The Swindle (Rien Ne Va Plus) sees Chabrol at perhaps his most playful as a pair of scam artists, Isabelle Huppert and Michel Serrault, get in over their heads. But who is scamming who and who do you trust in a life built on so many lies?
Arrow Video presents Claude Chabrol’s The Swindle on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from a new 4K restoration and was more than likely scanned from the 35mm original negative. The disc is exclusively available in Arrow’s Twisting the Knife: Four Films by Claude Chabrol.
Continuing on through Chabrol’s later films with the same level of quality (for the most part) found in Arrow's previous set dedicated to the filmmaker, Lies & Deceit: Five Films by Claude Chabrol, the new restoration and end digital presentation for The Swindle is an incredibly sharp one. The level of detail present can be staggering at times, particularly in its long shots, even those found along a snowy mountainside, where distinguishable details abound, from needles on trees to indents in the snow. Close-ups also offer up the same level of quality, textures and more just leaping off the screen. This also remains true when it comes to rendering the film’s grainy texture, the grain looking clean and natural at all times.
Colours end up being the one area I’m not so sure on with this presentation. The colours in most of the titles of the previous set could be put up for debate but I was still relatively pleased with them, preferring them far more to the steely look offered up in the archive features found in the set’s supplements. The colours here feel odd, though, featuring a heavier blue/green tint that just bathes everything. Whites end up sucking this up a teeny, little bit as well, and the blacks, while inky most of the time, come out a bit muddy in the shadows of darker scenes. Comparing it to what I could find around the previous Cohen disc for the film (which I do not own), the look here is colder in the end. It could be right, but it felt off while watching it.
Outside of that the restoration work is, as expected, impeccable, no notable blemishes popping up. Colours aside, it is an unbelievably sharp looking image.
Arrow includes a lossless PCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack. The wider sound field is nice, music and some background effects spread out effectively, with dialogue feeling centered most of the time. Audio quality is sharp and clear with strong range, and there is no damage to speak of.
This title follows a similar pattern the discs in the previous Chabrol set followed when it comes to supplements, Arrow producing and a handful of new ones and porting over some archival ones.
Things start off with a brand-new audio commentary recorded by critic Barry Forshaw and author Sean Hogan, who have also recorded a track for the next film in the set, The Color of Lies. The two tracks share a few similarities, at least when it comes down to reappraising the director’s later works. They note how most audiences and/or fans of the filmmaker’s are often dismissive of this later period and the two offer their own defenses, feeling the passage of time will make them go down easier with audiences. They apply all of this to The Swindle for this track, which they call one of the director’s more “playful” films, a bit of an understatement since it clearly spends it’s time skirting audience expectations. I think the two end up really capturing and explaining the intended spirit of the film, justifying the director's choices. I enjoyed their discussion, and I feel anybody that comes away from the film bemused would probably benefit from giving the track a go.
A new visual essay by author Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze expands on the previous two’s comments around the “playfulness” of the film, exploring how the film plays off of expected genre conventions, which includes using “cartoonish” villains, who I guess, in this case, she feels references a character in one of Chabrol’s 60’s films, a spy spoof called Marie Chantal vs. Dr. Kha (aka Blue Panther), a film that I did not know existed until I watched this essay. It’s a brisk 14-minutes and nicely edited together.
Also new to this edition is a remotely conducted interview with Chabrol’s stepdaughter, Cécile Maistre-Chabrol, who recounts how Chabrol encouraged her to get into filmmaking when immediate family seemed to be hesitant on such a career path, leading to her working as an assistant director on a number of his later films. She would also keep her eye on the other crew members, learning the tricks of the trade, and eventually making her own TV documentary about Chabrol, Chabrol, l'anticonformiste. She discusses that film to a degree, even touching on the difficulties in making that film due to having to clear rights for clips from her stepfather’s own films. Running 38-minutes, it’s one of the better, more personal interviews to be found in Arrow’s two sets, up there with the interview with Chabrol’s translator Ros Schwartz, which can be found on the disc for Betty.
The rest of the material is all archival, including a 25-minute interview with actor Isabelle Huppert, which looks to have been recorded by MK2 a few years ago. Huppert recounts first meeting Chabrol (apparently their memories of how they first met differ from one another) and talks about The Swindle to a small degree, explaining how the film reflects the life of an actor. She also talks about Nightcap, another title in the set, to a small degree. As a warning, she does spend more time talking about La cérémonie, a film not in either of Arrow’s sets (which I also don’t believe has a North American Blu-ray release) and there are spoilers within. In all, she offers a great little examination on a few of her roles for the director.
There’s another introduction by Joël Magny, running over 2-minutes and offering what amounts to a synopsis of the film, and Claude Chabrol pops up yet again to offer a select-scene commentary for the film. As with his other tracks it’s more technical, the director explaining the reasoning behind some of his camera work (regretting a decision not to repeat a camera pan from earlier in a scene) and the tonal shifts in the film. He also points out how he placed characters, important later in the film, in the background of a couple of scenes. It’s one of his shorter contributions, running around 24-minutes, but worth listening to. This is then followed by an 8-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that is promotional in nature, offering interviews with Chabrol and members of the cast. The disc then closes with a trailer for the film and small gallery featuring around 6 production photos.
It ends up being one of the more stacked titles across the two sets, offering a set of supplements that nicely focus on his later work, offering a fair reassessment.
The colours have an odd look about them but the presentation is otherwise sharp, the film looking brand new. The title also offers what is probably the most satisfying collection of supplements so far between Arrow’s two Chabrol sets, at least so far.