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The Broken Mirror/Unquiet Death (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • The Broken Mirror/Unquiet Death (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: July 26th, 2023.
    Director: Claude d’Anna
    Cast: Micheline Presle, Max van Sydow, Laure Dechasnel, Aly Ben Ayed, Ursule Pauly
    Year: 1975/1970
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Broken Mirror/Unquiet Death – Movie Review:

    Mondo Macabro offers up a Blu-ray double feature containing two films from director Claude d’Anna.

    The Broken Mirror:

    The first feature tells the story of a woman named Anne Lawrence (Laure Dechasnel) who lives in a massive old mansion in Brussels with her husband Matthew (Max von Sydow). He works as a businessman of some sort while she spends her time restoring old paintings. Anne is a few months pregnant and early in the movie her overbearing widowed mother (Micheline Presle) arrives to visit but spends more time putting her daughter down than doing anything to actually help her.

    As things progress in the narrative, we learn that not too long ago Anne disappeared for a brief period of time, only to be found a short time later in a park, clutching a painting of a woman and a bird. When her mother asks her about this, Anne really has no recollection of it at all and so, as curiosity gets the better of her, she looks for clues about what happened to her and tries to retrace her steps to figure it out.

    As tensions rise between Anne and her mother as well as Anne and Matthew, Anne starts to wonder why a strange bearded man keeps watching her from the window of the abandoned house next door.

    The third feature to be directed by Claude d’Anna, The Broken Mirror is as slow and deliberate in its pacing as it is weirdly hypnotic and somehow completely engaging. Things do not happen quickly in this film and the plot is fairly basic but the performances are strong enough and the sense of mystery intriguing enough that it holds our attention without issue. On top of that, the movie really has some very striking visuals, fantastic compositions and gorgeous use of color throughout – this really is a beautiful looking movie.

    Laure Dechasnel, in her first of only three screen acting roles, is perfectly cast in the lead. As Anne, she’s beautiful and alluring but also very fragile and clearly psychologically damaged. As the story evolves we have to wonder if what we see happening is actually taking place or if it is some sort of imagined event or dream on Anne’s part, and Dechasnel plays this all really convincingly. Max von Sydow’s part is more of a supporting role than anything else, he doesn’t get nearly as much screen time as Dechasnel, but he’s as excellent as you’d expect him to be given his talents as an actor. The two performers craft an interesting and unusually cold relationship between their two characters. Micheline Presle is also very good as Anne’s mother, playing her character with an appropriately nasty bite that makes her interesting, if not exactly likeable.

    Unquiet Death:

    Claude d'Anna's feature film directorial debut was actually co-written and directed with Férid Boughedi. It’s a fairly insane mix of arthouse and surrealism that feels very much like it was influenced by Fernando Arrabal, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Roland Topor's 'Panic Movement.'

    In the film a trio of sisters - Irène (Ursule Pauly), Juliette (Sophie Vaillant) and Emmanuelle (Sylvia Céline) – arrives from their native France to a small island off the coast of Tunisia to visit their wealthy uncle who dies shortly after their arrival. This leaves them alone with the only other human being on the island, their uncle’s strange servant (Aly Ben Ayed). This is all fine at first, he seems nice enough, but when he starts to hear news reports on the radio that there is civil unrest happening on the continent, something in him snaps.

    After looking the three women in their uncle’s home, he becomes dominating and belligerent, forcing them through the threat of violence to do his bidding and perform under his direction as he basically enslaves them to his will. After enough of this, the three girls can take no more and go berserk, resulting in the disappearance of the man – but they soon learn this disappearance was only temporary.

    A strange film rife with allegory about the haves versus the have-nots, Unquiet Death is an interesting experiment with some striking imagery. The story is pretty minimal – rich girls arrive on an island expecting to be treated like rich girls like to be treated only to have the rug pulled out from under them when the servant finds himself freed some his employer’s whims – and the performances over the top and very stagey, but the movie captures a certain sense of lunacy in its second half that keeps things interesting.

    The Broken Mirror/Unquiet Death – Blu-ray Review:

    Mondo Macabro presents both movies on a region free 50GB disc, each framed at 1.66.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The Broken Mirror is restored from its original 35mm negative and it looks beautiful. The film’s very deliberate color scheme is handled really nicely and we get strong black levels and very accurate looking skin tones. Unquiet Death is restored from ‘35mm elements’ which likely means a print, and while it looks fine and is perfectly watchable, detail isn’t as strong and some color fading is evident. It also has a fair bit more print damage than The Broken Mirror. Both transfers are nice and filmic, showing no problems with any overblown edge enhancement or compression problems, though some noise reduction might have been used to smooth things over a bit on Unquiet Death.

    French and English language tracks are offered up for The Broken Mirror, while Unquiet Death gets only a French track, each track in DTS-HD 2.0 Mono. Optional English subtitles are provided for both features. Again, The Broken Mirror fares better than Quiet Death, with the first movie on the disc sound very clean save for a few sporadic moments of minor sibilance. Quiet Death sounds thinner without as much depth in comparison.

    Extras start off with an interview with co-writer/director Claude d’Anna that was recorded in January of 2022. This piece, which runs thirty-two minutes, covers the vast differences in his films from Unquiet Death to The Gentle Slope to The Broken Mirror, critical response to his different movies, working with producer Henry Lange, where the ideas for The Broken Mirror came from, collaborating with his cinematographer on the film, the influence of Flemish paintings on the look of the movie, working with his different cast members on the project, the film's unusual ending, the use of music in the movie and later projects he was involved with including when he got to work with an insane Dennis Hopper and Tomas Milian.

    Up next is an interview with actress/co-writer Laure Dechasnel running fourteen minutes. She talks about how she came to collaborate with d'Anna, their mutual appreciation of painting, research that went into the story, allowing the story to adjust as the production evolved, what it was like for her acting in a film for the first time, working with her co-stars, why she preferred writing to acting and difficulties that arose during the production that they had to deal with.

    Produced by Gust Verren is an interview with d'Anna where he talks about working with the producer and editor of The Broken Mirror for five minutes, talking about how well they got along and the friendship that developed over the course of their collaborative efforts.

    Rappels (Curtain Call) is a seven minute short film by Claude d’Anna starring Sophie Bourdon and Cédric Le Maout that sees a woman in a red dress perform on stage, unhappy with her performance when it's over and saying as much to the stage director. From here, they talk about a strange man in the crowd and relationships only for her to get an upsetting call on her cell while all while she has to keep going out onto the stage to bow for the audience. It’s an odd and amusing short that does a nice job of showing just how easily an actress like Bourdon can turn it on or off as need be.

    Possessed By Cinema is a second interview with d’Anna who talks about Unquiet Death for thirty-one minutes. He goes into quite a bit of detail on the sense of community he had when growing up, his education, how he got involved in the performing arts, the influence of the French New Wave of filmmakers as well as great American directors and Ingmar Bergman, the influence of different musicians, coming to collaborate with Férid Boughedir, the locations where the movie was shot, the influence of the political climate, who actually shot the movie, working with the cast and crew, where some of the ideas for the movie came from and more.

    The disc also includes an interview with the co-writer/director of Unquiet Death, Férid Boughedir, conducted by Lucas Balbo that runs thirty-four minutes. Here, Boughedir talks about his Arab and Muslim background and d'Anna's Christian background, how they came to work together and why, what it was like making a movie in Tunisia at the time, his background and education, meeting Jean Rollin, casting the movie, meeting Alain Robbe-Grillet and Fernando Arrabel, the use of color in the movie and where things were improvised during the course of the making of the movie (which would wind up being banned in Tunisia).

    The Broken Mirror/Unquiet Death - The Final Word:

    Mondo Macabro’s Blu-ray release of The Broken Mirror and Unquiet Death is a good one, presenting two unjustly obscure French oddities in nice shape and with some really strong extras that document their history. Recommended.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Broken Mirror/Unquiet Death Blu-ray screen caps!

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