Bay of Angels
This precisely wrought, emotionally penetrating romantic drama from Jacques Demy, set largely in the casinos of Nice, is a visually lovely but darkly realistic investigation into love and obsession. A bottle-blonde Jeanne Moreau is at her blithe best as a gorgeous gambling addict, and Claude Mann is the bank clerk drawn into her risky world. Featuring a mesmerizing score by Michel Legrand, Bay of Angels is among Demy’s most somber works.
The second title in Criterion’s box set The Essential Jacques Demy, Bay of Angels is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer is presented on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc while a standard-definition version is presented on a dual-layer DVD. The latter has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.
Lola’s transfer was an overly digitized blob of a presentation that wasn’t much better than most mediocre DVD transfers. Since that was the first disc in the set it didn’t speak well for the set as a whole but thankfully neither Bay of Angels nor any of the other films suffer this same fate, as it appears different groups were responsible for restoring and transferring each film.
Bay of Angels presents a far more natural and filmic look. Far sharper the image delivers incredible textures and depth in every shot. Close-ups and long shots alike present excellent definition and fine object detail. Contrast is excellent, never coming off to bright or dark, and black levels look strong and shadow delineation is excellent. Unlike Lola it hasn’t been overly processed, tonal shifts are excellent, and film grain remains intact. A couple of darker scenes have an issue where the grain can look a tad noisy and pixilated but past this it’s rendered cleanly and naturally.
The DVD’s transfer also looks very good. It doesn’t have the same handle on the film’s grain and long shots are a little fuzzier, but as a standard-definition transfer it looks very good, still delivering an excellent amount of detail on close-ups and nice gray levels and shadows.
I actually don’t recall a single blemish so the restoration work is certainly impressive, more so since you don’t even notice any digital tinkering. It looks absolutely great and was a welcome sight after Lola.
The film’s mono soundtrack is delivered in lossless PCM on the Blu-ray and Dolby Digital on the DVD. The audio is surprisingly crisp with some excellent range and depth. Music can be a little harsh and edgy during higher moments but dialogue is consistently clear. Overall it’s surprisingly pleasant.
Out of all of the titles in the Demy box set Bay of Angels unfortunately gets the shaft when it comes to supplements, including just over a half-hour worth of content. We first get a charming interview with Jeanne Moreau from a 1962 episode of Cinépanorama, which was conducted on location during the filming of Bay of Angels. For a little over 14-minutes she talks about the role and her career overall, admitting to not being all that selective of her roles at first (though now she is very strict) and offering advice to any would-be actors. Despite a number of eye-rolling questions from the interviewer, which she graciously answers, it’s decent personal discussion with Moreau.
Next is an interview with journalist Marie Colmant who talks about Demy’s interest in characters on the margins of society, the outcasts. She talks about a few characters that appear in his films (namely the two in Bay of Angels and a few in Une chambre en ville) and addresses possible influences on the director. She also talks about the appeal of Demy’s films and how she’s made her own daughter watch them. The interview is a little over 10-minutes.
We get yet another restoration demonstration, but this one works a little better than the one found on Lola. Here we actually get to see the work being done, even getting to see someone quickly repair a tear in the film. There’s also more clear comparisons. This one only runs 5-minutes.
The disc then closes with the film’s re-release trailer.
The features aren’t bad, though this is clearly the weakest set of them in what is an otherwise impressive box set.
Supplements are scant but at least worth watching; in this regard the title is the weakest one in an otherwise fairly stacked box set. Past that, though, the digital transfer is an absolute marvel and one of the stronger ones in the box set.