"You die plenty in movies! Especially if you retake a scene ten, twenty times. I've died a thousand deaths."
One Hundred and One Nights is a French film by director Agnes Varda. The French title, according to the ever handy Internet Movie Database, is Les Cent et une nuits. Now, I'll be the first to warn you, I don't speak a word of French, and probably never will. Well, to be fair, I know a couple of basic words, like yes and Mister. Nothing worth anything. French has always been an oddity in my life, always making for something interesting, if usually quite odd, when it appears within my boundries.
This disc is no exception. An extremely quirky film, One Hundred and One Nights follows a young student pursuing her Masters in Film as she "apprentices" or "clerks" for an aging man whose life has been of major significance to the world of moving pictures. Simon Cinema (Michel Piccoli), or Mr. Cinema as he is often referred to as, is the movie figure. He has young Camille Miralis (Julie Gayet) hired to 'tutor his mind' in movies and movie history.
Sometimes I review discs that "just fit into a niche." Actually, every disc, and every film, fits into certain little genres and classifications. One supposes it's the types of films not as often seen that tend to stand out as "niche" films. In any event, to the typical consumer, "niche film" is an accurate statement to describe One Hundred and One Nights with.
It seems to be a retrospective of cinema, with just enough fictional elements to actually make it a story, rather than a documentary. The vast majority of the film's time is spent on "memory" segments where Simon Cinema reminisces over the great films and film moments of yesteryear. These segments don't really take "best of" tones, but rather move from one quirky little memory to another. Many of the memories will be familiar to American audiences, as will many of the "cameo" appearances of film stars playing themselves.
The film is French, and is presented on disc with only the original French language track intact, a Dolby 2.0 track. The video is solid, but ultimately uninspired. I think some of this is due to the "European" look of the film, which places some of the burden on the film's original production, rather than on the disc production house. The transfer is clean, but the film is so darkly lit, so, well, drab, that it's difficult to really form an impression either positive or negative about the transfer. The audio is stereo only, but the movie is almost exclusively dialogue—continuous streams of dialogue without the kinds of background music and noises Hollywood films so often work into conversation. Thus, there aren't many spacial effects to move around in the sound field; just lines and some music here and there.
The menu is solid enough, loading quickly and presenting the options clearly. The disc includes a complete cast list, including cameo appearances, and also the expected biographical text on key members of the cast and production. The film's trailer is also presented, full frame, and without subtitles.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There aren't really any objections to the disc itself. An English track might have been a nice addition, for those who would like to keep their eyes on the image and not the subtitles. This isn't a major error, however, just an unrequited wish.
Ultimately, this seems to be solid hit treatment of a smaller catalog film. Most "objections" would tend to be little niggling comments about the film itself, which really isn't the point here. It's a pleasant film, but very rambling, and even odd. It tends to give every appearance of being a "foreign" film to an American consumer's eye, but this isn't a bad thing, merely just an item of trivia.
The disc is a solid effort on behalf of a smaller entry in the DVD marketplace, and surely will be a crowning gem in some collections out there.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Fox Lorber
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