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L'Important C'Est D'Aimer
Director Andrej Zulaswki's 1975 drama features a fantastic cast of Eurocult regulars cast against type and allowed to really ‘become' their characters thanks to a tight script and some great characterization. It's a grim story about the dangers of overpowering passion and crazed obsession, and it makes for considerably more intense viewing than its artsy reputation would likely have you believe. Then again, Zulawski is no stranger to horror...
The film follows a depressed man named Servais Mont (Fabio Testi) who makes a living as a photographer. His life changes forever when he meets an actress named Nadine Chevalier (Romy Schneider) who finds him in his apartment not doing well. Nadine specializes in sex films where she earns a living by frequently getting naked in front of the camera. He immediately feels for her and decides he'll try and help her find a more legitimate career than the one that she already has. To do this, he goes to some shifty loan sharks and borrows a sizeable amount money to put on a stage production of Richard III. Not surprisingly, he decides to give Nadine a large part in the film. What Nadine doesn't know is that Servais already owes these guys a lot of money thanks to some of his past exploits. While all of this is going on, Nadine is wrestling with her emotions, as she's literally torn between two lovers, her husband Jacques (Jacques Dutronc) who she feels obligated to stay with, and Servais, with whom she is obviously quite passionately in love with.
A very simple plot in a low of ways, L'important C'est D'aimer doesn't always paint love as the rosiest of emotions, in fact, it portrays true love as a one way ticket to emotional torture and suffering. On the flip side of that, it also paints it as the only thing in life that makes it worth living, a very pure and true part of what makes a person human in the first place. Working off of his own novel and co-writing with director Zulaswki, Christopher Frank's script is a dark one, and it builds slowly and deliberately to a predictably and inevitably grim conclusion. The film isn't a cheery look at romance or a Hollywood style romantic comedy, it's instead a harrowingly sincere portrayal of how it can all go wrong and still be worth the trouble.,/p>
Performance wise, the film is impeccably cast. Romy Schneider is excellent here, as tortured as you'd expect her to be and entirely convincing in the lead role. You can see the frustration and hurt on her face as she wrestles with her moral dilemma, and her interaction with both of the men in her life is completely believable. Testi is his typically handsome self but he plays his role with an uncharacteristic sense of morose sadness - he seems distant and removed from it all, though that does fit his character quite well when you think about it. Dutronc, as the man doomed to lose his wife, is just as good as the rest of the cast while the supporting performance from Klaus Kinski as a slightly off kilter actor involved in Servais' production steals every scene it can.
Wonderfully scored by Georges Delerue and beautifully shot, L'important C'est D'aimer is as stunning to look at as it is entrancing to watch. The film never feels pretentious even if its concept could have easily fallen into that trap, and the production values are top notch. Ultimately, L'important C'est D'aimer is a grim picture filled with decadent behavior, screwed up characters, sporadic violence and dire circumstances that somehow manages to overcome all of that and stand as a remarkably romantic work of pure, unadulterated cinema.
L'important C'est D'aimer comes Blu-ray from Film Movement Classics in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. There aren't really any details about the source of the transfer provided here and it's doubtful that this is from a new scan, but the image quality here is good, if not perfect. The transfer improves over the previous DVD release with stronger detail, depth and texture noticeable throughout. There's a bit of print damage here and there and the occasional scratch noticeable on the elements used, but overall the picture is in good shape. Colors look okay, but a bit flat and black levels aren't quite perfect. A lot of this is nitpicking, as by and large the image quality here is pretty solid.
The French language LPCM 2.0 Mono mix comes with optional subtitles in English only. As with the video transfer, there's really nothing to complain about here. The mix is well balanced, there are no problems with hiss or distortion and the subtitles are clean, clear, easy to read and free of any obvious typographical errors. An optional track is provided in English as well, and the quality of this track is fine as well, but for whatever reason the film just seems to play better in French.
Carried over from the old DVD release is an Andrzej Zulawksi Interview (16:29) where the director speaks in French (with English subtitles) about how an American producer introduced him to Christopher Frank's book from which this film was adapted and what it was like working on the script with Frank. He also talks about the cast, the pros and cons of casting someone so feminine in the lead, and some of the issues he ran into with Schneider's self-confidence issues on set. He also talks about a few scenes that were written but never filmed, and about the picture's grim finale.
A trailer rounds out the extras (unfortunately the director's commentary from the Mondo Vision DVD release has not been ported over to this Blu-ray). An insert booklet inside the case contains an essay on the film from Kat Ellinger that is quite interesting.
L'important C'est D'aimer is one of Zulaswki's best pictures, a moving and thought-provoking film that features some impressive direction and strong performances. It would have been nice to see the commentary from the DVD release carried over, as it was quite good, but the presentation is a nice improvement over what we've had before. 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.