Wellspring Media // 1999 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // March 26th, 2004
Some fairy tales are beyond grim.
Uncle Coco (Bernard Blancan) returns home after a strange fifteen-year absence. His brothers Francky (Serge Riaboukine) and Alex (Pascal Cervo) are more than happy to have him back, although Coco's two nieces aren't so sure. Especially after seeing a different side to Coco that the others do not see. A very, very dark side.
Skin of Man, Heart of Beast is a chilling film, in terms of its effect on the audience. Rarely have I been so creeped out by a film, at least not since Marat/Sade (1967). Writer/director Helene Angel has made a remarkable debut with this combination of domestic drama and suspense thriller.
This isn't your ordinary thriller. Angel cares too deeply for her characters to make one of those films. What makes Skin of Man, Heart of Beast so effective is that the events unfold in unpredictable fashion. Even though you sense something isn't quite right, in no way are you prepared for what unfolds on screen. You will feel as if you hit a brick wall during the finale.
The acting is exceptional. The entire cast is unknown to me, but the whole film would fall apart if it weren't for the Bernard Blancan performance. He has to put on an air of normalcy, yet he is clearly insane. I understand what I have said doesn't make much sense, but think about it: remember how whenever someone goes on a killing spree, the media always interviews the neighbors, and always with the same response: "He seemed like such a nice guy!" It is that duality of man that Blancan so brilliantly captures as Coco.
If only the disc had been better. Wellspring presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Unlike sister release The River, at least Wellspring has offered anamorphic enhancement this time around. The transfer itself is, sadly, not up to snuff. The image looks muddy and dull throughout. Grain is often present, as is poor contrast in blacks and shadows.
Audio is allegedly Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround stereo. It doesn't have the vibrancy and clarity of the best 5.1 audio tracks. But then again, Skin of Man, Heart of Beast isn't the type of film that needs an extraordinary mix. It's serviceable, but I just can't shake the feeling that this is very good mono rather than a true stereo track. Since the keep case and player say otherwise, I'll play along.
Extras are a department Wellspring needs to work on. Only the film's theatrical trailer is offered here. Oh, well. At least we have a trailer this time around, unlike The River.
If you're an aficionado of foreign cinema, or are just plain curious about Skin of Man, Heart of Beast, a rental is the best way to go with this disc. I can't justify spending money on a disc of sub-par quality.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Wellspring Media
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer