• Ophelia

    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: April 25th, 2017.
    Director: Claude Chabrol
    Cast: Claude Cerval, Juliette Mayniel, Alida Valli, André Jocelyn
    Year: 1963
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    The Movie:

    Written by Claude Chabrol, Paul Gégauff and Martial Matthieu and based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this 1963 French film introduces us to a young man named Yvan Lesurf (André Jocelyn), the son of a wealthy businessman. He’s a rather intense young man who suspects that his mother Claudia (Valli) and Uncle Adrian (Claude Cerval) have plotted together to murder the father he just lost. Convinced that he’s right about all of this - even more so after Claudia and Adrian get married - he takes it upon himself to prove their guilt.

    Along the way he wins over Lucy (Juliette Mayniel), the gorgeous daughter of the groundskeeper who tends to his parents’ estate. As she becomes intrigued by his charms, after seeing a marquee in the small town advertising a showing of Hamlet he convinces her to take on the role of Ophelia. In doing so, not only she help him pull the lid off of the plot that left his father dead but also to get revenge for the killing along the way.

    Set not in Elizabethan England but the modern day France of 1963 and beautifully shot in black and white by cinematographer Jean Rabier, Ophelia is a beautiful looking film. Rabier does a great job of not only capturing some of the quirks of the locations and the small town setting that the film plays off of but also in examining the effects of the drama on the faces of Chabrol’s cast. He accomplishes this with some interesting close ups of specific characters central to specific scenes but so too does he use some interesting angles and shot set ups – it works. This oddball sense of style employed keeps things visually arresting and makes this film one that is easy to pay attention to even when the plot occasionally lags now and then (though for the most part the pacing here is just fine).

    Performances from the interesting cast are strong across the board. Alida Valli and Juliette Mayniel of Eyes Without A Face both deliver stand out work in this picture. Mayniel in particular is just enthralling to watch, her high cheeks bones and dark eyes seemingly made for the high contrast, stark visual style employed here. Alida Valli, more stern looking in her appearance, is also shot really nicely, her more angular features providing an interesting visual counterpart to Mayniel’s character. André Jocelyn is excellent as the male lead. His Yvan evolves in fascinating, almost twisted ways at times, becoming more unhinged and potentially insane as the story moves forward.

    There are moments of odd dark comedy here that Shakespeare purists might take issue with, but Ophelia works really well. It’s quirky in the way that French cinema can be, and it also stands as an interesting precursor to some of the themes that would become synonymous with Chabrol’s output later in his career (murder most foul and of course, the secret sordid lives of the bourgeoisie!).


    Ophelia debuts on Blu-ray from Olive Films in a 1.66.1 widescreen transfer presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 25GB disc. Detail here is really solid and while some minor print damage is present in the form of some very small scratches and specks throughout the film, it’s infrequent. The source used for the transfer was evidently in very good condition. Grain is present throughout the presentation but it never gets so heavy as to distract from the generally strong detail and texture that the HD transfer offers. Black levels are also fine and we get nice contrast here. All in all, this is a very fine picture.

    The French language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono Audio track on the disc is pretty good. The score sounds quite strong here and helps to really ramp up the tension in the last twenty minutes or so. The dialogue stays crisp and clear and levels are well balanced. As it is with a lot of older movies, the limitations of the source material do come through, as they should, but this is a clean track that suits the movie just fine and which doesn't suffer from any serious problems. There are no alternate language options but yellow (easy to read) subtitles are provided in English.

    There are no extras on this disc save for a theatrical trailer, a static menu and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Ophelia may be a rather unorthodox take on Hamlet but it’s quite well done. The movie is inventive and at times darkly comedic but it’s also quite stylish and well-acted. This is well worth seeing and Olive’s Blu-ray, while light on extra features, looks and sounds quite nice. Great stuff.

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