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Red & The Black

Koch Lorber Films // Unrated // February 7, 2005
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted March 4, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Set in the France in the post-Napoleonic era, Julien Sorel (Kim Stuart Rossi) is the son of a carpenter and comes from a somewhat poorer class. Wishing to enter into the seminary and become a priest, he must first take a position as a Latin tutor to the son of the town mayor, Monsignor de Renal, and a household eminently upper class and aristocratic, having high expectations of their hired help. While he is a natural in regards to both teaching and befriending his 12 year old student, he quickly brings steamy moral chaos to the Renal household. First spurning the advances and a marriage proposal from the house maid, he instead enters into a steamy affair with the mayor's wife Louise (Carole Bouquet) who is poised, lovely and obviously unhappy in the arranged marriage she entered into at a young age. Seeing Julien as young, spirited and handsome in an almost cherubic way, their tryst quickly generates rumors and Julien is forced to speedily move on to his next phase of life to prepare for the priesthood position he desires.

Unhappily he is awakened to the reality that not all who have entered the seminary have the proper attitude toward serving God- money and prestige are also causes for their personal ambition. Disillusioned, he strikes up a friendship with the outgoing director Abbe' Picard and when Julien leaves the seminary Picard is able to help him secure a position in service of the Marquis de la Ma'le (Claude Rich). Once again a woman becomes a factor in disordering his life, this time that woman being the Marquis' daughter Mathilde. Ultimately Sorel commits a crime that swiftly puts his world in a spiral turning ever downward.

Directed for television by Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe and spread over three hours and 2 discs, this is a deep, delicate film that paints a tainted picture of France after the reign of Napoleon, fraught with dissension, lust, greed, self-absorption and hypocrisy; there is a pervading sense of tragedy throughout the film. Visually the movie is very attractive, lush in it's depiction of 1800's Europe. While I am not at all familiar with the work, this is based on a novel by Stendhal and apparently is not the first film adaptation of the book. While I did enjoy the movie, it was somewhat predictable and a bit ponderous at times. It seemed almost painfully easy to persuade Julien to set to the side his lofty ideals and morals in exchange for a compromised life of moral corruption and carnal indulgence. For the most part the acting was quite good, but I did find Rossi's portrayal of Julien to be a bit stiff and unsure.

Video-

Of note is the fact that this is a Region 1 NTSC DVD. Aspect ratio here is stated to be 1.66:1 widescreen. I found the film to look soft throughout, while the colors seemed fairly natural.

Audio-

The audio track here is French Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional subtitles, and is clear and easy to understand.

Extras-

No extras here.

Final Thoughts-

An ambitious film that I found to be thoughtful with a subtle take on the premise of innocence not only lost, but also exploited and corrupted. My recommendation would be to rent it.
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