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***French with English subtitles (French name - Les Seurs Brontë)

In this version, director André Téchiné uses the structure of the relationship between the three remaining Bronte sisters and their brother Branwell Bronte. This is a convenient device since it allows the use of the famous Branwell painting of his sisters as a powerful visual symbol of the movie and their lives. However, to say this movie is all about Branwell is a little misleading even though he occupies significant run time. In the end, it is still the story of the Bronte sisters within that family context.

THE STORY: The movie picks up with the siblings pretty much all into adulthood and seeking education and employment. The movie does not explain that two older sisters had long since passed away when Branwell was only 8 years old. Charlotte, Emily and Anne are industrious and actively seek out knowledge and experience so they can later establish their own school in Harworth. Branwell is torn between a career in writing and in painting. Early in the movie he creates a painting of he and the three sisters together. We know this painting will later become extremely famous due to the image of the sisters and hangs in the National Portrait Gallery of London. Unfortunately, Branwell's efforts are a little more inconsistent than his sister's and he has difficulty with employment and alcohol. The movie gives us somewhat of a view of each sister's personality and events in their lives that likely influenced each famous novel. It was very interesting to see Emily in particular as she is perhaps the most unique personality of the three. She wanders the moors dressed in men's pants for ease of movement and prefers solitude over wider human relationships. She loves the wildlife of the moors while Charlotte prefers the social life she finds in Belgium. In one part of the movie Branwell erases himself from the painting he created of the siblings. This is a powerful foreshadowing device and the painting still shows the marks of his effort today. The truth however, is that he probably just didn't like his own image as he painted it. Branwell, scorned in employment and in love, falls into greater despair and opium use.

It is a real treat to see an earlier film with Isabelle Adjani, Marie-France Pisier and Isabelle Huppert. That said, there is a lot that American viewers need to understand about this production before you decide it's for you. First, Téchiné intentionally shot this in very bleak color schemes and a slow, drab pace. This was to represent the austere and bleak background of the Bronte family and of Harworth. Also it is important to note that Téchiné was part of the Post New Wave French filmmakers. Téchiné is noted for his elegant and emotionally charged films that often delve into the complexities of human condition and emotions. What you can interpret from that is that this movie is more about the relationships and emotion than it is about character development or story line. This will be hard for many American viewers and the movie does drag heavily and drearily all the way through. As I said, this is intentional. In fact, this movie was an extra hour long before edits for it's original release in 1979. I don't know if any 3 hour version was ever officially released.

Though the movie feels so slow, the editing from the 3 hour prototype is so heavy that much of what is happening is lost and the biographical value suffers. When Charlotte finds Emily's writing, the viewer doesn't know specifically that it's from the Gondal Poems. When the sisters collaborate and read each other's drafts, it is the collaboration that becomes the Gondal Poems, not their novels that are being read. This seems trivial, but the whole movie tends to have very clumsy transitions from different periods and events in their lives. The viewer doesn't know the true importance of what is happening unless they researched the Brontes. The production values are also a little dated and the acting a little melodramatic for such an intentionally bland piece. It is still easily on par with many BBC period dramas of that time frame. This is considered a classic after all.

THIS RELEASE and the FRENCH GAUMONT RELEASE: I saw the recent Gaumont release on Blu-ray a year or so before this one so I don't have a side by side. However, I would call this restoration by Cohen more of a dusting off rather than a shining example of restoration. In fact, I could not immediately tell the difference. The sound quality was not great and the visual quality did not nearly match other restorations of even some early 70's movies let alone 1979. I suspect it has more to do with the source material, so I am not specifically commenting on Cohen's efforts or ability. It is improved however. There is less grain, perhaps due to application of DNR as I saw a little more waxy and soft quality to skin tones. That can actually be a negative but I did feel the movie had a little better color. That is hard to tell since it was intentionally drab.

For those who have the Gaumont release, I think you really need to be a hardcore fan to spend money on this upgrade. If you don't have it and still think you want to own this one, pick it up at a reasonable price. I suggest a rental for those who are just curious.
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One of the most significant post-New Wave French filmmakers has been André Téchiné. I've been a huge supporter of his work for several decades now with some of my favorites being 1985's "Rendez-vous," 1994's "Wild Reeds," 2009's "The Girl on the Train" and even 2011's "Unforgettable." I was somewhat surprised, therefore, that I was completely oblivious of his 1979 work "The Brontë Sisters." There is no denying the enduring fascination with the Brontë clan. Who wouldn't want more insight into the family that created these literary giants? But when you cast the fantastic trio of Isabelle Adjani, Isabelle Huppert, and Marie-France Pisier, the film takes on a whole new dimension. What a cast! I was absolutely thrilled to get my hands on this film to see what I had been missing. In this day and age, I'd watch any project that starred just one of these ladies. Putting them together, however, seems an abundance of riches. But for all the star power in his leading ladies, Téchiné seems a bit more focused on their brother Branwell (a terrific Pascal Greggory).

Well made, if largely aloof, "The Brontë Sisters" becomes somewhat of a mixed bag for me. I absolutely loved Greggory and the tale of Branwell. While his arc was certainly vital in relationship to his sisters, I really didn't feel any substantial closeness or even clarity to the women. This biographical drama follows the siblings from an approximate period of 1842 to 1854, from a reclusive upbringing to where the women became publishing phenomena by putting out major works using male pseudonyms. Pisier plays Charlotte (Jane Eyre), Adjani is Emily (Wuthering Heights), and Huppert embodies Anne (Agnes Grey). Charlotte wants to break away from the confines of their limited existence and Anne is devoted to family (specifically Branwell). Emily, however, remains more of an enigma. Solitary and introspective, Adjani spends much screen time silently staring off into space. Despite their differences and escapades into the world, they eventually reunite over the drama of their brother's tumultuous life.

The movie never really goes too deeply into the writing of the novels. We see tiny bits of the artistic process, but this is overshadowed by real life and romantic disillusionment. As I mentioned, the only character that the screenplay fully connects with on an emotional level (at least for me) is Branwell. The sisters certainly didn't lead exciting lives, so the movie has a deliberateness of pacing that might not be for everyone. Still, it is dark and realistic. Pisier gives a full bodied and impassioned performance as Charlotte, while a very young Huppert is quite sympathetic as Anne. But what I'll remember most is Pascal Greggory. He does a tremendous job with a tragic figure. I went into "The Brontë Sisters" expecting to absolutely love it. Instead, I feel like it kept me at an arm's length throughout with a chilly detachment. Although I would recommend it for film enthusiasts, it might not satisfy those looking for fresh perspective of the Brontë sisters. Ultimately, this experience connected more with my head than my heart at about 3 1/2 stars. I'll still round up, though, because of the rarity of seeing such great actresses sharing the screen. KGHarris, 7/13.
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VINE VOICEon August 16, 2013
"The Bronte Sisters" is a biodrama nominated for the top prize, the Palme d'Or, at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival. Director and co-writer Andre Techine achieves an authentic depiction of the bleak, lonely existence of the Victorian-era Bronte sisters, Emily (Isabelle Adjani), Charlotte (Marie-France Pisier), and Anne (Isabelle Huppert).

The young women live in a Yorkshire village under the stern eye of their minister father (Patrick Magee, "A Clockwork Orange"), and also must deal with their troubled, opium-addicted brother, Bramwell (Pascal Gregory). While all four siblings have artistic ambitions, their dreams are thwarted by romantic disappointments and tragic illness. But against all obstacles and using pseudonyms, the sisters publish their poetry and novels.

Through beautiful cinematography and highly atmospheric music (by Philippe Sarde), Techine contrasts the sisters' humdrum lives with the wildly romantic fantasies that they created in such novels as "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre." Blu-ray extras include a 60-minute documentary featurette and audio commentary. The film is in French, with English subtitles.
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on September 16, 2014
"The Bronte Sisters"(1979) is directed by Andre Techine. This film is about the three famous authors/sisters who lived in England in the countryside, and all died at a very young age(29,30,38). The father, Patrick Bronte, survived his whole family, living until age 84.The director wanted to minimize any fantasy about the sisters and in doing so also minimized most of the drama. What we are presented with is a very dour, grey, and quiet movie, very northern European. This film might best be watched in the dead of winter with a fireplace to warm one's being. Yes, it is grim, and the characters often seem overly restrained with pent up feelings ready to burst, but this is an interesting film with many beautiful haunting landscapes as nature was an important aspect of the sisters lives which was depicted in their novels like "Wuthering Heights".

This movie also includes a 60 minute documentary with interviews with the director and screenwriter, and an 8 page booklet with photos and credits.
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on April 14, 2014
What a gorgeous film! Unfolding like a series of romantic paintings, THE BRONTE SISTERS captures the period, the flavor and above all the mood of the tortured and tumultuous world that spawned the brooding, intense artistry of Emily, Charlotte and Anne (and, to a much lesser degree, brother Branwell) Bronte who lived, all too briefly, in the first part of the 19th-Century in the northern moors of England.

Starring a trio of France’s most acclaimed actresses, the film offers a keen observation into the lives of this startlingly talented but doomed family.

Of course the story of the Brontes is thoroughly English, and it could be viewed as somewhat presumptuous of a group of French artists to attempt the definitive telling of this gothic tale. Wisely, as stated in the very good hour-long documentary that accompanies the film, this was never the intention. Rather, they set out to capture an impression of the lives of this melancholy family. The definitive treatment of the Bronte siblings was, in this reviewer’s opinion, realized a few years earlier than this film, in 1973, with a British television mini-series entitled The Brontes of Haworth, a brilliant production.

Having said that, the subject matter more than sustains both interpretations. And, given the world-wide appeal of such Bronte-written works as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, a non-English perspective is wholly appropriate and refreshing.

The slow pace of THE BRONTE SISTERS helps to define the world they occupied as well as the family’s world-view. For the most part this approach works wonderfully well. Where it may not succeed is in providing the viewer with sufficient insight into the personalities of the sisters.

Part of the reason for this appears to be the focus on brother Branwell, played by a newcomer at the time the film was made, Pascal Greggory, who simply does not have the acting pedigree of Isabelle Huppert, Isabelle Adjani and Marie-France Pisier. Then again, maybe that is the point: Branwell was a lesser talent than his sisters—or at least was so bent on self-destruction that his talent as a painter never flowered the way his sisters’ ability to paint with words did.

This imbalance is, curiously, repeated in the otherwise already mentioned fine documentary, made only a few years ago. Actor Pascal Greggory is interviewed at length, while not even a peep is heard from the actresses who played his sisters.

The beauty of THE BRONTE SISTERS lies in the haunting compositions and attention to period detail. Few are as brilliantly able to realize the soul of an historical film like the French. In this meticulously re-mastered edition of the 1979 production all the intended beauty of the piece is on glorious display for those who relish such films. Bravo to the Cohen Film Collection for bringing this classic of French cinema to North American audiences in the very best way possible.

Those who undertake the restoration and distribution of classic cinema deserve our utmost thanks and appreciation. Long may the worthwhile work of The Cohen Collection continue!
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on March 19, 2014
I don't know how I missed this really great old film! I'm glad it is back out and I can have it in my collection!
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