Quiet Days In Clichy [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Blue Underground
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (30th October 2022).
The Film

American expatriate Joey (Paul Valjean) and Austrian Carl (Wayne Rodda) are aspiring writers who can barely pay their boarding house garret room rent let alone afford to eat regularly; but it's a "stretch in Paradise" with the scent of "cunt is in the air" and two hundred franc whores are worth a little starvation or a single night's extravagant meal of oysters and champagne. Both men find distraction from their creative blockages with women, but in different ways: Joey becomes a regular client of prostitute Nys (I Love Blue's Ulla Lemvigh-Müller), as much in love with her body as her ability to live for the day without concern for her future, while Carl inexplicably falls head over heels for Colette (Elsebeth Reingaard), a simple, possibly mentally-handicapped, underage girl whose "brain is between her legs." With funds running low, Nys remains unreachable for Joey, but he, Carl, and Colette form a domestic triangle that extends to the bedroom whenever Joey needs to recharge his batteries. When Colette's parents threaten to press charges if Carl tries to see Colette again.

The two men abscond to Luxembourg but find the farm-bred girls wanting and cannot resist the siren call of Paris where their own psychological baggage gels with the likes of prostitute Mara (Avi Sagild) whose claims of having been a famous artist in Costa Rica may be as much a fantasy as the intrigue she spins around her date with Joey – whose pimp may be planning to rob him – Adrienne (Petronella) who uses the pair's crude behavior against them to pad the bill, acrobat Jeanne (Deviation's Lisbet Lundquist) who comes with Carl but lends a sympathetic ear to Joey when married Danish woman Christine (Susanne Krage) - who reminds him of another Christine who he believes in retrospect he should have married – runs hot and cold on him and balks at the thought of a foursome.

Based on the slight but autobiographical novella by Henry Miller – with Joey as a Miller stand-in and Carl inspired by then-roommate Alfred Perlès – Quiet Days in Clichy is hard to assess as an adaptation. It is fairly faithful in incident to the narrative Country Joe McDonald neatly sums up in his theme song as being "the story of Carl and Joey, the girls they fucked and the women they laid" but it is difficult to determine if director Jens Jørgen Thorsen has transposed the post-WWI American expatriate experience in Paris seems to 1970 – while the wardrobe could be considered eclectic and not particularly anachronistic for the thirties, a poster for Rosemary's Baby is briefly glimpsed and the score includes a mix of jazz and acid rock – or if he simply did not care to attempt to evoke the thirties since there is no sense of the 1968 student riots having had any impact on the these two seemingly counterculture characters and a Luxembourgian restaurateur advertising his establishment as being "free of Jews" seems more reflective of the social climate leading up to the second world war. The tone is for the most part light, almost making light of Joey's philosophy with the seeming assertion that men are driven by their minds and women by something more primal and sexual – with any creativity on their part a means of passing the time – noting that Nys is "floating with the tide, nothing more. She would produce no children, contribute nothing to the welfare of the community, leave no mark upon the world in going. But wherever she went she would make life easier, more attractive, more fragrant." It really is only through the women that the viewer gets any true hint of melancholy as organic to life as their own pursuits of sexual pleasure.

Thorsen's style is simultaneously highly experimental and derivative, with the Luxembourg portion of the narrative largely consisting of a La jetée-esque animation through photographic stills, comic thought bubbles, and Miller's own prose made distinct from Joey's as superimposed text; the latter also helpful in allowing the viewer in better conveying the swagger behind his words – especially for those of us who imagine Miller's voice to be like that of Fred Ward in Henry & June – than Valjean's performance which was dubbed by someone else entirely. The monochrome photography of this Paris-lensed English-language Danish production looks like a cross between Scandinavian sixties arthouse and the East Coast American nudist and roughie softcore films, with a few fleeting hardcore shots during the sex scenes suggestive of the Danish imports that exploited graphic sex through the framework of documentary. Divorced of its original temporal and social context, Quiet Days in Clichy follows the Miller narrative but does not seem to know what it wants to say about it.


Seized by the U.S. government on charges of obscenity of which they were ultimately cleare Quiet Days in Clichy was difficult to see after not due to loss of materials but due to the owner being unwilling to provide Barney Rosset with prints after the charges were dropped. The film made its digital bow on DVD from Blue Underground in 2004 followed by a Blu-ray edition in 2011 looking perhaps as best as we could assume for a film of this budget and obscurity; however, Blue Undergound's new 2160p24 HEVC 1.66:1 widescreen UHD and 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen Blu-ray – also available separately in a DVD edition – restore a wide range of grays to the palette and deeper blacks, conveying newfound textures in everything from the Parisian exteriors and interiors (possibly a Danish soundstage) as well as in the bared flesh of its male and female characters, the enhanced sharpness and clarity making the performer seem more "real." The source for the transfer was a fine grain negative, and presumably the opticals of text and thought bubbles are dupe negative but the degradation in quality seems slight if a little coarser, even with the Dolby Vision HDR on the UHD (one or two instances of text on black might have been digitally-recreated, if so more carefully and considered than Blue Undergound's other releases where they elected to recreate credits rather than digitize the original overlays).


The sole audio option is an English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track. We have no idea about the source materials but presumably the combination of post-dubbing and sparse sound design is as much a reason as the possible unavailability of stems for why Blue Undergound has not done a 5.1 or Atmos remix as they have with other mono films in their library. The track is clean and free of any defects, and English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included. Incidental French dialogue is not translated and the opening "warning" is not transcribed.


The bulk of the extras are ported over from the previous Blu-ray including a pair of Easter Eggs hidden on the main menu page (and inaccessible through the same options on the popup menu) starting with "Song of Clichy" (11:13) in which musician Country Joe McDonald reveals that he was contacted to score the film through a Scandinavian agency that represented his band during their tour, he read the novella on the plane there, wrote the songs on location, and then recorded the score back in New York. He discusses the lyrics as they apply to the source and how he reconsidered using the song in his repertoire after a college performance in which he entered a dialogue with feminists after the show, although he does not look at the film as a "skin flick" and contrasts European and American attitudes towards sex.

In "Dirty Books, Dirty Movies: Barney Rosset on Henry Miller" (17:19), Miller's editor and publisher Rosset discusses his unrest as a college student, his discovery of the obscene Miller novel "Tropic of Cancer" and his desire to publish it after reading it, knowing that it would need a court case to challenge the obscenity charges and publishing D.H. Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover" and using the court case as precedence. He also recalls that Miller was not particularly enthusiastic about the novel being republished at that point in his life living in Big Sur. Of the film, Rosset recalls that it was shot in Paris at exactly the same time as Joseph Strick's Tropic of Cancer adaptation. While he notes that Rip Torn would have been better as Miller (if not for a painful injury before production) than dancer/choreographer Valjean who looked more like Miller but gave the inferior performance, he also notes that Strick better conveyed the darkness of the source material while he felt that Thorsen better understood the female characters. Rosset also produced the infamous Norman Mailer film Maidstone in which Torn nearly killed Mailer with a hammer during a fight scene.

"Midnight Blue" (25:04) is an excerpt from the episode in which Rosset was a guest and interviewed by Al Goldstein, addressing issues of obscenity and censorship, publishing and film distribution, as well as expanding on Rosset's anecdotes about his student days mentioned more in passing in the above interview.

New to this edition are a rediscovered deleted scene (6:11) that appears to follow the bathtub orgy and is more of an experimental montage than a narrative progression, as well as the film's theatrical trailer (4:19), and a trio of still galleries.


The first pressing includes a slipcover. Unfortunately, no booklet is included which would have been a nice addition.


Divorced of its original temporal and social context, Quiet Days in Clichy follows the Miller narrative but does not seem to know what it wants to say about it.


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