Page Turner, The (US - DVD R1)
For his 200th review Gabe checks out a sharp, classy, and sexy French thriller...
Mélanie, a ten-year-old, middle class butcher's daughter, is a very gifted piano player. During a very important Conservatory entrance exam Mélanie is distracted by jury member Ariane Fouchécourt, who signs an autograph for a fan. Mélanie fails and never plays piano again. Ten years later, the crafty Mélanie slides her way back into the unsuspecting Ariane's life, and patiently plots her revenge.
"Vengeance is a dish best served cold"
In this case cold as a glacier in the deepest, darkest centre of the Antarctic. The Page Turner ( La Tourneuse de pages) may appear to be moving slow motion a great deal of its run time, but by film's end one realizes it's as taught as a well tuned piano wire. Our villainess is cold and detached as her methods. The film is sharp, sexy and classy, all the tag line you could want from a proper thriller.
The baroque music mixed with a downtrodden modern atmosphere forces the audience to read between the lines on a constant basis. The writer/director Denis Dercourt doesn't feel the need to explain the characters or plot. Things will keep moving whether you're with it or not, and it's this kind of intelligent filmmaking that makes me bristle with excitement.
I'm not a good enough film fan to be familiar with the filmmakers or stars, including the young lead Déborah François, who is so heart-stoppingly sexy at some points in the film it's almost distracting (and the accent doesn't hurt). I am more than a little curious now about her other work, and the work of Dercourt, who apparently won great acclaim for his third film Lise et André in 2000.
The film's insistence on class may turn some viewers off, and I'll admit it overplays its hand on occasion. Vengeance is a bit of an overdone film concept as well, but this one is so different without being unfamiliar. I also admit the plot hinges on quite a few coincidences, but some are easily explained when one simply thinks in the terms the film has given François' character. I really don't want to go into the plot's intricacies for the sake of readers that will want to see the film. It's not that there's some kind of huge twist or unexpected final outcome, but the joy of watching the film is the squirm inducing dread of where are modern film watching sensibilities tell us this story is going to end.
The finale could put a damper on things for some, but those familiar and respectful of with the work of Michael Haneke (specifically Cache) could find much worse ways to spend eighty minutes of their life.
The Page Turner appears to be an interlaced transfer. Combing and other interlacing effects aren't awful, but present. Colours are a bit washed out, but it appears that this was part of the filming style. Details could stand to be a little sharper, and do suffer from a bit of blocking. Edge enhancement is also a problem, as is some bleeding (check the actress' face against the sky in my last screen cap).
The overall soundtrack is very subtle and quiet, with the obvious exception of the musical sequences. This silence is cut (very slightly) by audible hiss when these subtle sound effects come in. The music is lush and thick, and changes its sound depending on venue quite gracefully. When played in an auditorium, the music dances through the surround channels, which are relatively quiet for the rest of the film.
The only real extra is a making-of featurette. With-in it we find out that Dercourt is very familiar with music himself—very, very familiar. We also learn that the actors are not so familiar with music. Cheaters! If one looks closely one can see that the often the fingering doesn't match up to the music, which totally doesn't matter, but it's interesting to see the behind the scenes process of muting instruments and faking it, even if it isn't really talked about all that much. For a relatively brief thirty-eight minutes, the doc covers pretty much everything you could possibly want to know about the feature.
The disc also features a trailer, and trailers for other Tartan USA dramatic releases (and because it isn't an Asia Extreme release I didn't have to sit through that unskippable studio promo that I hate so much).
There are no lofty ideas or earth shattering revelations here, just a simple and well-told story. Think of it as a classic Pam Grier blaxploitation film for high class, French, aristocratic music snobs. It finds its way to the same resolution through more subtle means. Not everyone's cup o' tea and biscuit with caviar, but those willing to take a break from the hustle, bustle, and big bang of the summer's biggest theatrical releases should be happy.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 10th July 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Surround French
Extras: Making Of, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Denis Dercourt
Cast: Catherine Frot, Déborah François, Pascal Greggory, Xavier De Guillebon
Length: 81 minutes
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