• The Third Lover (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: February 25th, 2020.
    Director: Claude Chabrol
    Cast: Jacques Charrier, Stéphane Audran, Walther Reyer
    Year: 1962
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    The Third Lover – Movie Review:

    Andreas Mercier (Jacques Charrier) is a Frenchman who writes for a magazine that has assigned him to report from Germany. He writes under the penname of Albin. He takes up residence in a small town outside of Munich and consistently runs into language barriers as he doesn't speak German. One day, when trying to mime to a shopkeeper what he needs, a beautiful blonde woman named Hélène (Stéphane Audran). She is a Frenchwoman living nearby who also speaks German and so she translates for him. as it turns out, she's married to a very successful German writer named Andreas Hartman (Walther Reyer), who claims to be a fan of Mercier's work. She invites him over for a drink and before you know it, the three of them have become fast friends, though Hélène frequently has to translate as her husband's French isn't much better than Mercier's German.

    Before long, the three become almost inseparable, but there's a bitterness to Mercier's demeanor. It's clear that he envies Hartman's success and not only that, he's starting to develop a thing for his wife. Mercier decides, then, to get deeper into their relationship, to peel back the layers and figure out the truth about what these two are all about. He succeeds, at first, though things go wrong when, on a boating trip, he's pushed into the water and embarrassed when they learn he can't swim, something Hartman tells him he should have been forthwith about. Honesty and façade then become prime factors in how all of this plays out, and things get even more complicated when Hartman goes away on a business trip, leaving Mercier alone with Hélène.

    Like so many of director Claude Chabrol's pictures, The Third Lover, made in 1962, make some rather pointed barbs at the bourgeoisie class, clearly represented by the Hartman's. They have everything that they need and seem to be quite in love, but the more ‘Albin' starts to peel layers off, the more he starts to get suspicious as to how stable their marriage really is. He believes, and rightly so, that Hélène is bored and, wanting her for himself, he's able to effectively play off of that. But of course, this wouldn't be much of a thriller if it all went as Mercier planned, and of course it does not, leading to an unexpected but completely fitting conclusion where the consequences of Mercier's actions do nothing to redeem him.

    The acting here is very good. There are a few supporting players here, such as the Hartman's German maid and a few of their friends that show up now and then, but overall the vast majority of the heaving lifting is done by the three main leads. Jacques Charrier is great. He's charming and friendly on the outside, but we know from his internal narration that he's not quite what he seems to be, that he's prone to fits of anger, and that he's downright sneaky. Charrier pulls this off and not only that, he makes it look easy. Stéphane Audran is just as good. She plays her character as calm, cool and collected and we completely buy her in the part. We can also see just why Charrier's character would be attracted to her. She's not only beautiful on the outside but she is, at first, kind and caring and helpful. Walther Reyer's character is quite a bit different than the other two. He's a bit unhinged, prone to drinking when maybe he shouldn't be, and very rarely taking anything in the least bit seriously, save for a few moments of intense drama where, for reasons we won't spoil here, he does just that. These three play off of one another very effectively.

    Jean Rabie's does an excellent job with the cinematography. The black and white picture is very nicely lensed, there are all manner of fantastic compositions used throughout (pay attention to the way that our three leads are often framed in the first half of the film, there's some interesting foreshadowing there!) to help enhance the mood and the tensions. Chabrol's direction is tight, controlled and stylish. He paces the film very nicely and give us just the right amount of character development to make these people interesting, without giving away the mystery.

    The Third Lover – Blu-ray Review:

    The Third Lover arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber using a transfer that would appear to have been supplied by Studio Canal and taken from a new 4k restoration of unidentified elements (though it is a safe guess that it was the original negative). The AVC encoded 1080p high definition image, framed in its proper theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66.1 widescreen, looks excellent. The black and white picture shows consistently strong detail and very little print damage, while retaining the expected amount of natural film grain. Black levels are nice and deep, we get clean whites and a nuanced grey scale. There are no noticeable problems with any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement and the picture if free of noticeable compression artifacts. It looks great.

    The only audio option on the disc is a French language DTS-HD Mono option. It sounds fine, problem free if a little flat in a few spots due to the age and elements available. The score has some decent range to it and the track is free of any noticeable hiss or distortion. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Aside from a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Kino Lorber titles available on Blu-ray, the disc also contains an audio commentary track from Kat Ellinger. She covers a good bit of ground here, offering a lot of detail on Chabrol's career up to this point and detailing both his personal and professional life as she goes. As with any track covering the director's output and style, there's also some solid dissection of the themes that this, and quite a few other films in his filmography, cover. She also discusses the quality of the cinematography and its importance to the film's effectiveness, the cast and crew, the quality of the performances and more. Menus and chapter selection options are also provided on the disc.

    The Third Lover – The Final Word:

    The Third Lover is prime Chabrol and, as such, very much worth seeing. It's a well-made thriller with some great performances, a few neat twists and some excellent, and a very atmospheric, cinematography. Kino's Blu-ray looks and sounds great and the commentary contains some good information. Highly recommended.

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