• The Widow Couderc (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: July 6th, 2021.
    Director: Pierre Granier-Deferre
    Cast: Alain Delon, Simone Signoret, Ottavia Piccolo, Jean Tissier, Monique Chaumette
    Year: 1971
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    The Widow Couderc – Movie Review:

    Pierre Granier-Deferre’s 1971 film The Widow Couderc (also known as Le Veuve Couderc), based on the novel by Georges Simenon, is set in 1934 and follows the story of a man named Jean Lavigne (Alain Delon). He’s a drifter who wanders through the farm where an older widow named Couderc Tati (Simone Signoret of Diabolique and Army Of Shadows). He helps her out when he sees her with her package and she offers him a few days’ work and a place to stay. He accepts her offer and quickly learns that there’s a fair bit of drama in her life. Her father-in-law lives with her but he seems to be up to something. She knows she has to keep the old man happy to ensure that she’s able to own the farm, which she sees herself as entitled to since her husband passed.

    The rest of her in-laws live on the other side of a canal, the two farms joined by a drawbridge that the widow’s in-laws control. Jean helps out around the place and eventually winds up in the widow’s bed. Despite her stern demeanor and relentless work ethic, you can tell that she’s falling in love with the younger man, despite the fact that she knows he’s fooling around with the beautiful, promiscuous young woman across the water, Félicie (Ottavia Piccolo), a single mother who just so happens to be the widow’s niece. She eventually learns that he’s escaped from prison where he was doing time for murder and kicks him out, but soon takes him back.

    Set to a beautiful score composed by Phillipe Sarde and shot by cinematographer Walter Wottitz, this is a beautiful looking film that rewards viewers interested in paying attention to the small details in unveils. The use of the drawbridge as a literal barrier in the film, the widow’s constant need to be working the way she flaunts doing Jean’s laundry in front of the other women at the washing area, Jean reaching for the widow when he wakes up after their night in bed together and the look of pure joy on her face when he does it – things like this add up in a film that moves at a very languid pace and in which not a whole lot really happens until the last ten-minutes. Because of this, and the quality of the acting and production values overall, this ‘quiet’ drama remains remarkably watchable throughout.

    Delon is very good here. He’s always had the ability to make being cool look easy and if maybe that lets him coast a bit here, he does it well. It’s easy to see why a lonely, aging widow with no romantic prospects or really any sense of real happiness in her life would be drawn to an alluring stranger because Delon uses that effortlessly cool demeanor to make his character intriguing. Ottavia Piccolo is also quite good here, more than willing to use her good looks to lure in Jean, and playing the young, flirtatious type very effectively. When the widow asks Jean what attracted him to Félicie, he answers ‘her youth’ and Granier-Deferre plays up this aspect of Piccolo’s appearance in a pretty big way. Simone Signoret, however, is the best of the cast. Like her character in Melville’s Army Of Shadows, she’s believably tough in this role, but we can’t help but feel for her even while she flaunts her affair with this younger man in front of her in-laws. She has this interesting sort of half-crooked smile that she uses as a bit of a tell with her character in the film that reminds us that despite the fact that her life is quite sad overall, she’s capable of being happy.

    The Widow Couderc – Blu-ray Review:

    The Widow Couderc, which is taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative from Studio Canal, comes to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber framed at 1.66.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 28GBS of space on the 50GB disc. Picture quality is pretty nice here, the image is quite clean but retains the natural film grain you’d hope it would. The film makes use of a very earthy color scheme, it isn’t filled with bright primary colors, but the transfer replicates this quite nicely. Detail is very good, and there’s some impressive depth and texture noticeable throughout. There are no issues with noticeable compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction and overall, this looks nice and filmic.

    The only audio option provided is a 16-bit French DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track with optional subtitles offered up in English only. Clarity is fine, and both tracks are clean, clear and of good quality, free of any hiss or distortion and demonstrating proper balance throughout.

    The main extra on the disc is a new audio commentary by entertainment journalist and author Bryan Reesman. He starts with some information on the book that the film is based on before then discussing the opening credits, how the latter half of the movie changes things drastically from the novel and other differences that exist, the frequent use of barges in the film and what they could possibly represent, the locations that were used for the main houses in the film, some of the subtleties of the characters and the dialogue in the film, notes on Delon and the rest of the cast, details of the cast and crew involved with the picture, the quality of the cinematography in the movie and quite a bit more. Reesman talks pretty quickly here but he loads his track with information.

    Aside from that, the disc includes a theatrical trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for a few other Kino Lorber releases (Diabolically Yours, Farewell Friend, The Sicilian Clan, Un Flic and Max And The Junkmen), menus and chapter selection.

    The Widow Couderc – The Final Word:

    The Widow Couderc is an excellent and beautifully made drama that benefits from a very strong cast and some equally strong cinematography. It is a deliberately slow film but will reward those willing to stick with it and pay attention. Kino’s Blu-ray looks and sounds very good and the commentary from Bryan Reesman is a valuable addition to the disc. Recommended!

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