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Cluny Brown Criterion Blu-ray Review

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“Cluny Brown” coasts on star power, but lacks plot.

In 1946’s “Cluny Brown,” the pre WWII set story revolves around the titular character who, after a brief stint as a plumber, ventures off to work as a maid in the country for the Carmel family. In a strange twist of fate, a Czech exile/writer/Professor (Adam) who previously meet Cluny before winds up meeting her again at the Carmel residence but this time as a guest. As the two try to fit in, Adam begins to develop feelings for Cluny. Unfortunately, Cluny has met a suitor in the form of a chemist named Jonathan Wilson.

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, “Cluny Brown” is a strange film that is light on story, full of humorous situations and misunderstandings, very talky but thematically engaging. Narratively, the movie is all over the place though as it feels like the Samuel Hoffenstein and Elizabeth Reinhardt scripted story (which is based on a novel by Margery Sharp) is constantly at odds with itself. Is it a romantic tale? Is it a satire about gender roles, class, and societal norms? Is it a story about two outcasts? It’s all of these things and it’s all a bit chaotic and meandering especially when you throw in the romance between Andrew Carmel and Betty. The movie is really at its best when it focuses on Cluny’s character who goes against the grain and is sometimes shunned because of it (though not by Adam). A further exploration of the subjects of gender roles and the class system would have benefited the story overall as those were the clear strong suits here. A more involved story that didn’t simply involve two people bumping into each other again wouldn’t have hurt either.

Cast wise, both Jennifer Jones (Cluny) and Charles Boyer (Adam) are delightful. Even though a bit more background and development of the Adam character would have been preferred, the ever underrated Boyer knocks it out of the park here. Jones arguably gives one of the best performances of her career as the charming Cluny.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration offers up a super crisp B&W transfer.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? A high quality Mono track.

Extras:
* A booklet containing credits and an essay by author Siri Hustvedt
* A 1950 radio drama adaptation of “Cluny Brown.”
* A new 15 minute video essay by author Kristin Thompson who talks about humor and character expressions.
* “The Lubitsch Touch”- A 14 minute 2004 special on Ernst Lubitsch’s career as a director with film critic Bernard Eisenschitz providing comments.
* “Squirrels To The Nuts”- A newly recorded 16 minute conversation between film critics Molly Haskell and Farran Smith Nehme about “Cluny Brown” and various female characters in Lubitsch films

October 7, 2019 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , ,

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