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Cold Water

Sony Pictures // Unrated // September 11, 2018
List Price: $27.37 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted October 30, 2018 | E-mail the Author
Cold Water Criterion Blu-ray Review

Cold Water is a coming of age film inspired by memories of filmmaker Olivier Assayas (Something in the Air, Personal Shopper). The film was executive produced by Elisabeth Deviosse (L'Appartement) , Francoise Guglielmi (Irma Vep, Trouble Every Day), and Casanova Yannick (Un pique-nique chez Osiris). It's an exceptional early work from French auteur Assayas.

The film originated as part of a French television series production which was aimed at creating short television films that would showcase different filmmaker's experiences growing up in different time periods. Cold Water was to reflect the culture and times of the 1970's. Assayas showcases the times with a pulsing rock soundtrack, an extended party sequence, and the energy of young love.

The story ebbs and flows between two characters: Christine (Virginie Ledoyen) and Gilles (Cyprien Fouquet). Each character has their own storyline as we see their experiences with their families and personal lives unfold. As the film progresses, each of the character's unique experiences are brought into focus while the film slowly builds up to the two meeting each other for a night they won't soon forget.

Director Assayas cut two different versions of the film. Assayas made a shortened television version based on the expectations of the original project and an expanded theatrical release cut. Criterion has included the feature-length version for this release. Considering the budget limitations on the project were with the expectation of making a short television film, it's astonishing what Assayas managed to accomplish with the feature-length film.

The cinematography by Denis Lenoir (Paris, je t'aime) is beautiful and serene with the 35mm film perfectly befitting the nostalgic tone of the piece. As this is something of an experimental film, the cinematographer did a superb job capturing the essence of youth with long shot takes following the characters. The lengthy party sequence has few cuts to the takes as well and is hypnotic.

Cold Water has a superb soundtrack that brings so much of the flavor and energy of 1970's rock to the table. The film's key party sequence is a huge portion of the film and features one great rock track after another. It feels a bit like getting to hear a jukebox that only plays "the greats" and nothing else. It's not an overstatement to say that the film has an incredible and eclectic rock soundtrack. The film features the likes of rock greats like Roxy Music, Nico, and David Bowie

Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, Carlos) is one of the most interesting and unique French filmmakers. Each film by the director has his unique stamp as an artist. Cold Water is no exception. While it's an early work by the director, it's by no means a slight work. The film feels as personal and artistic as anything I've seen by Assayas. While the film might be relatively light on plot, it's not light on the magic of youth: Cold Water feels like a glimpse into the memories of an unforgettable time in these teenager's lives: as if looking at a faded photograph but with all the memories rushing back at once.

The Blu-ray:


Cold Water arrives on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection with a brand new 4K restoration which was supervised and approved by the director. The release is presented with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1 widescreen. The film has a high bit-rate 35 mbps encode. This is a amazing presentation which preserves the film's cinematography. The 35mm film looks beautiful and the restoration shows fine film grain. The restoration is superb with no dirt, debris, or print damage.


The Blu-ray is presented with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The film is presented in French with English subtitles. The subtitles included are a new translation which is free from grammatical errors and typos. This is a superb sounding audio presentation which renders the film's amazing soundtrack with great clarity: the film is loaded with amazing tracks by artists like Roxy Music and Nico and the film is a transcendent experience with it's music-video like soundtrack backdrop.


This release includes a leaflet featuring an essay by film critic Girish Shambu.

On disc supplements include:

Olivier Assayas (HD, 15 min.) discusses his involvement with the project and how it developed into being a feature-film with a personal perspective in this new interview with the director.

Denis Lenoir (HD, 11 min.) discusses his approach to filming Cold Water and his perspective on the story and cast in this new interview.

Le cercle de minuit (SD, 12 min.) is an excerpt from a 1994 french television program interview about the film, featuring writer/director Assayas and actors Virginie Ledoyen and Cyprien Fouquet.

Final Thoughts:

Cold Water is presented on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection in a director approved edition featuring a brand new 4K restoration of the 35mm internegative. This is an exceptional film which showcases the early talents of filmmaker Assayas. The film was inspired by the director's personal experiences as a teenager.

It's a nostalgic trip through the director's youth with amazing music featuring classic rock songs that ebb and flow throughout the film to form a amazing experience. The film is superb, the restoration is exceptional, and the included supplements help to enhance one's appreciation of the filmmaker's artistic vision. This release is well worthwhile for fans of director Assayas.

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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Highly Recommended

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