NOTE: This DVD is PAL and will NOT work in American DVD players unless they have been converted to all region.
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Alpha France has given beautiful releases to some of the finest French and American hardcore features. This release features two films, one by a maverick auteur, the other by a just above average schlock artist. Let's see how they stack up...
Supremes Jouissances (1977) (presented here as Belles D'un Soir
The below review contains partial spoilers.
Early 70s art house filmmaker Claude Mulot switched over to making hardcore films in 1975, adopting the name of the lead character in his first feature (1969's The Blood Rose), Frederic Lansac, and using it as his nom d'erotique. After directing the outstanding Pussy Talk, Mulot went on to helm several other hardcore gems before returning to softcore and ultimately meeting a tragic end in 1986.
While not nearly as well known as some of his other X rated outings, Supremes Jouissances stands as not only one of his most accomplished films, but also his most perplexing. Telling the story of three intelligent, upper middle class working Parisian women who, after realizing they are simply objects in the eyes of their husbands, decide to leave them and create new, liberated lives.
While their individual quests for liberation seem to be initially met with the freedom they were seeking, they soon discover that society is structured to force those who try to free themselves from its norms to return to their enslavement.
While the above synopsis might make this film sound like an out and out feminist critique, Supreme Jpuissances is anything but. It would almost be accurate to state that Mulot is as much criticizing the impossible ideology of feminism as he is viciously attacking the male dominated society which cannot stand for any woman walking out of her "place."
As the three heroines seek their freedom, they are constantly being subtly abused by those around them and, finally, become their own tormentors as the film climaxes with their complete return to subjugation. However, Mulot wisely refrains from either blaming his heroines for their resubmergence into male domination or showing them as content with their place in life. He instead presents them as the helpless victims of a male dominated world, in which women are punished for speaking out.
Roger Fellous' surprisingly colorful cinematography adds an additional visual layer to this masterfully crafted film. Though his compositions are sumptuous and rich, they are equally cold and sad, perfectly compliment the plight of the protagonists. Dany Darras and John Saparto's beautiful instrumental score and lush, mournful theme provides a sorrowful reminder of the film's theme.
While Supremes Jouissances will certainly not be to everyone's taste, it is one of the strongest and most poignant French hardcore works of its time and remains a scathing criticism of social norms.
NOTE: The above review corresponds only to the French language version of this film. The English dubbed edition, which is also included here, is a virtual insult to this powerful work. Dubbed by some of the least talented voice actors I've ever heard, is is not only painfully inaccurate but eliminates and changes a great deal of the dialogue to the point that the film comes off almost as a screwball comedy (which it most certainly is not). If you are not a French speaker, I would strongly advise you to take the English dub version with a grain of salt as it all but ruins this carefully crafted masterpiece.
Star rating ***** out of *****
La Grande Mouille (1979) (Presented here as Parties De Chasse En Sologne)
Claude Bernard-Aubert is perhaps the French hardcore director most fitting of the adage "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" as all through his unsubstantial career of mostly silly and frequently throwaway films, he never made one memorable film (with the possible exception of the exceedingly silly La Fessée in 1976). Nevertheless, he tried and tried, directing upwards of 6 films a year, each as nondescript as the last.
La Grande Mouille is a wonderful example of just what made Aubert's films so underwhelming, yet ostensibly watchable. The film relies on a most basic and simple premise to string together a series of well enough photographed, though never very interesting, sex scenes. A group of wealthy socialites gather for a weekend of hunting. They do indeed hunt, but have a lot more sex than shoot.
Though the film relies heavily on carnal content to fill its running times, it remains surprisingly fast paced.
Aubert wisely gives the sex scenes enough pseudo-quirks that, although they drag, are still at least not completely boring. Most notable is a rather amusing sequence in which one of the hunters, standing on a boat and rowing, gets sucked off. This scene is interspersed with shots of the rest of the guests shooting ducks.
Though there's nothing intrinsically interesting about this, it at least has an edge, even though it's a rather dull one.
Star Rating **1/2 out of ****
Both films are presented in their original aspect ratios of 1.66:1 and have been mastered off of 35mm prints. Both prints have their share of mild lines but thankfully have good color and very nice sound. French language and English dubbed tracks are offered for both films, but sadly no English subtitles for the French tracks. Both mono tracks on each film are well mixed. My main gripe with this release is Alpha France's unexplainable choice to superimpose new titles over both films. Although this causes only a minor nuisance, I'm deducting half a star simply because pointless retitling is both pointless and unacceptable.
Alpha France has included the original trailers to both films as well as six other trailers. They have also included a series of unrelated sex scenes taken from other films which run a total of just over a half hour. Nothing remarkable. It would have been nice if lead actress in both films, Brigitte Lahaie had been called in to discuss her work in either of these two films.
Though I have never seen either of these films in any version besides the ones offered here, I cannot assert that they are complete, though neither featured any evidence of censorship or "re-editing."
Who should see it?
Fans of Mulot ought to treat themselves to Supremes Jouissances, which is almost certainly the director's hardcore masterpiece. Fans of Brigitte Lahaie will also probably enjoy this double feature as it stars her prominently. Generally speaking though, any fan of quality hardcore cinema (with the emphasis on cinema) is sure to appreciate Supremes Jouissances.
Who Should Skip It?
This double is actually an all around crowd pleaser. While those actually interested in seeing a great movie will surely be delighted by SJ, those only wanting to observe mindless fornication ought to be satisfied by GM. The only caution I will give is, once again, the English dub of SJ is horribly inaccurate and kills the film. Thus, unless you're OK with watching a movie in which the people talking will (unintentionally) make you laugh almost nonstop, you might want to invest in some French lessons before picking this one up.
Though this release isn't perfect (WTF with the superimposed retitles???), Alpha France has done an otherwise excellent job presenting two films, one of which is an unquestionable gem, the other harmless fun.