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We Won't Grow Old Together

Kino // Unrated // August 12, 2014
List Price: $34.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted August 3, 2014 | E-mail the Author

I haven't witnessed a lot of verbal abuse in my life, especially during my childhood years. In fact, the first real shouting match I remember seeing was between a neighbor of ours and his live-in girlfriend, who resorted to berating each other on their front walkway while I was playing in the yard by myself. Not being overly familiar with such heated outbursts, I remember staring dumbfounded at the bickering pair of adults, convinced they were just pretending. The neighbor turned his anger towards me, furious that I saw him lose control...and for whatever reason, I just maintained my blank stare. I was a sheltered kid, and I've since turned into an adult who doesn't really like dirty laundry aired in public.

For better or worse, Maurice Pialat's We Won't Grow Old Together (1972) is pretty much 106 minutes' worth of verbal abuse and dirty laundry aired in public....but for whatever reason, I didn't hate the experience. I didn't particularly enjoy it either, but films like this aren't meant to be enjoyed. It's a largely fascinating account of a couple nearing the end of their six-year relationship, as told in agonizing detail in non-consecutive snapshots of their best and worst times together. Jean (Jean Yanne) is a brutish, self-absorbed documentary filmmaker and Catherine (Marlene Jobert) is his forgiving, naive young lover who, despite a countless number of red flags (including his marriage to another woman), remains faithfully by his side. They argue constantly. Jean is the primary instigator, whether he's forcefully throwing her out of his apartment, belittling her in public, or squashing her ambitions with scorn and criticism. Catherine forgives Jean on countless occasions, convinced that he'll change his ways. He doesn't and, more than likely, never will.

Director Maurice Pialat also wrote We Won't Grow Old Together and, according to several accounts (including Marlene Jobert, in an accompanying interview), this was a purely autobiographical tale. Aside from its daring subject matter, the film's most interesting element is its unusual structure and pacing: fragments of their relationship are chopped up and presented one after another. We're not sure exactly how much time has passed between scenes, or even if what we're seeing is completely chronological. There's very little music, supporting characters are minimal and, of course, no happy ending. It's a very taxing experience and, if you're in the wrong mood, the exact opposite of what most people look for in a movie. But it's brutally honest, scathingly personal and, even in its darkest moments, tough to look away from.

We Won't Grow Old Together never received an American theatrical run in 1972, finally making the domestic rounds 40 years later. Since then, the road to DVD and Blu-ray has been relatively quick: Gaumont's region-free import arrived in 2013 and now Kino offers another Blu-ray. Both discs appear to be similar from an A/V standpoint but feature different supplements. Only the latter are a little disappointing, but overall it's a fine package for this polarizing little film.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality

We Won't Grow Old Together doesn't look all that impressive by design, but this Blu-ray seems to represent the source material faithfully. It's perfectly in line with a lower-budget production from the 1970s with relatively flat lighting, a muted color palette, limited shadow detail and a natural layer of film grain. In any case, this slice-of-life drama is meant to evoke a realistic atmosphere and doesn't fail in that regard, while the lack of digital manipulation allows for a film-like presentation that new viewers and die-hard fans will appreciate in equal measure. This 1080p transfer is framed at the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio and, to my knowledge, appears similar (if not identical) to Gaumont's region-free import.

DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent this Blu-ray's native 1080p resolution.

The audio is also limited in scope but, under the circumstances, free of major problems. The DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio represents the original mono mix and, even more than most dramas, We Won't Grow Old Together is a purely dialogue-driven affair. Music is extremely limited but is balanced nicely overall, while the back-and-forth arguments, outbursts, and other conversations come through with relative clarity. There's definitely some clipping at the high end and, not surprisingly, a handful of scenes bury the dialogue a little too deep in the mix but these are most likely source material issues. Optional English subtitles have been included during the film and bonus features for translation purposes only.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

The menu interface is smooth and simply designed, with static imagery and familiar music cues from the main feature. Separate options are available for playback, chapter selection, setup and bonus features. This one-disc release is housed in a standard keepcase and includes a brief but informative printed Essay by film critic Nick Pinkerton.

Bonus Features

Just a few, but what's here is informative and entertaining. First up is a very short Video Appreciation by filmmaker Alex Ross Perry (4 minutes) that plays out like a selected scene commentary. It's not substantial enough to go into any real detail, but I'd imagine that those new to the film will find it more helpful than seasoned fans. Also here is a longer Interview with actress Marlene Jobert (18 minutes), who portrays Catherine in the film. Also remembered for her appearances in films like Masculin Feminin (1966) and Rider on the Rain (1970), the retired actress does a fine job keeping things moving with memories of the production and working alongside Jean Yanne. Last but not least is the film's Theatrical Trailer (3 minutes) which, like the interview, includes optional English subtitles for translation only.

Final Thoughts

Depending on your age, relationship status and tolerance for non-stop verbal conflict, We Won't Grow Old Together will either be a total turn-off or a fascinating study of two fools fatefully drifting apart. I found myself leaning towards the latter, but this is obviously much more of a sobering experience than an enjoyable one. If you're familiar with this film---or other works by Maurice Pialat, such as Loulou (1980) or A nos amours (AKA "To Our Loves", 1983)---Kino's Blu-ray package is definitely worth a closer look: featuring a solid A/V presentation and a few brief but interesting supplements, We Won't Grow Old Together remains an uncompromising but unforgettable viewing experience. Recommended.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.
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