La Belle Captive Blu-ray review
Walter Raim sits at the bar in a nightclub, watching couples guide, spin and dip on the dancefloor. When the song ends, a blonde begins a tease just for him, toying with her hair and letting her shoulder straps down. They dance and she tells him, “I have no name. I lost it. If I find it, I’ll tell you.”
Before the night is over, Walter (Daniel Mesguich, Merchant Ivory’s QUARTET, François Truffaut’s LOVE ON THE RUN) is instructed by his leather-wearing, motorcycle-driving boss, Sara Zeitgeist (Cyreille Clair, George Lautner’s LE PROFESSIONAL), to deliver a mysterious letter. On his way home, Walter discovers the body of the woman at the club (Gabrielle Lazure, Salvatore Samperi’s CHASTE AND PURE) in the middle of the road. He takes her to a villa that is occupied by men who seem to be members of a secret society. The two are shown to a room, where they make love. In the morning, there are bite marks on his neck and the house looks like it has been abandoned for decades.
Walter wonders how much he dreamed, and so, too, does the viewer.
More is discovered about the circumstances (there are ghosts and vampires, for starters), but there’s not much sense behind it all. LA BELLE CAPTIVE is not a film that sets out to make much sense, nor does it feel the need to elaborate on any mysteries presented. It instead works as a dream and/or hallucination. This may come as no surprise considering the director is Alain Robbe-Grillet, who helmed 1966’s TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS and penned the surrealist essential LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD for Alan Resnais (which earned him an Oscar nomination).
LA BELLE CAPTIVE is an intriguing work if one is willing to not try to make much (or any) logic out of the story and accept what comes on the screen, from the questionable happenings at the villa to the stream of allusions to the works of René Magritte. Such images are captured in a wonderfully dreamy manner by cinematographer Henri Alekan (who earned an Oscar nomination for 1953’s ROMAN HOLIDAY and has also lensed such gorgeous works as Jean Cocteau’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and Wim Wenders’ WINGS OF DESIRE).
The collaboration between Robbe-Grillet and Alekan is a commendable one, not only presenting memorable images but creating a sense that one is lost and unable to escape what they are now surrounded in. This creates a bit of a nightmare quality that is both eerie and even sexy; it’s the sort of mood that would fit a pairing with Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT.
While LA BELLE CAPTIVE may not resonate as much as LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, but it is still a curiosity and an arresting addition to modern surrealist cinema, completely worth seeking out for those interested in the style.
LA BELLE CAPTIVE screened in competition at the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival, the year the top honors went to the U.K.’s ASCENDANCY and Spain’s A SEASON IN HAKKARI.
Video: 1.66:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. The overall quality of this high-definition transfer is quite strong, with nice contrast, accurate colors and a mild layer of grain that stay true to the style of the film and cinematographer Henri Alekan’s work.
Audio: French Mono DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English. Dialogue is clean and the score plays nicely.
Original Theatrical Trailer