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Seven Days...Seven Nights (aka Moderato Cantabile)
Peter Brook's 19602 film, Seven Days…. Seven Nights (also known as Moderato cantabile), is the moving story set in a small town on the coast of France. Here we meet Anne Desbarèdes (Jeanne Moreau), the wife of the man (Jean Deschamps) who runs the factory that employs most of the towns folk. Together they have a young son named Pierre (Dider Haudepin). It's clear that Anne wants more than she gets from her relationship with her husband. While the financial security counts for something, there doesn't seem to be much of a spark between the two of them.
Anne takes Pierre to see Miss Giraud (Colette Régis) for his piano lesson one day and during his practice she hears a scream. She and Pierre then learn that a man (Valeric Dobuzinsky) murdered his girlfriend at the nearby Café de la Gironde, a bar that seems to have no problem with prostitutes or johns hanging out. At the bar, Anne meets Chauvin (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a bar fly who just so happens to be, like so many of the other men in town, in her husband's employ. When she asks him for details about what happened, he offers to find out but when he can't come up with much, he makes something up in hopes of keeping Anne's attention. From here, they get to know one another better and begin an affair. When Anne gets drunk at a company function, she leaves her husband to find Chauvin and, presumably, lay with him in the Biblical sense, only to find that he's gone...
Seven Days…. Seven Nights is a sad, at times heart-wrenching romance made with no small amount of style. While it may not offer the thrills and insane stunts that some of Belmondo's better known action films do or the laughs that are offered up by many of his comedic pictures, it does give the man a chance to tackle a dramatic role, something which he's always been more than capable of doing and doing extremely well ( Leon Morin, Priest being an excellent example of just how good an actor Belmondo can be when given material that allows him to do just that). He's excellent here and the beautiful Jeanne Moreau is every bit as good. They have a legitimately believable chemistry here and while we're well aware from the start that she's obviously cheating on her husband, right or wrong be damned, as they spend more time together we want them to be together. There's a connection between the two performers that really pulls you in to what is, for all intents and purposes, a very slow moving story, and that's absolutely a testament to the quality and skill that the two leads bring to the picture. The supporting cast members all do excellent work here as well, there isn't a weak performance in the bunch, but it's the leads that carry the movie and the work of those leads that really sticks with you once the film finishes.
The production values are strong here as well. The stark black and white cinematography from Armand Thirard (who shot such classics as Diabolique, The Wages Of Fear and, of course, Roger Vadim's ...And God Created Woman), is exceptional. Shot in scope, Thirard takes full advantage of the widescreen to really turn the small town into a pretty barren landscape. There are a lot of very striking wide shots that truly give the film a lot of odd, unusual atmosphere that goes a long way towards pulling us in, visually. Brook paces the film very deliberately. There really isn't a massive story here, it's a simple tale of two troubled people falling in love, well aware of why they shouldn't be doing that. The picture is very heavy on dialogue, too much in some scenes, but Brook makes it interesting and involving to watch even when, on paper at least, it shouldn't be.
Seven Days…. Seven Nights arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen taking up 30.7GBs of space on a 50GB disc. Taken from a new restoration provided by Studio Canal, it looks really nice, beautiful in fact. 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. Contrast on the black and white image looks very good, there aren't any problems with the whites being blown out and the black levels looks very strong. There are no problems with any 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. 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 historian Daniel Kremer who offers up quite a bit of information on how the film compares to Marguerite Duras' original novel and on Duras' life and work as well. He goes over the details of the dialogue and nuances of the performances, accurately critiques the performances and offers plenty of insight and analysis of Brook's directing style. He makes some interesting comparisons to the films of Visconti, talks about the importance of the aspect ratio used for the film, gives plenty of info on the different cast and crew used in the picture, how Brook got the backing to make the movie after the failure of his last film, the use of close up shots in the movie and lots more. It's quite interesting and very well thought out.
Aside from that, we get a trailer for Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Viva Maria!, Leon Morin, Priest, Le Doulos and Cartouche (though no trailer for the feature itself), menus and chapter selection options.
Seven Days…. Seven Nights is a deceptively simple romance film made genuinely compelling thanks to some gorgeous cinematography, strong direction and some genuinely fantastic acting from Jeanne Moreau and Jean-Paul Belmondo. It's a slow picture, to be sure, but a rewarding one. Kino's Blu-ray provides the film with a beautiful presentation and an interesting commentary as its primary extra feature. 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.