Moon in the Gutter [Blu-ray] [Import]
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BETTY BLUE director Jean Jacques Beineix's terrifically atmospheric and vastly underrated adaptation of David Goodis' noir classic stars Gerard Depardieu as a raffish longshoreman who mourns his raped, suicided sister amongst the bars and sleazy dives of the seedy Marseilles waterfront. When mystery girl Nastassja Kinski goes slumming in his neighborhood, Depardieu is bewitched by her beauty and soon learns she may know something about the identity of his sibling's attacker. Updates writer Goodis' dark urban underworld into a color-coded dreamland of nightmarish regret and longing, yet still somehow faithfully retains the essence of the original novel. Delirious, audacious and unashamed of its breathtakingly stylized sets.
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Top Customer Reviews
The movie takes place mostly in a lower class neighbourhood, or at the docks where Gerard (Gerard Depardieu) works, and focuses on the women in his life, including his tigress girlfriend, Bella (Victoria Abril), as he tries to make sense of his sister's death. When Gerard meets Loretta (Nastassja Kinski), a wealthy amateur photographer, she seems to reveal a better, ideal world, beyond his squalid life. This is emphasized in a billboard image of a tourist destination that is seen behind Loretta as she drives up to his house. This stylized and melancholic film, with a wonderfully eclectic soundtrack by Gabriel Yared, is beautifully lit and directed. Its often dream like quality reflects a complex world of disillusionment, and hope where convalescence resides.
The blu-ray is actually closer in quality to what one would expect from a dvd given its lack of detail. The special features include an interview with the director (16 min), movie stills, and the director's first film "Mr. Michel's Dog"(15 min).
Many scenes showed the typical J-J B characteristics - the lighting, the frame composition - which I enjoyed. The plot is flawed and parts of the film were drawn out (the film is over 2 hours long). But if you are a Beineix fan, like I am, you still get something from it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Richard Leo Jackson
Gerard Depardieu is at his best and he has rarely looked so hot in a movie. Beineix shot some of the most flattering close-ups I have seen of him. Nastassja Kinski was at the peak of her beauty, and as always is a striking presence, but sadly there's not much character development to her part. Best of all is Victoria Abril, rightfully nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Cesar, who brings an much needed energy to the film, even if she's playing a stereotype. The scenes between Depardieu and Kinski are the most visually beautiful, but the acting honors go to the ones with Abril and Depardieu. It's amazing that Kinski and Abril were so young (23?) when they shot this film, since they bring an emotional complexity and maturity, expressed in very simple gestures, that I cannot imagine in any contemporary young actress.
To sum up, I recommend checking it out for the visuals and the acting, but it's flawed. It would be wonderful if somehow the edited scenes were to be found somewhere and Beineix could do a better, longer edit, like he did with Betty Blue.
As you'd expect from one of the creators of the cinema du look, it's a striking looking film, shot at Cinecitta on lovingly crafted not quite naturalistic sets in neon reds, greens and more muted orange and teals before the latter became a visual cliché, and the heightened stylisation extends to almost every aspect of the film. Thus Kinski's entrance is played at length to the accompaniment of a vivid piano concerto as she slowly walks into a bar, the camera slowly caressing her from a respectful distance as the director creates a bit of cinematic grand opera out of a character not actually doing very much, which sums up a lot of the film. It's a mood piece that's more about the filmmaking than the story or characterisation, the former anorexic, the latter striving for the iconic but settling for archetypes, and if you're not in the right mood it'll try your patience to the limit. Everything happens very slowly, very deliberately, allowing you to either wallow in the visuals or beat your head against the wall as you wait for something to happen. Very little does and even less is resolved. Sometimes you'll get a sequence where the studio setting allows Beineix such complete control of the elements that you'll get a virtuoso display of filmmaking, such as a fight in a banana warehouse, a rapid tracking shot along a gutter or a last kiss in an alley, but what's missing in a film about the way pain paralyses the heart and soul is an emotional connection with the characters. They're part of the scenery, seemingly chosen for how they look rather than what they make you feel.
There is a plot, of sorts, or at least an excuse. Still haunted by the rape and death of his sister that destroyed his family, Depardieu hangs around the docks where she was killed, constantly drawn to the still bloodstained gutter where she died, perhaps looking for her killer but more probably just looking for something to come into his life. That something is Kinski's rich girl, who he meets when she tries to bring her drunken and existentially empty brother home from the aforementioned bar (the film is big on existential emptiness and the ennui of humid nights in seedy neighbourhoods). But is she enough to drag him away from his corrosive obsession? And does Beineix really care?
Maybe once upon a time there was something that anchored these setpieces in enough of a character-driven plot to make us care about these people as much as the director cares about the images, but it has trouble sustaining its 138-minute running time, so it's hard to believe that the director's intended four-hour director's cut (which will never see the light of day since all the deleted footage was destroyed in the wake of the film's failure) would have been a lost masterpiece. If anything it feels like the ideal double-bill companion for Coppola's equally garish One From the Heart, another film that loses sight of the emotions with all the visual overkill. Although he doesn't mention that film in the 16-minute interview on the US DVD, Beineix does admit to making the film in a state somewhere between a reverie and an obsessive belief in his own invincibility much like that Coppola displayed before the box-office brought him back to earth.
Unfortunately the US DVD is marred by an easily avoidable subtitling problem: despite being a 2.35:1 widescreen film and there being ample room in the black bar below the image area, the non-removeable subtitles are presented over the picture, which is particularly disastrous in the first half hour here as they often hide important visual information in the lower part of the frame: a shot of blood red water in a gutter turning black is lost behind subtitles while long dialogue scenes almost look like characters have white tape over their mouths. It's rare for subtitling to be this conspicuous or damaging, but this DVD certainly manages it.