• Cosmos

    Released by: Arrow Academy
    Released on: October 17th, 2016.
    Director: Andrzej Zulawski
    Cast: Sabine Azema, Jean-Franacois Balmer, Jonathan Genet
    Year: 2015

    The Movie:

    Based on the 1965 novel by Witold Gombrowicz, Cosmos, Andrzej Zulawski's final motion picture, follows a young man named Witold (Jonathan Genet) who has tried but failed to pass the bar exam. He and his friend Fuchs (Johan Libereau), a man who has just recently left his job in the fashion industry, are getting some rest and relaxation at a guesthouse run by the Madame Woytis (Sabine Azema) and her husband Leon (Jean-Francois Balmer).

    When Witold comes across a dead sparrow hanged in the nearby woods, things take some strange twists and turns, particularly once he meets and becomes obsessed with Lena (Victoria Guerra), Madame Woytis' daughter. And then there's the unusual matter of the maid and Leon's unusual tendency of explaining the meaning of life with one word: 'Bleurgh.'

    A genuinely strange film, Cosmos is complex and philosophical in the way that most of Zulawski's work tends to be, but at the same time it's also a simple story of people interacting with one another. We get elements of romance, drama and even a bit of science fiction in and amongst the meandering philosophical nature of the film. It's all quite fascinating, even if it might take repeat viewings to really click. It's also not nearly as dark as some of Zulawski's better known pictures. While there are certainly macabre moments here, the hanged sparrow and what follows are good examples, but there is some effectively dark comedy at work as well.

    The performances are solid here. Genet makes for a perfectly believable leading man, a young guy just trying to get away from the pressures of the world. We can buy him in the part with no trouble at all. Likewise, the same qualities apply to Libereau. Really though, it's Sabine Azema, Jean-Francois Balmer and Victoria Guerra who make more of an impression. They're an odd family to be sure but these three actors are careful not to overdo it lest this all crumble down into some sort of self-parody. Additionally the production values are top notch. Zulawski may have shot this digitally in high definition and so it lacks the texture inherent in 35mm film, but once you get accustomed to seeing his work presented this way you won't mind so much. Rather, you'll get lost in the visuals and be consistently impressed with the creativity behind the compositions used in the picture.

    Zulawski likes visual contrast. Here he pairs off suicide with passionate sex, and in doing so quite literally pairing life and death against one another. Surrealism and reality are also occasionally at odds with one another throughout the film as Zulawski posits that while all of this might be meaningless, we should at least try to find something more here. Cosmos is definitely one of those pictures out of which you will receive as much as out of it as you are willing to invest in it. This is not an easy film, but it is remarkably well mad and in its own bizarre way, genuinely fascinating.


    Cosmos arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. Shot digitally, the picture is crystal clear showing no print damage, dirt or debris. Colors are nicely handled here and look quite natural, especially in the scenes that take place outdoors. Black levels are nice and deep and there are no problems with compression artifacts or overt aliasing. Skin tones are nice and natural looking and the transfer sports strong detail, good depth and impressive texture.

    The only audio option offered is a French language DTS-HD 5.1 with subtitles provided in English only. The 5.1 track uses the surround channels rather well when music is used and during the few scenes that feature more aggressive sound effects/foley. The track is crisp, clean and clear with good balance and no audible defects to note.

    Extras on the disc start off with a thirty-one minute featurette entitled Hanging Sparrows which is a look back at the making of the movie made up of interviews with cast members Jonathan Genet, Jean-Francois Balmer, Victoria Guerra and Clementine Pons as well as with cinematographer Andre Szankowski. Director Andrzej Zulawski also appears in the piece by way of some archival footage shot during the production. It's an interesting piece that offers up plenty of insight into the director's methods, what he was like to work with, the various participants' thoughts on the film and more.

    Also on hand is the eleven minute A Brief History of Gombrowicz which is an interview with Rita Gombrowicz, the wife of the late writer, in which she discusses the of Witold Gombrowicz in some detail. Those not familiar with the writer's work would do well to check this out as it provides some welcome context for Zulawski's adaptation.

    In Bleurgh we spend eight minutes with Daniel Bird discussing the films of Andrzej Zulawski and how the director went about translating Cosmos into and English language feature. Arrow has also included eight minutes of behind the scenes footage that shows off what it was like on set, a half hour press conference held at the Locarno Film Festival followed by a forty-five minute Q & A session and a three minute Awards Ceremony clip alongside eight minutes of footage showing off both Lisbon and Estoril festival introduction to the feature before it was screened. Outside of that we get international and UK trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Cosmos is a bizarre film, but then it wouldn't be a Zulawski picture if it were conventional. This one is worth watching more than once just to make sure you pick up on the subtle and not so subtle intricacies of the story and the production. The movie is also quite clever with its black humor and features impressive cinematography and a nice score. Arrow's Blu-ray is a very nice package overall, presenting Cosmos in beautiful shape and with some nice extra features different than those found on the US Blu-ray release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!