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Le Beau Serge (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Of the hallowed group of Cahiers du cinéma critics turned filmmakers who would transform French film history, Claude Chabrol (Les bonnes femmes) was the first to direct his own feature. His stark and absorbing landmark debut, Le beau Serge, follows a successful yet sickly young man (A Woman Is a Woman’s Jean‑Claude Brialy) who returns home to the small village where he grew up. There, he finds himself at odds with his former close friend (Les cousins’s Gérard Blain)—now unhappily married and a wretched alcoholic—and the provincial life he represents. The remarkable and raw Le beau Serge heralded the arrival of a cinematic titan who would go on to craft provocative, entertaining films for five more decades.

Special Features

New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition

New audio commentary featuring Guy Austin, author of Claude Chabrol

Segment from a 1969 episode of the French television series L’invité du dimanche in which Chabrol revisits Sardent, the town he grew up in and the film’s location

A 2011 documentary by filmmaker Pierre-Henri Gibert on the making of Le beau Serge

New and improved English subtitle translation

Theatrical trailer

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty

More!


Product Details

  • Actors: Gerard Blain, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michele Meritz, Bernadette Lafont, Claude Cerval
  • Directors: Claude Chabrol
  • Format: Blu-ray, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: September 20, 2011
  • Run Time: 94 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0056ANHR2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,223 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
I feel that "Le Beau Serge" is a very sweet and well thought out film. It tells a story of a young student (Francois Bayon) who returns to his countryside hometown to recuperate. Upon arrival, he runs into a drunkard whom he recognizes to be his childhood friend (Serge). Francois' friend Michel tells him how Serge is on the verge of self-destruction after failing to get his architectural degree. Later, both friends are reunited and have an opportunity to catch up on old times. Francois observes Serge's inconsistent and erratic behavior and tries to help him mend his way. Along the way, Francois meets Serge's wife (Yvonne) and her sister (Marie). Francois has a brief affair with Marie before finding out she is raped by her "father". One night during the village dance, their affair ended with everyone humiliating and ridiculing Francois. Serge, angry with Francois for coming to his life while he's at his lowest point begins to despise beat him up in public. After the incident, Francois realizes that the people in the old village he used to remember are no longer the same. His conversation with the village priests destroyed all the innocent illusions he initially had. While the priest advises him to leave the village, Francois vows to stay on to help Serge and his family mend their lives.
I believe "Le Beau Serge" was Chabrol's first feature film. He later went on to make another feature "Les Cousins" which might be intended to complement "Le Beau Serge". Chabrol engaged actors Jean-Claude Brialy and Gerald Blain for both films with their roles and situations reversed. I first saw "Les Cousins" before "Le Beau Serge". Jean-Claude Brialy, being a brilliant actor that he was, gave out a stellar performance in both films.
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Having seen several films by Claude Chabrol (-IE- "Les Biches", "Le Boucher", "La Rupture", "La Cérémonie", "Merci Pour Le Chocolat") before having viewed this one -- "Le Beau Serge" seems like the work of another filmmaker. Technically this was the first film of the French New Wave. As such, it features (1) some very good black and white cinematography (the snowy scenes towards the end of the picture are especially beautiful); (2) crude and quirky provincial characters that are well delineated; and (3) an excellent score by Émile Delpierre; Chabrol cleverly and effectively used the orchestrations of this score to highlight dramatic moments and character appearances via musical punctuation. Yet in spite of everything I like about this picture -- Its style is not yet Chabrol to me. Although there is an innocence about this film that is refreshing -- Especially in contrast to the sinister direction Chabrol would take to create his unique murder-mystery-thriller-type genre (albeit always tinged with humour).

Secondly -- This picture seems like a companion piece / bookend to Chabrol's second feature, "Les Cousins", in which Gérard Blain and Jean-Claude Brialy are once again cast as the leads. However -- "Les Cousins" exhibits a big leap forward in Chabrol's style -- It offers up some verve in terms of its sophistication and polish. It is obvious that Chabrol learned a lot from "Le Beau Serge" and applied that knowledge to "Les Cousins".
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After watching Chabrol's Le Beau Serge its clear why this isn't the film most people think of when they think "New Wave." In fact this is really more neo-realism or neo-naturalism albeit with splashes of melodrama.

Truffaut and Godard's early works are full of an iconoclastic energy and hugely charismatic stars playing characters who seem to be reinventing life while Chabrol's early efforts are about the impossibility of escaping our connections to the past, in this case our provincial past.

In Le Beau Serge a young cosmopolitan named Francois returns to his country village after being away for ten years. Even though he finds that his old friend Serge and the locals do not really want him there he stays perhaps as much out of a sense of guilt as out of a sense of compassion for Serge and the other villagers who at least in Francois's view seem to have resigned themselves to fates that are somehow beneath them and this is precisely the kind of condescension that annoys everyone when Francois comes around. Even though at the beginning of the film we think this is going to be a story of Serge's redemption by storys end we see that it is a story of Francois' redemption as well. The fates of Francois and Serge seem to be intertwined in some not altogether explainable way.

In Les Cousins, Chabrols second film, a country boy ventures to the city to live with his more sophisticated cousin only to find that he'll never be able to escape the provincial world that formed him. But again the fates of the two cousins seem to be intertwined in some inexplicable way.

The fact that both of Chabrol's first two films star the same two actors in very similar symbiotic relationships reinforces the idea that these two films are to be viewed together.
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