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Manon Blu-ray Review

Manon

“Manon” is a dark and strange journey.

Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot (who is perhaps best known for “The Wages of Fear” and “Les Diaboliques”), “Manon” begins with a ship Captain smuggling Jewish people into Palestine. However, they aren’t the only occupants as there are two stowaways (a fugitive named Robert and his lover Manon). After being caught, Robert recounts the story of how they met amidst war, their troubled post-war life, what crime Robert committed, and what led them to being on this ship. What happens next? Will they be turned into the authorities? Will they continue a life on the run? Are they doomed?

1949’s “Manon” (which is an adaptation of Abbé Prévost’s novel “Manon Lescaut”) feels like numerous movies in one. It’s a tragic romance tale about lovers who try to live a dream life, but continuously fail. It’s partly a noir story with the titular Manon being a sort of femme fatale. It’s partially a story about misogyny and male toxicity. I’d also contend it’s a darkly cynical story about the pursuit of happiness (the end is particularly cruel). Together, all of these elements create a rather bizarre journey that doesn’t go where you’d think. On one hand, that’s rather refreshing, but on the other hand, it feels a bit cluttered. Sure, it all comes together in the end, but it also feels disjointed to an extent.

Perhaps the main issue with “Manon” is the romance itself. Initially, Robert and Manon quarrel, but within moments, they fall in love in an overdone melodramatic fashion. You never really see why they are attracted to one another outside of appearances. Now, it’s possible that was intentional to create a scathing take on that sort of idealized romance, but it’s also problematic when you can’t see why these two continue to stick with another (especially with their frequent cyclical feuding). 

However one may feel about “Manon,” there’s no denying that Henri-Georges Clouzot is a masterful director. His shot selection and ability to tell a story with such scope is nothing short of skillful.

The cast here is strong. Even though you may struggle to buy into their love, Michel Auclair (Robert) and Cecile Aubry (Manon) are committed to their parts. The real show stopper though is Serge Reggiani as Manon’s vile and sleazy brother Leon.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? A downright beautiful transfer.

Audio Track: French Mono 1.0. How does it sound? The Mono track does the job.
Extras:
* Image gallery
* A booklet featuring credits and an essay by writer/Professor Ginette Vincendeau
* “Bibliotheque de poche: H.G. Clouzot”- A 46 minute 1970 documentary in which Clouzot talks about literature and cinema.
* “Woman In The Dunes”- A video appreciation by film critic Geoff Andrew who talks about Clouzot and his filmography.

March 10, 2020 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , ,

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