• The Debut (Cult Epics) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Cult Epics
    Released on: April 27th, 2021.
    Director: Nouchka van Brakel
    Cast: Marina de Graaf, Gerard Cox, Pleuni Touw, Kitty Courbois, Dolf de Vries, Wendy Ferwerda
    Year: 1977
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    The Debut – Movie Review:

    The first full-length feature from Dutch director Nouchka van Brakel, 1977’s The Debut is based on a novel by Hester Albach and essentially follows the concept that Kubrick laid out in Lolita but tells it from the perspective of the young woman in the relationship rather than from the perspective of the older man.

    Carolien Sanders (Marina de Graaf) is a fourteen-year-old teenager who lives with her parents Dr. Peter Sanders (Dolf de Vries) and his wife Anne (Kitty Coubois). One day her mother takes Carolien to the airport with her to retrieve Hugo (Gerard Cox) and Rita (Pleuni Touw), a married couple who have long been friends of the Sanders family and who have decided to spend their Christmas vacation with them.

    After their arrival, Carolien and her friend Susan (Wendy Ferwerda) get up to the things that teenage girls get up to, dealing with school and getting excited about an upcoming party. When Hugo and Rita decide to look for a place to live, circumstances lead to him and Carolien alone at a scenic beach where it’s clear that despite the age difference that exists between the two of them, there’s very definitely a sense of mutual attraction developing. Before long, the two of them are carrying on with a full-fledged love affair that, understandably, leads to some problems for both of them.

    Very much made with a liberal Dutch sensibility, the film deals with what is obviously and rightly still a definitely taboo subject throughout much of the world and it does so without flinching. Carolien and Hugo do engage in physical lovemaking in the film, and Marina de Graaf (who was a good bit older than her character was when this picture was made) does undress in front of the camera more than once. This will understandably creep out those of a more sensitive nature when it comes to the depiction of minors in films dealing with sexual situations, but when the picture isn’t dealing with its more exploitative tropes, it does actually do a reasonably good job of setting up the romance between Carolien and Hugo before then throwing various problems at them.

    Most of the acting in the film is pretty decent, with Marina de Graaf really standing out as a legitimate talent in this department. Unfortunately Gerard Cox isn’t as strong as his co-star, he’s pretty wooden here and not particularly convincing in his role. Wendy Ferwerda is very strong as well, however, her character crafting a friendship with de Graaf’s character that we can totally by not only when things are good between them but when things become stressed as well.

    Production values are pretty good here as well. The score works, the cinematography is good and the Dutch locations used for the duration of the shoot are appropriately scenic. Nouchka van Brakel paces the movie well for the most part, though there are a few spots where things drag just a bit.

    The Debut – Blu-ray Review:

    The Debut arrives on region Blu-ray from Cult Epics in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.66.1 on a 25GB disc with the feature taking up 21.1GBs of space taken from a new transfer of an original 35mm print. There are some small white specks here and there but overall the image is nice and clean. The colors look maybe just a tad faded but overall, this transfer is pretty solid. Detail is strong throughout and there are no issues with any obvious compression artifacts or edge enhancement related issues. The picture always looks nice and film-like, showing the expected amount of natural film grain throughout.

    Dutch audio options are provided in 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono and 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono with optional subtitles offered up in English only. The audio is clean, clear and properly balanced. There aren’t any noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion and the subtitles are easy to read and free of any obvious typos.

    The main extra on the disc is a black and white Polygon Journal Newsreel from 1977 that runs two-minutes that sets up the story briefly before then discussing the plot, the director and some of the locations and scenes in the movie. We get a look at the director in action which is interesting and there's some nice behind the scenes footage in here.

    Aside from that we get a of theatrical trailer for the feature, a few bonus trailers (A Woman Like Eve, The Cool Lakes Of Death and Blue Movie), a poster and still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Cult Epics also provides some nice reversible cover sleeve art for this release.

    The Debut - The Final Word:

    There are times where The Debut works really well as a coming of age drama and times where it feels very much like exploitation. It’s an imperfect film, very uneven in terms of the script and some of the acting, but it’s also a very interesting one and while Cult Epics’ Blu-ray isn’t stacked with extras it does provide this controversial piece of Dutch cinema history in a very nice presentation.

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