Radley Metzger's 1969 adaptation of Alexandre Dumas Fils' novel Lady of the Camellias, alternately known as Forbidden Love is a lush, Technicolor fever dream of sex and drugs set some time in the Rome of the future where we meet a man named Armand (Nino Castelnuovo) who lives under the domineering control of his wealthy father. Armand likes the ladies, and more or less has his pick - he's a handsome guy with a fat bank account and this makes him attractive to a lot of people. His friend Gastion (Roberto Bisacco), warns him against the beautiful Marguerite (Daniele Gaubert), a woman he meets who has a penchant for sleeping around and for drug use, but Armand will have none of Gastion's warnings, he knows what he wants and he wants Marguerite, even if Olympe (Silvana Venturelli) would be more than happy to take her place.
As luck would have it, the feeling is mutual and the gorgeous Marguerite soon falls for Armand pretty hard, though it takes her a few tries to get there and she is initially hesitant to give up her partying lifestyle for one man. Things seem to be looking up for the couple until the doomed lovers eventually realize that their obsessions and selfishness is catching up with them.
Very deliberate in its pacing (you could call it slow and while there's a reason for it, you'd be right), Camille 2000 does build to a satisfyingly dark and somehow inevitable conclusion, ending its story the only way it can. If the tale is a bit on the predictable side, it's never been told with the amount of style and with such incredible cinematography as it has in this version. Metzger's films have long had a completely justified reputation as being some of the finest looking adult films of all time and when you watch Camille 2000 it's easy to see how he earned that reputation. Each shot is so carefully constructed not only in terms of framing but also in terms of set design and color composition that the whole thing takes on an almost surrealist painterly vibe that goes a long way towards making it easy to overlook the fact that it really does move at a snail's pace. Though the film is really full of visual highlights, you've got to admire Metzger's attention to detail particularly in the BDSM party scene where fetishistic Paco Rabanne style mirrored sex outfits and gilded cages are the order of the day. Enrico Sabbatini's design work and a score from Piero Piccioni don't hurt things at all either, both fit the film and the story perfectly.
Also aiding in the audience's ability to overlook the films' structural shortcomings is the presence of the stunningly beautiful Daniele Gaubert, a popular actress in French cinema in the late sixties and early seventies who died all too young in 1987 at the age of 44. Here's she's visually perfect, though a very flawed character, as entrancing as she is mysterious and completely charming, so much so that we have no problem whatsoever understanding why Armand would pursue her the way that he does in the film. While the film is very much a time capsule of the late sixties era in which it was made, Gaubert's natural beauty is timeless and she is quite literally mesmerizing in this film. The rest of the cast are also quite good, with Nino Castelnuovo (who popped up in Lucio Fulci's Spaghetti Western Massacre Time!) well cast as the playboy and Silvana Venturelli (who would also work with Metzger on The Lickerish Quartet) also very impressive in her supporting role.
The version of the film contained on this Blu-ray from Cult Epics is a newly restored expanded edition clocking in at about two hours and ten minutes in length. Included here are never before scenes including a bit with Armand discussing his relationship with his sister, further character development scenes with Armand, a love scene with Marguerite and a few other added bits that weren't included in the theatrical version of the film (which is available separately from Cult Epics if you'd rather have that cut).
Cult Epics presents the uncut version of Camille 2000 on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer that is generally pretty strong. Those with an aversion to grain or minor print damage might be put off by the specks that appear throughout but there's a very strong increase in both clarity and detail over previous releases of the film and the image is definitely cleaner looking than it has been in the past as well. Color reproduction is great and skin tones look nice and natural as well. Black levels aren't reference quality but they fare quite well and sharpness and contrast are set properly. There aren't any problems with noise reduction, heavy edge enhancement or compression artifacts and generally this is a pretty strong, film like transfer.
The sole audio option on the disc is a standard definition Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, no lossless option is provided. That complaint aside, the audio sounds fine here. The music used throughout the film sounds nice and punchy without coming across as too loud in the mix, and while there are occasional instances where you might notice some mild distortion, if you're not listening for it you probably won't notice and it's never enough to really be much of a bother. Dialogue is always easy to understand, the levels are well balanced, and it all sounds fine for what it is. No subtitles or alternate language options are provided.
The best extra on this disc is a commentary track courtesy of director Radley Metzger moderated by film historian Michael Bowen. Although this commentary does feature some periodic gaps of silence now and again, the good definitely outweighs the bad as they cover quite a bit of ground. Metzger talks quite openly about the cast and crew that he worked with, discussing how the various actors were chosen, why the different locations seen in the film were used and how production design played such a big part in making this film the way it is.
Additionally, there's a half hour long behind the scenes featurette entitled On The Set Of Camille 2000 that shows Metzger at work directing the film and which gives us a look at a few key scenes as they were being shot. Rounding out the extras are an alternate version of the Cube Love Scene, an extended version of the strip tease scene entitled Sylvana's Bare Strip Tease, a trailer for the feature, trailer for a few other Cult Epics releases, animated menus and chapter selection.
Camille 2000 won't appeal to those put off by languid pacing or slow burn filmmaking, meaning it's probably not the best Metzger film for the uninitiated to start with. However, it's a beautifully made piece of film that tells a surprisingly morose tale with sexy style and plenty of visual flair. Cult Epics' Blu-ray could have used a lossless audio option but it looks great and contains some pretty impressive extras as well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.