Le combat dans l'ile
Clement (Jean-Louis Trintignant, Il sorpasso) is a wealthy son of an industrialist who lives a secret life as a right-wing terrorist. Double-crossed following an assassination attempt he flees to the countryside with his wife, Anne (Romy Schneider, La piscine) where they stay with his childhood friend, Paul (Henri Serre, Jules et Jim). Clement plots his revenge but Anne falls for Paul and a love triangle is just one of many complications in this multi-layered discovery from the French New Wave. With the support of producer Louis Malle, Alain Cavalier (Fill ’Er Up with Super) directed his debut, a noirish drama beautifully shot by cinematographer Pierre Lhomme (Army of Shadows). While echoing the political turmoil of the 1960s, the film probes bourgeois values and the relationship between sex and violence, acting as a precursor to The Conformist and demonstrating the influence of Chabrol.
Radiance Films presents Alain Cavalier’s debut feature, Le combat dans l’ile, on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is from a 2K scan of the 35mm original camera negative. I did perform QC work on this release.
The final presentation is remarkably sharp with a stunning film-like texture. The scan has skillfully captured the fine details, and the resulting encode beautifully renders all of it, including the film’s inherent grain. The range in grayscale is particularly striking, enhancing shadow depth and detail effortlessly. Numerous scenes portray faces or objects set against dark backgrounds, and the seamless and natural blending of the blacks and grays is truly impressive. The presentation also cleanly renders the film’s foggier-looking moments.
There are shots where the image can look slightly out-of-focus, though it’s clearly a byproduct of the photography. Outside of that, the film elements are in excellent condition, with the restoration cleaning up almost everything. It looks very striking.
The film’s French soundtrack is presented in 2-channel PCM mono. The dialogue was dubbed during post-production due to the noise emitted by the camera used during production, the Cameflex. The dubbing can sometimes be obvious, but fidelity and range are still adequate, and everything sounds clean and clear.
Radiance pulls together a decent smattering of archival extras, starting with a few featuring Cavalier himself. First is a 5-minute interview filmed for French television in 1962, featuring the director talking about his first film and his influences. He also pops up in the brief 5-minute Playing Dead, where Cavalier talks over quick clips from the film, which ends up being relatively avant-garde. Radiance also carries over a 13-minute video created by Cavalier for the North American DVD release, France 1961, which features him, off-screen, talking about the film’s production and actors (with more attention paid to Romy Schneider) while his standard-definition digital camera focuses in on photos taken from the production, most of which appear in the included 9-page photo gallery.
The disc also features Cavalier’s first short feature, Un Americain, focusing on a young American sculptor about to turn 30 exploring Paris, from creepily peeping on his new neighbor to taking in Paris culture (or what he sees as Paris culture) through the cafes and locals. It runs for 17 minutes.
Jean-Louis Trintignant next pops up in about 8 minutes’ worth of excerpts from a 1983 television interview. Though almost half of it consists of clips from the film, it still features the actor talking about his early films and his work with Romy Schneider, whom he speaks fondly of (for added context, she passed away the year before this interview would have been filmed).
Radiance includes one academic extra, a 37-minute interview with critic Philippe Roger. I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this one. Though passionate about Cavalier with some interesting observations and comments about the filmmaker’s aesthetic, I could find some of his insights a bit much, from reading how the characters using their hands to perform actions (as all people tend to do) is a metaphor for an artist creating (or something) and that the weapons in the film, including the bazooka, are supposed to suggest the characters are children playing with toys. Moments like these feel to be stretching things (though to be fair, I may need to watch the film yet again), but his comments on the film’s look, genre-blending, and the possible influences of Robert Bresson and Jean Grémillion prove interesting and worthwhile enough.
The disc then closes with the film’s trailer. A booklet included with the initial pressing then features a new essay on the film and Cavalier by Ben Sachs (bringing up Cavalier’s 2011 film Pater), followed by one by Mani Sharpe on the film’s representation of clashing political ideals through its main characters.
Roger’s piece is a bit of a mixed bag, but Radiance has done an impressive job of digging up some informative archival material about the film.
An impressive high-definition presentation accompanied by some solid archival features.