DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Gabrielle

There are three deleted scenes in all, each introduced by director/co-writer Patrice Chéreau (in subtitled French), explaining why they were cut, and why he is still happy to see them included as extras. The last of these scenes is a stately four-minute single take in which the camera lifts and swoops 360 degrees to take in a piano recital and its audience at one of the Herveys' soirées – "a technical masterpiece", as Chéreau so modestly puts it, but far too long, as he himself concedes, for the film's economic rhythms.

A 35-minute featurette comprises interviews (in subtitled French) with Chereau as well as his two stars Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Greggory. Chéreau talks of his attraction to Joseph Conrad's short story The Return, the basis for Gabrielle, which he describes as "an extraordinary dialogue of the deaf told with an absolutely unprecedented wealth of dialogue."

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He also discusses the challenge that faced him and his co-writer Anne-Lousie Trividic in fleshing out the heroine, an enigmatic cipher in Conrad's story who seldom says anything and is never even named. Meanwhile, the two actors describe their understanding of the characters and the process that they went through to incarnate them – but with far greater insight, analysis and reflection than is normally found in dvd extras. Far from merely stating what would be obvious to anyone who has already seen the film, their contributions serve to illuminate many of the delicate paradoxes and ambiguous reversals found in Gabrielle. If only all featurettes could be of this calibre.

An additional 38-minute interview with Chéreau, this time in excellent English, repeats much material from the other featurette, but is still worth having. Perhaps most revealing here is Chéreau's love of the last line in Conrad's story ("He never returned") - a line whose written impact Chéreau deemed so powerful that he decided to include titles in his adaptation just so that the line could be retained as a dramatic coda. There are some, myself included, who have found this use of intertitles an unnecessarily distracting and excessively bookish stylisation in the film, but it is interesting to hear them justified creatively by the director.

Reviewed on: 22 Apr 2007
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A marriage of convenience is exposed as an elegant charade when passion catches fire. Out to own on DVD from April 23.
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Product Code: ART339DVD

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35:1, enhanced for widescreen TVs

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0

Extras: Deleted scenes, interview with Patrice Chéreau, Isabelle Hupert and Pascal Greggory, interview with Patrice Chéreau, original theatrical trailer

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