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Blu-ray Review: StudioCanal Collection

★★★★☆

The 2012 StudioCanal Collection brings together some of cinema’s most iconic films, both past and present. The latest classics to make their way onto Blu-ray courtesy of the UK distributor’s 5000-strong catalogue of titles come from Orson Welles, Luis Buñuel and Marcel Carné in the forms of The Trial (1962), That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) and Le Quai des Brumes (1938) – all released this Monday (10 September).

The Trial, based on Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel of the same name, is the film which Welles considered to be his best. Anthony Perkins stars as Josef K, a man arrested and put on trial by a sinister and unspecified authority who do not reveal to him the nature of his crime, and of which the audience also remains unaware. Framed by an opening tale that describes the story as following the logic of a nightmare, Josef proceeds to lurch between unconnected rooms and varying seductresses (including Jeanne Moreau and Romy Schneider), via the director himself as the antagonistic advocate, Hastler. The Trial is a visual treat throughout, in terms both of production design and its noirish cinematography from Edmond Richard, with several sequences that will last long in the memory.

Also shot by Richard is Buñuel’s directorial swansong, That Obscure Object of Desire. The plot follows debonair gentleman Mathieu (Fernando Rey) as he gets onto a train at Seville. As it departs, a young woman chases along the platform and is subsequently drenched by Mathieu with a bucket of water. He proceeds to relay to the confused inhabitants of his compartment the story of his volatile romance with the woman, Conchita.

Playing with Bunuel’s long-standing interest in the denial of sexual fulfilment, the film sees Conchita deny Mathieu (and thus herself) whilst simultaneously teasing him. Her whims and mood swings are exemplified by the fact that she is played by two different actresses; Carole Bouquet and Ángela Molina.

The third title released on the StudioCanal Collection label this week is Carné’s Le Quai des Brumes (Port of Shadows), which was banned by the French government upon the outbreak of the Second World War for being “immoral, depressing and detrimental to young people.” Newly restored by La Cinémathèque Française and StudioCanal, this bleak vision sees a French army deserter, Jean (Jean Gabin), arriving in the grim port city of Le Havre. Saturated with an overwhelming fatalism, the film is full of characters consumed by their murky pasts and the knowledge that there will not be a brighter tomorrow. Gabin is tremendous with able support from the sexy young gangster’s dame, Nelly (Michèle Morgan), and her unsettling guardian (Michel Simon).

For more info on the StudioCanal Collection, visit studiocanalcollection.com.

Ben Nicholson