieces that make up the effect of the film. Even so, the ambiance of 1945 is an important part of the film, and it's captured well from the prostitutes' perspective. They're not concerned with the larger political events taking place around them, but on the continuance of their livelihood, which is brought to a halt after the war. Love Street is stylistically reminiscent of Amélie, with a narrative that's not strictly chronological, elements of playful fantasy in the presentation of events, and the use of non-naturalistic color and lighting to help tell the story.

It's interesting to note that for a film about prostitutes, Love Street is neither erotic nor even mildly sensual. When we see the brothel's back rooms filled with women in skimpy negligees getting ready for their evening's work, with Petit Louis helping them get dressed, it's no more titillating than if it were a locker room full of women changing from street clothes to work clothes at a factory. For Marion, sex is a job that she works at, and we get no more than a few glimpses of her in this role; what she longs for is an emotional connection rather than a physical one. A simple embrace or a kiss means more in Love Street than a steamy bed scene in another film.

Video

Love Street is presented in a rich and attractive 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, preserving the original aspect ratio; it is anamorphically enhanced. The DVD transfer does an excellent job of presenting the visual nuances of the film, which makes extensive use of color and lighting effects to set the mood of the story. Colors in particular are beautifully handled, from the jewel-like tones of the inside of the brothel to the blue tint that washes over the early-morning scenes outdoors, evoking a sense of the still-sleeping city. Much of the film takes place at night or in dimly-lit rooms, and contrast is handled admirably, so that these scenes look as rich as their daytime counterparts.

The only defect in the image is the presence of edge enhancement, which is more apparent in some scenes than in others. Otherwise, it's a very clean and attractive print. French speakers will be pleased to know that the English subtitles are optional.

Audio

A choice of French Dolby 5.1 or 2.0 is offered for Love Street. The 5.1 track is excellent, offering natural-sounding voices and a well-balanced, pleasing overall sound experience. The surround channels are put to good use, with effects like rain, crowds, bombs falling overhead, and applause all seeming to take place directly around the viewer.

Extras

A 45-minute featurette on the making of the film is included; it's in French without English subtitles. Though fairly long, it's mainly a promotional-style piece with ample amounts of footage from the film. Trailers are also included both for Love Street and several other films.

The menu presentation is a model of how a bilingual DVD should be. The first screen offers a choice of a French-language and an English-language menu; after making the choice of one or the other, all subsequent menus are in that language. Additionally, the default settings for the film are logically chosen, so that if you select "play movie" from the French menu, the default is no subtitles, while if you play the film from the English menu, English subtitles are the default setting. In either case, the subtitles are accessible either through the menu or on-the-fly during the film.

Final thoughts

A rich, involving film that's been given a high-quality transfer onto DVD, Love Street is highly recommended for both lovers of foreign films and simply anyone who appreciates a well-crafted, polished drama.

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