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Blue Underground presents
Quiet Days in Clichy (Stille dage i Clichy) (1970)

"The French are a great people, even if they are syphilitic."
- Joey (Paul Valjean)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: December 18, 2003

Stars: Paul Valjean, Wayne Rodda
Other Stars: Avi Sagild, Louise White, Susanne Krage, Ulla Koppel, Elsebeth Reingaard, Lisbet Lundquist
Director: Jens Jørgen Thorsen

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (scenes of a graphic sexual nature, language)
Run Time: 01h:30m:30s
Release Date: November 05, 2002
UPC: 014381193626
Genre: late night

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

There are few figures in modern history that can match the notoriety of author Henry Miller. Born in New York in 1891, his writing career began after leaving his second wife and expatriating to Paris in the early 1930s. His first novel, chronicling his life and loves abroad, Tropic of Cancer, published in 1934, became an underground hit, but was promptly banned in the U.S. as being pornographic, sparking a censorship battle that lasted over thirty years, until he was victorious in the U.S courts in the mid-1960s. With the outbreak of World War II, Miller returned to the States where he continued to write from his home in Big Sur, although his work continued to be banned in his own country. In 1956, he rewrote a pair of his earlier short stories that were based on his long time friendship with Alfred Perles, whom he met on his first trip to Europe. An immediate success when first published, Quiet Days in Clichy described a free and bohemian lifestyle, and the pair's highly fictionalized exploits and sexual escapades in Paris.

Looking for a project that would suit his own experimental style, director Jens Jørgen Thorsen helmed the first filmed adaptation of the book, shot on location in Paris at the same time Joseph Strick was filming his adaptation of Tropic of Cancer. Miller's longtime U.S. publisher, Barney Rosset, saw an opportunity to repeat the phenomenal success his novice film distribution company had seen with Vilgot Sjöman's controversial I Am Curious: Yellow and its surrounding legal battles, figuring Miller would be a gold mine at the box office. Things started off well when the first print landed in California and was immediately seized on the grounds of indecency, a charge Rosset's Grove Press successfully overturned in the courts. But despite its reputation and its author, the film disappointed in the theaters, prompting Thorsen to pull the distribution rights, and subsequently relegating the film to obscurity this side of the Atlantic.

Like Miller's writing, the film presents a raw, crude, and direct perspective of its subject matter. There is little in the way of ongoing narrative; instead, a rather stark series of vignettes carry the characters Carl (the novelized Perlés) and Joey (Miller's persona) as they pursue their carnal whims with their neighbors, or avail the services of street prostitutes (who are played by actual prostitutes in the film). They find themselves in all manner of predicament, including a rather precarious situation with an underage nymphomaniac. Sex is their first and foremost preoccupation, preferring to dig through the trash for food after spending their last franc on their latest exploit.

Despite its undeniable importance in film legal history, Quiet Days in Clichy fails to rise much above cheap voyeurism. Its actors are unable to deliver anything more than caricatures, its pacing is erratic, and its plot dangles nothing more than a hedonistic lifestyle without merit. The arty touches and stylistic choices do break the monotony, most notably the reprising theme song by Country Joe McDonald, which strings what little story there is along. As a mechanism for pushing the boundaries of decency it may have succeeded, but from a cinematic viewpoint, its rewards are as shallow as its characters, indulgent and excessive, exploitive and without much substance.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Quiet Days in Clichy is presented in a windowboxed 1.66:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The black-and-white image is well preserved, with decent contrast and detail, and few print defects. Grain is abundant but rendered well. No complaints here.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is clean, and dialogue is for the most part easy to discern. Frequency coverage is acceptable, with a present, but not shrill, high end. Not unexpectedly, the lower register is somewhat lacking, but not enough to make the soundtrack feel thin.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
0 Other Trailer(s)1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interviews
  2. Poster and still gallery
  3. Liner notes
  4. Court documents (DVD ROM)
Extras Review: Blue Underground has included a few notable extras with this release, starting off with a 17-minute interview with Miller's editor and publisher, and Clichy's U.S. distributor, Barney Rosset. This is an engaging piece, which sheds some light on the circumstances surrounding the film and its notorious entry into the North American market.

A second on camera interview with Country Joe McDonald follows, clocking in at just over 11 minutes. McDonald describes how he became involved in writing the music for the film, gives some historical context to the film's release and the contrast between European and American reaction to both the movie and his title piece.

A 45-image poster and still gallery contains a number of lobby card, poster and promotional pieces.

Talent bios for Miller and director Thorsen round out the on disc extras.

A PDF file accessable via DVD ROM contains a collection of court documents related to Quiet Days in Clichy, and Rosset's first legal challenge in the exhibition of I Am Curious: Yellow.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

A pair of depraved young men mine the decadence of Paris for their carnal fulfilment in Thorsen's adaptation of Henry Miller's controversial Quiet Days in Clichy. While perhaps the truest version of the book brought to screen, the film is little more than a series of sexual encounters, made souless by poor casting decisions, amateur actors, and an over-reaching director. Despite my reservations on the work itself, Blue Underground deserves credit for bringing the film to DVD in its uncut glory, if for no other reason than its place in changing the face of modern erotic cinema.


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