The Bride Wore Black
Jeanne Moreau (Jules et Jim) stars as the titular bride, who after marrying her love sees him murdered on the steps outside the church. From here she enacts her ruthless revenge on the group of men responsible. Undoubtedly an influence on Kill Bill, François Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black was itself influenced by the master of suspense. Adapting celebrated crime writer Cornell Woolrich (here credited as William Irish and who was also the author of the short story Hitchcock’s Rear Window is based on) Truffaut’s film is a deliciously entertaining tale that was one of the director’s biggest hits. Alongside Moreau, the film boasts a sensational cast, including Michael Lonsdale, Jean-Claude Brialy, Charles Denner and Michel Bouquet among others, and features a score by the maestro, Bernard Herrmann (Psycho).
Radiance Films presents François Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. The disc is locked to region B.
Currently, I do not have complete details about the restoration (or have the booklet the release will come with, and I will update this article once I receive both), nor have I seen the Kino release, but judging by screen grabs available online as best I can this looks to be the same master used by both Kino and Twilight Time for their editions.
Some aspects date the master a bit, but I have to say Radiance has done an impressive job. The encoding itself is solid, and the image is rendered sharply and cleanly. Grain retains a natural look much of the time, and the finer details are sharp and clear. Shadow detail and range are expansive, with rich blacks to boot. Colors and the film’s color scheme lean warm but never come off looking excessively yellow, with whites still looking “white.” The image is also stable, though some minor fluctuations sneak in there.
There are a handful of dupey-looking shots where contrast is thrown a bit, with grain appearing a little muddled compared to the rest of the presentation. This includes the opening credits, which look rough and will surely temper expectations going in, but things clean up significantly following them. Minor scratches and other small blemishes pop up here and there throughout, all of which are easy to overlook.
The film could use an updated restoration, and I’m surprised there isn’t one. Still, this one, inherent flaws and all, has managed to hold up remarkably and features a nice film-like texture.
(I did perform QC work on this release, focusing on the technical functionality.)
The French soundtrack is presented in lossless two-channel PCM monaural. Though I probably shouldn’t expect too much from the soundtrack, I was still surprised by how flat it is overall. Dialogue, effects, and music all sound clear and sharp enough, but range and fidelity aren’t all that wide. Even Bernhard Herrmann’s score sounds bland, as though Truffaut sampled it from some pre-recording (the score was created for the film, and it sounds like Truffaut wasn’t too fond of it). It all sounds inherent to the source materials, though. At the very least, the dialogue and effects still sound clear enough.
Radiance throws in a couple of new interviews: a 15-minute one featuring Kent Jones talking about the film and a 9-minute one with Barry Forshaw talking about author Cornell Woolrich. Jones focuses on the film’s production and the reasons behind Truffaut making it, the filmmaker hoping a genre film would prove commercially successful. It was, but in what appears to be a consequence, it has been considered one of Truffaut’s lesser works by some, though Jones speaks of its strengths (alongside weaknesses) and goes over some of the small details Truffaut has thrown in.
He comments briefly on the novel but only mentions how Truffaut changes the story in one area. Forshaw picks up in this area, explaining the book’s structure and how Truffaut shifts things around and changes the focus in his adaptation, the novel sounding to focus on the police investigation itself. This leads Forshaw to talk more about Woolrich and his work, even expressing how he feels the author should be ranked up with the likes of Chandler and Cain. (Jones, on the other hand, doesn’t sound to be a fan.)
Radiance also throws in a short film written by Truffaut, co-starring Bride’s Jean-Claude Brialy, and directed by Jacques Doniol-Valcroze: Les surmenés, or (in English) The Overworked. The film focuses on a young woman (Yane Barry) from the countryside and her move to the city, where she falls in love with everything it offers, particularly the nightlife. She even gets a job as a typist to help support her new life there, a career that was foreshadowed thanks to the odd plot point around how she won a typing contest. She’s also engaged to a man played by Jean-Pierre Cassel (her sister’s boss), but he works hard and parties… well, less so. This isn’t appealing to Barry, and she eventually finds herself hanging out with Brialy, a man she meets in the film’s first scene.
Eventually, it all becomes too much for her, and things go south, the film becoming a commentary on the go-go nature of city life and office work. Kind of. It takes out most of its aggression on the main character, who is more-or-less shamed for wanting to be independent, and the lesson is that she should have just lived a rural life. Still, despite a so-so reaction to the film on my part, I found this a rather great inclusion, with the bonus that it comes from a newer restoration.
On top of the film’s trailer, the disc also features a couple of archival interviews, a 5-minute one with star Jeanne Moreau and a 12-minute one with Truffaut, both filmed for television. The Moreau interview appears to be an excerpt from a more extended discussion, the actor talking about working with Truffaut and creating the character for this film. In the director’s interview, he talks about how he made the film as entertainment, feeling that films of that period were too concerned with themes and such rather than just telling a story. Despite that, the conversation still manages to veer into the feminist aspects of the film and how men and women will more than likely respond to the film’s protagonist. Also of interest, Truffaut shows his beaten and marked-up copy of the original novel, which is full of notes and other markings, with huge sections that he has crossed out, showing how he works when adapting a novel. Both interviews are excellent discoveries.
Radiance also includes a booklet, though I don’t have a copy as of now. Once I get one, I will update this article.
Disappointingly it doesn’t appear the Twilight Time commentary could be ported over (Kino includes it on their edition). Still, I feel Radiance has more than made up for it by throwing in a handful of engaging supplements looking at the film, its production, and the source novel.
Despite an older-looking master, the disc delivers a solid presentation on top of a nice collection of supplementary material.