Blu-ray Round-up: Ridley Scott's feature debut 'The Duellists'
Plus Luis Buñuel's 'That Obscure Object of Desire and more
"The Duellists" (Shout Factory), the feature debut of Ridley Scott, is a sumptuous period drama accomplished on a tiny budget. Based on a Joseph Conrad story, it stars Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine as officers in Napoleon's army trapped in a cycle of duels that goes on for decades. Carradine gives D'Hubert a warmth and a humanity that slowly finds a place outside of the military, in sharp contrast to Keitel's Feraud. Under an impeccably groomed and majestically shaped mustache and braided locks swinging with every lunge and parry, Feraud is all his curt manner and simmering intensity, which is as much as we ever know of this man.
Shot in location in France, England and Scottish highlands, Scott suggests battle scenes in isolated details and street scenes in mere slivers of the city where a few extras stand in for the bustling crowds. Interiors are bathed in the golden light of candlelight and nostalgia, like a period painting in motion, while exteriors are wrapped in fog and mist. It's a production triumph in service of a quietly compelling drama that turns on inexplicable obsessive drives long dislocated from the ostensible affront that sparked the conflict.
With commentary by Ridley Scott and a second commentary track by composer Howard Blake with an isolated score, both imported from the previous DVD release, and the new interview featurettes "Duelling Directors: Ridley Scott and Kevin Reynolds" and "The Story of The Duellists" with Keith Carradine.
"That Obscure Object of Desire" (Lionsgate) is the final film from Luis Buñuel, who was almost 80 when he completed this surreal story of love and obsession. In this adaptation of Pierre Louys’ novel "La Femme et le Pantin," written in collaboration with his longtime screenwriting partner Jean-Claude Carrière, his shock effects have mellowed but he’s as unpredictable as ever and he casts two different actresses (cool French model Carole Bouquet and sensual Spanish actress Angela Molina) to play the part of the ambiguous beauty Conchita. Frequent Buñuel star Fernando Rey is the patronizing bourgeois cad who repeatedly tries to buy her favors and justify his actions as he tells his story to a compartment full of train passengers. Josef von Sternberg adapted the same novel for "The Devil is a Woman" and with all the imaginative transformation the different artists bring to the story you’d never know.
Criterion released the film on DVD a decade ago. The Blu-ray debut comes from the Canal Plus HD edition from France and it features a collection of newly recorded interviews with Spanish director Carlos Saura (who knew Buñuel), Buñuel's frequent screenwriting collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, stars Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina, and Buñuel's assistant director Pierre Lary and cinematographer Edmond Richard.
Three 3D German productions, all non-fiction films shot under the seas, arrive on Blu-ray in 3D+standard editions: "Amazing Ocean" (Universal), "Fascination: Coral Reef" (Universal), and "Fascination: Coral Reef – Mysterious Worlds Underwater" (Universal). Each film runs under an hour. The Blu-ray versions require a full HD 3D TV, compatible 3D glasses, and a Blu-ray 3D player.