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Comedy of Power
Inspired by a high-profile case known simply as the Elf Affair suspense-master Calude Chabrol's latest picture La Comédie du pouvoir a.k.a Comedy of Power (2006) walks its audience into a highly-compromised corporate system infested with dubious characters. Here the focus of attention is Judge Jeanne Charmant-Killman (Isabelle Huppert) whose desire to reach to the bottom of a shady offshore deal throws her into a powerful political vortex with strong antagonistic forces.
Finding entertainment value in events other directors will likely dismiss with an ignorant aplomb Chabrol's latest picture isn't easy to embrace! The director's foray into the higher echelons of corporate business is dry, mechanical, and at times slightly confusing.
Interestingly enough even though Comedy of Power is structured as a thriller where a sizeable crime has been committed (embezzlement is only a fraction of what Charmant-Killman is after) Chabrol never truly appears concerned with it. On the contrary the picture deconstructs the philosophy justifying the existence of crime amongst those who must be as transparent in their business activities as possible.
The presence of Huppert naturally provides the film with plenty of finesse and somewhat surprisingly grittiness. The manner in which Charmant-Killman methodically questions her clients isn't shocking yet her overly dismissive attitude is! CEO's, banking officials, businessmen, and colleagues are exposed to a side of the judge's character which is, to put it mildly, intimidating. Cold, precise, and very demanding Charmant-Killman gradually destroys those accustomed to having their voices heard! Not surprisingly the clash of egos is by far the film's most inquisitive asset.
Huppert's overpowering performance however, together with the sluggish pacing, might well be what keeps this film from gaining wider critical acclaim. The absence of a counter-force, a secondary character that strongly opposes Charmant-Killman, leaves the viewer notably unsatisfied. Certainly given how impressively cynical the judge is towards her marks she isn't challenged, her will isn't tested. Yet, to the amusement of those who have endured her professional eccentricity Charmant-Killman collapses when it counts the most!!
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen TVs the DVD for Comedy of Power is a step above Koch Lorber Films' recently released Le Petit Lieutenant yet it is far and away from being a solid presentation. While a partial attempt in converting this print properly has been done ("ghosting" isn't present and the print is progressive) the transfer isn't solid! Edge-enhancement is overly distracting on this disc and more often than not it affects other areas of the presentation substantially. The color-scheme for example suffers a great deal as colors look washed and dull and during selected scenes "bleeding" becomes obvious. Furthermore, I am fairly certain that a PAL-master has been used for the sourcing of this disc as contrast is also unconvincing - the print has an unnatural soft look which is often seen as a byproduct of PAL-NTSC conversions. Lastly, when blown through a digital projector the image reveals an element which was typical for some of the R1 distribs' early releases-loss of detail.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with a French DD track the film sounds fine and I could not detect any audio imperfections. Dialog is easy to follow and I did not notice any hissings or audio drop-outs. Optional English subtitles are provided but they are yellow and frankly way too large for my taste. The English translation is done well reflecting the spoken lines.
Aside from the original theatrical trailer there is a Making Of which has been ported from the French disc. The fragment is from the film's presentation at the Berlinale (using footage from the press-conference) which unfortunately appears with burnt-in French subs and an English-voiceover translation. Logically many of the questions asked address the relationship between Chabrol's film and the Elf Affair mentioned in the review above. The rest of the featurette is very interesting addressing the persona of the judge Huppert plays and ultimately what the film strives to convey.
Those familiar with Chabrol's style will find his latest work well-worth a look. As expected Huppert is fabulous! The DVD however isn't representative of what Koch Lorber Films are capable of producing!!