Review of Death In A French Garden
Perhaps the title here is a play on Bunuel`s `Death in a Garden`, but it`s here that any similarity in approach ends. Michel Deville`s `Peril en la Demeure` is an exquisitely shot French thriller that is so precisely framed and considered that you can almost see and feel the storyboard that surely must have preceded every scene and shot. It`s this slightly clinical precision that adds a detached tension to the movie, as well as some sterling performances from a first class cast. Whilst described as a thriller, it`s certainly not a white-knuckle ride. More a social psychodrama, at times surreal (almost Twin Peaks) and sometimes touching, it`s a stylish film that oozes its French-ness from every pore!
The narrative itself is actually rather straightforward and frankly extremely unlikely.
The placid hero (guitar tutor David) seems content to go along with whomever, whatever, whenever; whether it`s a romp with Julia (a young mother), a kiss with her young daughter, kinky voyeurism with a supposedly disabled neighbour or a romantic meal for two with a hitman. But this is no `Adventures of a guitar tutors mate` - it`s dark and brooding stuff, probably best summed up by the hitman when he says to David during their meal together, "Don`t forget - people are crazy…"
Sometimes the (almost too) clever direction really intrudes, and there is too great an effort to link one scene visually and stylistically to the next, One such example is when we see David reach for the soap in the shower and we cut to a close-up of his arm now reaching for a doorbell which takes us to the next scene. The film is peppered with examples of these clever visual links and the net result is that you`re constantly reminded that this is just a movie after all.
However, the script is concise and nicely penned and the subtitles are easy to stay on top of, doing little to detract from the movie. Visually, it`s perfectly executed with evocative lighting creating a wonderfully `French` atmosphere throughout with golden light streaming through half closed shutters on the interior shots for example.
The film does have a little nudity and sex though this is tastefully and sensitively portrayed, and in the latter quarter of the movie, there is a modicum of violence, though this is certainly not gratuitous.
This is widescreen anamorphic 1:78:1, and it`s a good, clean transfer with rich colours maintained and a crispness throughout. There are one or two scratches which could easily have been frame painted post-transfer but this is really a minor gripe and in no way detracts from the overall high visual quality.
The movie has an interesting soundtrack featuring classical tracks that directly reflect David`s guitar teaching and his love of classical music. Offered here in Dolby Stereo, and in it`s original French dialogue, it`s a first class reproduction.
Other than the no option English subtitles, there aren`t any other subtitles available here. There is a picture gallery comprising half a dozen black and white movie stills that add little to the offer, and none of which are candid production shots.
There is a selection of biographies featuring the Director and cast but these are irritatingly presented with scrolling text somewhat like autocue. There is also a bizarre omission - the main character, played by Christopher Malavoy, is not included! Conspicuous in it`s absence. And just as surreal are some additional trailers for other totally non-related French movies which turn out to be an unexpected treat - including Les Diaboliques, and two Bridgette Bardot movies, Une Parisenne and Les Bijoutiers du Clair de lune.
An exquisitely shot and stylish movie with an off-beat plot and first class cast, let down occasionally by it`s over precise and too obviously considered direction. Whilst classing itself as a thriller, it`s a movie that never really hurries and which never quite raises the pulse. However, it`s mix of psychological drama, surrealistic twists, and stylish framing makes it a diverting and recommended choice for a warm night in!