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December 17, 2019

A Sunday in the Country

sunday in country.jpg

Un dimanche a la campagne
Bertrand Tavernier - 1984
Kino Classics BD Region A

The best reason for getting the new blu-ray of Bertrand Tavernier's award winning film is that in addition to the film, there is Tavernier's feature length commentary track. Not only does Tavernier explain how he made the film, but also clears up some previous critical misunderstandings. Tavernier also gives credit to his collaborators, especially former wife and co-writer Colo Tavernier, cinematographer Bruno de Keyzer and source author Pierre Bost.

The film covers one Sunday from morning to evening at the country home of aging artist identified only formally as Monsieur Ladmiral. Taking place in 1912, the home is far enough away from Paris that the visit by Ladmiral's son and family are a special occasion. Disrupting the events is the unexpected visit by Ladmiral's daughter, as free spirited as her brother is formal. The daughter, Irene, appears as a manic force of nature privately masking a more melancholy existence. There is no high drama, but a series of small incidences, of a family that is more often than not disconnected from each other even when sharing the same space.

Taking place shortly before World War I, the story is indirectly about the end of an era. As an artist, Ladmiral has achieved a certain amount of commercial success with his still life paintings. He is also aware that his work will never be as creative or as significant as that of Cezanne or Van Gogh. It is also a matter of time before photography makes his work virtually irrelevant.

Tavernier discusses how the color scheme of the film was influenced by the photography of Louis Lumiere's autochrome process which was introduced in 1907. Amazingly, this was Bruno de Keyzer's first work as cinematographer on a feature film following two shorts. In addition to the continual use of depth-of-field, most of the shots are extended takes with the camera almost constantly in motion, sometimes in a complicated dance with the actors. There are times where in viewing the film one takes notice of small actions in the background in addition to what is seen in the foreground. The camera darts around, presenting a sense of space that is both unified by the lack of cutting, yet also selective in what is seen within the shot at any moment. Also adding to the sense of period is the use of music by Gabriel Faure, some of which was played during the course of the production to allow the camera to move to the rhythm of the music.

Ladmiral is portrayed by the then 73 year old Louis Ducreux, primarily known for his theater work. As Irene, Sabine Azema won several awards. Thirty-five years later, Tavernier's film is virtually the antithesis of much of contemporary cinema with its subtlety and deliberate ellipsis. And hopefully, Kino might be able to bring a blu-ray version of my own favorite of Tavernier's film, the medieval set Beatrice.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 17, 2019 07:39 AM