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The Witnesses

4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

André Téchiné`s lush drama follows a close knit group of friends who are faced with the dawn of a sexual revolution in the early 1980s. THE WITNESSES tracks the relationship of a young writer played by Emmanuelle Béart (8 WOMEN, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, STRAYED), her detective boyfriend, a reknown doctor and how their lives collide when a young, attractive gay man joins their circle. Set in Paris and the countryside, Téchiné blends the storylines and parallel lives with an erotic naturalism, yet never ignoring the consequences of sexual freedom.

Directed by acclaimed French director André Téchiné (WILD REEDS, CHANGING TIMES, STRAYED) and starring Emmanuelle Béart (8 WOMEN, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, STRAYED), Michel Blanc (M. HIRE), Sami Bouajila (DAYS OF GLORY), Julie Depardieu ( A SECRET, BLAME IT ON FIDEL, A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT), Johan Libéreau, Constance Dollé.

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Product Details

  • Actors: Emmanuelle Béart, Michel Blanc, Sami Bouajila, Julie Depardieu, Johan Libéreau
  • Directors: André Téchiné
  • Writers: André Téchiné, Laurent Guyot, Vivian Zingg
  • Producers: Said Ben Said
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Strand Releasing
  • DVD Release Date: June 24, 2008
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0016MXK9O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,967 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Witnesses" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Andre Techine's "The Witnesses" was a moving film for me on several levels. The cast and acting are generally superb. The story line which takes us back to the early 1980s and the beginning of the AIDS crisis, is probably (and disturbingly) an accurate reflection of the times which continued to echo the sexual openess of the 1970s and self-absorption of the 1980s.

Still, as one reviewer points out, there is a cold-blooded perspective that would appear to be uniquely French that made me somewhat uncomfortable with the interactions of the film's characters. For people who are supposed to care for each other to the point of obsession, there is precious little affection on offer. This starts with the female lead's complete lack of interest in her new enfant. This same character (a writer) eventually sees opportunity in a tragedy that affects her family and friends. With an American cultural background, it's hard to accept this kind of hard-hearted "moving on."

As for the gay/bisexual characters who are often at the center of the film, they are sympathetic at times, but ruthless and seemingly uncaring at others. Another reflection of the times? Maybe, but I couldn't say it's very close to what I remember of the period in the U.S.
In any event, it's an interesting film with a distinct point of view and serves as a reminder of the ongoing tragedy of AIDS and the huge loss of young lives since the disease first appeared nearly 30 years ago.
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Format: DVD
The Witnesses is the second film Techine made with Emmanuelle Beart, and like Strayed it is also set in the past, although a very different era - the 80s. It deals with the impact of Aids on a group of people, but the approach is shaped by the fact that twenty-odd years have elapsed since the events shown, so it is not so much about the immediate medical and emotional reaction to a person getting Aids, or their suffering, as on the way we remember people who have gone. The director is interested in showing us a broader picture than he probably would have if the film had been made at that time. It is the writer here, played by Beart, who provides the testimony to Manu's life that will be most out there in the world in the future, and this is movingly symbolised by their kiss towards the end of the film. I also liked the way she wanted to tell the truth even though her husband didn't want her to, putting the demands of honesty over his concern with appearances (it meant saying that he had been involved with the young man who had contracted Aids). Much of it is quite tough to watch, particularly the constant conflict between the doctor and Mehdi over how to act in Manu's best interest; however it probably has to be this way and it would be odd, given the subject, if it didn't have these tensions and distress. There are some things that give pleasure, though: the beauty of Manu, tragically ravaged by illness, the moments of connection or understanding of the characters, and the sense of the preciousness of life, which somehow comes across. There is an edgy feel to the film throughout, but it does seem to capture something of the essence of life and is a moving tribute to those who have died, and all the people who did their best for them.
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I think of myself as someone who is so cinema aware, but this brilliant film escaped my attention until just this week. My title for the review is sort of a double entendre as the film reaches such heights of excellence and of course there are scenes up in a private plane that figures in as well. I had watched this movie now twice and it is so good on so many levels. In terms of the acting, there in no weak link. The way it was shot in both Paris and in the countryside is so rich and adds such a texture. The music is perfect, creates moods and the songs of that era give it extra ambience. It deals with the then sad affairs of AIDS during the early period with its hopelessness. The character of Manu, who is stricken with the plague, is played so brilliantly by the young actor Johan Libereau that you have a view into the phsyche of the tragedy of those times of someone dying of AIDS. The sparkle he shows earlier in the film before he is dealt this cruel blow is not there any longer, the boy has become so consumed with the expectation of death that he has skipped many decades to become and old man even if not chronologically.Early in the film and under happier circumstances Manu meets Adrien, an older gay men who he is not sexually attracted to, but feels a connection to as a friend. That role is wonderfully played by Michel Blanc who is short and bespeckled and frustrated in his own words that the only gay taboo is age. Adrien's maturity keeps most gay men at arm's length. The irony is that his inability to get laid makes him one of the lucky ones who does not contract this new terrifying disease. He makes all kinds of facial expression that indicate how jealous he is of the younger men, and his anger boils over that gay life is such a youth culture.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
****1/2

"The Witnesses" is a provocative and moving French drama set in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

It's 1983, and a young gay man by the name of Manu (Johan Libereau) has come to Paris, where his sister, Julie (Julie Depardieu), an aspiring opera singer, lives in a hotel known to be a hotbed of prostitutes. Almost immediately, Manu enters into a platonic relationship with Adrien (Michel Blanc), a middle-aged doctor who falls in love with Manu despite the fact that the young man sees Adrien as just a friend. Adrien introduces Manu to a longtime friend, Sarah (Emmanuelle Beart), a writer of children's books, and Mehdi (Sami Bouajila), her husband who works as a vice cop in the city. Eventually, Manu taps into Mehdi's latent attraction to men and the two strike up a tentative, secret relationship. But before long a mysterious and deadly disease has arrived on the scene, changing the lives of these characters - and of countless others in the world - in ways they could never possibly have imagined.

Even though "The Witnesses" deals with a very grim and serious subject, its primary focus always rests on the characters and the complex relationships that define them. Written by Andre Techine, Laurent Guyot and Viviane Zingg and directed by Techine, "The Witnesses" draws us into the lives of these people precisely because it refuses to make an undue fuss over them and how they choose to live their lives. In fact, much of the narrative feels spontaneous and unformed, almost as if the writers were making it up as they go along. The result is that the incidents don't feel contrived or forced, and we are never tempted to question their credibility.
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