Story Of Marie And Julien (The) AKA Histoire De Marie Et Julien
R0 - Australia - Accent
Review written by and copyright: Jarrod Baker & Noor Razzak (22nd October 2006).
The Film

Having seen a number of French movies in recent months, I'm beginning to wonder if most French cinema isn't some sort of elaborate joke on the world a joke where the punchline is "Hey! We just stole two and a half hours of your life!"
Sure, there are some exceptions. Some French directors have been known to make films which contain action – or at least which are so funny or so charming that you can overlook the fact that nothing much happens slowly.
And then there are French films like "The Story of Marie and Julien", where you are constantly hoping that the next scene will be a shot of paint drying, because that might be slightly more interesting.
The film's main character, Julien (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), is a restorer of antique clocks a job that makes the careers of the cubicle drones from "Office Space" (1999) or the retail workers from " Clerks" (1994) seem rich and full by comparison. To be fair, Julien is also attempting to supplement his income by blackmailing a woman who has been selling fake antique rugs clearly trying to liven things up a little for himself – so there's at least the potential for something of dramatic interest to happen.
It's just that by the time it gets there and the story has taken a distinct turn for the supernatural you're too weary to care.
The languid pace is set up right from the film's opening, in which Julien dreams of meeting Marie (Emmanuelle Bart), the movie's love interest, in a park at which point they exchange pleasantries, and she tries to stab him. From this description you might think that this would be presented as a nightmare but instead it all plays out very slowly and deliberately.
Julien doesn't even wake from the dream with a start merely slowly lifts his head to take in his pub surroundings, pays his tab then leaves. In fact, the dream has so little apparent impact on him that you begin to wonder if perhaps women try to stab him in all of his dreams (and for that matter, you wonder what bar he was in that wouldn't eject a sleeping patron).
On paper, this movie sounds like it could have been compelling. Having dreamt of Marie – whom he hasn't seen in over a year Julien nearly walks right into her in the street. Surprised to see one another, but both with another destination in mind (she to catch a bus, he to meet the victim of his blackmail plot) they arrange to meet at a caf the next day.
So far, so good. But the "dramatic" scenes aren't all that dramatic in fact they often seem as strangely passionless as Julien's response to his dream of Marie. And the plot is drip-fed to the viewer in between such exciting events as Julien inspecting clocks, sweeping up, and talking to his cat. During which you may have to manually check your pulse to confirm whether your heart is still beating.
If they cut about a third of this film out, it might have been quite good. As it is, you'd be better off watching something an hour shorter, and spending the extra hour doing a bit of tidying up around the house. You'd be just as bored during that last hour, but at least you would have achieved something worthwhile.

Although the packaging states that this disc is Region 4 encoded it is actually Region 0

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1 this anamorphic transfer is very good. The image is sharp and displays fine detail, skin tones were natural and color was nicely balanced although I felt the blacks were at times a bit murky and the film had some grain especially in darker scenes, the occasional moire artefact can be seen but otherwise the print is mostly a solid effort.

Audio

Two audio tracks are present on this release both of which are in French, a Dolby Digital 5.1 plus a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its 5.1 track and found it quite good. The dialogue is clear and distortion free, I found that there was minimal use of the surround channels expect when the score was in effect then it made excellent use of the sound space. Otherwise this is a fine effort that could have been better had the surrounds been put to more effective use.
Optional subtitles are available in English only and I found that there were no spelling of grammar mistakes.

Extras

Accent have included only the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 1 minute 20 seconds plus a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "La Belle Noiseusse" which runs for 1 minute 34 seconds.
- "A Heart in Winter" which runs for 1 minute 43 seconds.
- "Pickpocket" which runs for 1 minute 33 seconds.
- "Persona" which runs for 2 minutes 34 seconds.
- "The Trial of Joan of Arc" which runs for 1 minute 48 seconds.
- "Fanny and Alexander" which runs for 1 minute 43 seconds.
- "Scenes from a Marriage" which runs for 58 seconds.

Overall

The Film: C- Video: B Audio: B Extras: D- Overall: C

 


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