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Cartouche (Special Edition)
Philippe de Broca's 1962 film, Cartouche, is set in eighteenth century Paris and it opens with a scene where a man is to be publicly executed in the town square for the heinous crime of stealing two apples. In the crowd is one Louis de Bourguignon (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who watches, eating an apple himself, as the drama unfolds in front of him. When he meets a beautiful young woman named Vénus (Claudia Cardinale), the begin to fall in love.
Louis is, for all intents and purposes, a criminal himself, working with a gang led by a man named Malichot (Marcel Dalio), but he finds that the gang's methods are becoming increasingly distasteful and not to his liking. He splits from Malichot and joins the army for a stint, then decides to branch out on his own using the moniker of Cartouche, effectively acting as a highwayman. He soon finds himself, in true Robin Hood style, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, and with each successful robbery he pulls off, he becomes increasingly bold in his methods. He also finds that he's becoming quite popular with the masses, quickly becoming a bit of a folk hero.
He and Vénus rekindle their relationship but Malichot still holds a grudge until Cartouche essentially convinces his crew to join him. Things get complicated with Cartouche can't fight his attraction to high society woman Isabelle de Ferrussac (Odile Versois), and the, of course, there's the matter of the police closing in on him…
Cartouche spends most of its running time as a fun, lighthearted adventure movie with healthy doses of intrigue and romance thrown in. Although the story is very loosely based on the life of Louis de Bourguignon, an actual criminal and historical figure in France, it clearly isn't at all concerned with historical accuracy so much as it is simply entertaining its audience. Without spoiling the ending, however, thing do take an unexpected turn in the film's final quarter. And it works. At just under two-hours in length, the film never feels overly long and it really does provide the right mix of humor, romance and adventure.
The cast do strong work in the picture. Belmondo is in fine form here, using his skills at playing charming, quirky, rascally types in a big way to makes Louis de Bourguignon as likeable as he is in this picture. And he makes it look easy. The guy looks like he's having a lot of fun here, and his penchant for delivering a very physical performance plays a big part in making him as entertaining to watch here as he is. As to Claudia Cardinale, she's gorgeous here, we can completely understand why Louis would fall for Vénus. Her acting is strong, she very much looks perfect for the part and she has good chemistry with her male co-star. The supporting work from Odile Versois and Marcel Dalio is also very good.
Production values are impressive. There's good costuming on display here and the sets and locations used for the picture always feel authentic. The cinematography from Christian Matras is always of good quality, the framing and lighting in the film is strong, and on top of that we also get an appropriately rousing score from Georges Delerue that helps move things along quite nicely.
Cartouche arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen taking up 36.5GBs of space on a 50GB disc. Taken from a new 4k restoration of the original negative, it looks great. Detail is nice and strong and the image is free of any noticeable print damage, it's remarkably clean, while still retaining the film grain you'd want it to. Colors are reproduced nicely, there's strong depth and texture throughout and the picture is devoid of any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifact related issues.
The only audio option for the feature is a French language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono but it sounds just fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The score sounds wonderful here, you can really make out the different instruments used in the music and it helps to enhance the mood substantially. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout and the track is nicely balanced. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note, nor is there any audible sibilance.
Extras start off with a new audio commentary film critic and author Simon Abrams. He talks about how de Broca and Belmondo came to collaborate on quite a few successful actino comedies over the years, how this picture compares to their other efforts like That Man From Rio, how Cartouche was a big hit in its native France, how the picture helped launch Claudia Cardinale's career, the real-life Robin Hood-esque highwayman that inspired the film, the foreshadowing of the opening scene, the locations that were used, the specific lighting techniques used to highlight Cardinale's features, the use of comedy in the film, the impact that the film's ending has, how well this movie holds up and quite a bit more. Abram's offers up a good mix of criticism and background inforamtion in this track, making it a nice addition to this disc.
The disc also includes a featurette called Adventure With A Capital C with Alexandra de Broca (the wife of director Philippe de Broca) and journalist Thomas Morales that runs for twenty-six minutes. They discuss the history of the project, the approach that de Broca and his co-writers took to the script, the style that de Broca employed in this and many of his other films, how well he got along with Philippe Lemaire and Belmondo during the shoot, the quality of Belmondo's physical style of acting in this picture, Jean Rochefort's ability to unsettle the audience and lots more.
Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for Le Magnifique, Leon Morin Priest, Le Doulos, Le Professionnel and The Outsider, menus and chapter selection options.
Cartouche may not be the most historically accurate movie ever made and the ending will take many by surprise but it's a well-made and entertaining movie with some great work from both Belmondo and Cardinale. Kino's Blu-ray release looks and sounds great and has some nice extra features as well. Highly 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.