The Dardenne brothersí Two Days, One Night makes its North Ameircan home video debut through The Criterion Collection, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc. Coming straight from the digital source the picture is delivered in 1080p/24hz.
Like quite a few films shot digitally the image looks great but there is just a little something lacking. Iím never entirely sure if itís just the technology used or whether something happens when encoding it to a Blu-ray/DVD, but despite most everything looking great the image can look just a little flat. It delivers textures well, the image is always sharp and crystal clear, colours look spectacular (the colour scheme is really intriguing in this movie, where the compositions even play off the colour of whatever top Marion Cotillardís Sandra wears), and the image is always clean, free of damage. I didnít even detect any digital artifacts.
For all intents and purposes the image looks absolutely wonderful. But I just donít get any sense of depth, even in shots like the one involving Sandra arriving at a large football/soccer field to see one of her fellow employees, the image just looks a little flat, and whether itís intentional or not, it still felt a bit disappointing to me.
At any rate itís possible thereís just something to the image Iím not clicking with and no one else will have the same problem. Ultimately every other aspect to the transfer looks superb and Iíd say it trumps whatever stupid little thing I couldnít get past. 9/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Despite the film being a newer one, released just last year, Criterion has put together an especially impressive set a supplements for it, starting with yet another very in-depth interview with both Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, which, like the other interviews found on all of Criterionís releases of their films, is very lengthy, running almost 51-minutes in this case. Like the other interviews they get into a staggering amount of detail about making this film, first talking about articles and incidents that influenced, and then the roughly 12 to 13 years they spent developing the story. There is an especially grand amount of information about how the character of Sandra was developed and how the reasons for fleshing out the husband a little more. They address some of the concerns they had, particularly the dangers of the film feeling repetitive, and also touch on the ending, which they really played around with a bit, considering (if briefly) a conventional happy ending and even a more disheartening ending. Ultimately they went with the ending they did because it would help in the development of the character more while also feeling the most organic to them, which was more important. Again, after three other near-one-hour interviews Iím impressed the two can still bring so much to the table. Itís another great interview and any lack of a commentary is more than made up for here.
Criterion then gets new interviews with actors Marion Cotillard and Fabrizio Rongione. Recorded individually (Cotillard speaking in English and Rongione speaking in French) do get into detail about working with each other, working with the Dardennes and what they look for, and even the details about working with the cameraman, who, as the Dardennes point out in their previous interview, has to be ready for anything from the actors. But I probably most enjoyed when they each talk about their own characters, Cotillard covering how she wrote her own back story for the character and even went as far to study the side effects of Xanax to help in her performance. I was actually hoping that the two would be recorded together but despite this not being the case itís a wonderfully insightful interview with the two. It runs 22-minutes.
We then get another heavily detailed feature with Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, this one called On Location. Recorded for this release the two revisit locations used in the film: the soccer field, Willyís house, Anneís house, and Mareilleís place. The two talk about each scene and I have to say Iím incredibly impressed at what they remember about the shoot and how things played out. As they talk about the scenes there are either clips of the finished scenes or a split screen comparison of the scene. There are some surprising moments, particularly around some of the more improvised moments. Despite the heavy amount rehearsals that the Dardennes and Cotillard talk about in the other interviews, there were some moments that just snuck in there. A memorable moment from the soccer field scene apparently just happened during a particular take, Cotillard would sneak in some slight little bits that hadnít been rehearsed, and there were moments that were rehearsed to a great extent only to have the directors realize the scenes werenít working when actually filming. They also really show how they work together and how they manage to work through opposing ideas, and also talk about all the little details they added to scenes to give you an idea of the situations of the characters. I was afraid after the lengthy 51-minute interview with the two I actually feared that more time with the two would be exasperating, yet itís not. Despite the fact this really should not be all that enthralling a feature itís absolutely fascinating. It runs 37-minutes.
Surprisingly Criterion next includes their short 1979 video documentary (one of the only surviving ones, sadly) When Le?on M.ís Boat Went Down the Meuse for the First Time. Using the namesake of the title and his boat, the documentary revisits the primary locations surrounding a ďgeneral strike that paralyzed Belgium in the winter of 1960.Ē Mixed in here are interviews (almost set up like ďman on the streetĒ interviews) featuring those that were actually there, and archive footage, apparently shot by another filmmaker at the time for his own film.
The film itself is a decent document, though of course lacks the brothers modern style. It does show their obvious concern over social issues, and they even use a rather unique narrative for the documentary. What I found of more value, though, was the 21-minute interview with the two directors about the film and their other documentaries. This was then ďgot into videoĒ as they put it, and they talk a lot about the technology and how it made things so much easier since they didnít have to develop anything. Unfortunately most of their video work was lost after heat destroyed the video tapes they had. The two then talk about how they learned from these films and how they helped them develop the style they adopted today. After spending so much time with the two previously Iíd almost think Iíd be sick of them, but they still manage to keeps things fascinating. Itís also infectious because the two obviously love what they do and they love sharing the knowledge theyíve picked up over the years.
Amazingly I wasnít missing the scholarly additions up to this point, as the interviews with the brothers are like film classes unto themselves, yet Criterion surprisingly adds one here. Admittedly Iím not entirely sure what to make of it. Called To Be An I (taken from a phrase by Emmanuel Levinas: ďTo be an I means not to escape responsibilityĒ), itís a visual essay by critic Kent Jones running about 8-minutes and it seems to be looking at possible influences on the Dardenne brotherís style and how their films fall into the possible category of ďcinema of hope.Ē Itís more cryptic than it probably needs to be, but it looks at other films that possibly influenced the directors, specifically Rosselliniís Europe Ď51 and the use of faces. Iím admittedly exhausted, the last week being a mental strain between kids, work, and kids (one of whom refuses to potty train, despite me bribing them with a toy they want) but I honestly canít say Iím sure if, between clips from My Darling Clementine and images of paintings from hundreds of years ago, a point was actually made. I usually like Jonesí stuff but wasnít entirely thrilled with this.
The disc closes with the filmís American theatrical trailer and then an insert featuring an essay by Girish Shambu, which goes over the filmís subject of ďneoliberalism from the ground,Ē and the two directorsí ability to wring suspense out of scenes simply involving people making choices.
Overall, thanks primarily to the Dardenne brothersí taste for detail, I found this a very satisfying set of supplement, one of Criterionís more impressive collections for a newer title. 9/10