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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Masques (1987)

"It's very amusing to live several lives at once."
- Christian (Philippe Noiret)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: July 26, 2004

Stars: Philippe Noiret, Anne Brochet, Roger Dumas, Robin Renucci
Director: Claude Chabrol

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:40m:17s
Release Date: July 27, 2004
UPC: 037429196724
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- CB-B- D

DVD Review

As a general rule, the word "Hitchcockian" makes me want to run screaming from the room. Invariably, it means a knockoff of the Master of Suspense, not the re-creation of his style; for a good long while there, Brian De Palma seemed to want to make a career out of nothing but Hitch knockoffs, and even for him, it seemed to wear thin. Claude Chabrol has a go at it here, and though the film isn't a bad one, about the best it can muster up is a sort of warmed-over suspenseful moodiness.

Philippe Noiret stars as Christian, host of a terribly popular and crassly maudlin French television show, in which he gives away trips to little old ladies and little old men. Aesthetic quality aside, if you're a star of a certain stature, a book must be written about you, and hence Roland Wolf (Robin Renucci), a crime novelist and sycophantic celebrity journalist, is on hand to be Christian's Boswell. Rather than merely grabbing a few minutes in the dressing room, Christian suggests that the younger man accompany him for a few days to his country house—they'll have time to relax, to chat, to get some work done.

The house is fabulously ornate and well kept, and chock full of odd characters, the most notable of whom is Catherine (Anne Brochet), Christian's delicate stepdaughter, whose frail constitution keeps her confined to the bed more often than not. The strongest thing about the movie is its atmosphere, but that isn't enough to sustain dramatic interest for the run of the picture; Chabrol's story is bottom heavy, and by the time things finally start falling into place, in the last third, your interest will probably already have waned. Noiret (perhaps most familiar to American audiences for his performances in Il Postino and Cinema Paradiso) is an avuncular presence, a crass fellow who has made good and now fancies himself a lord of the manor; at one point, his character must return to Paris on business, and the story sags when he's not on screen. There's also much talk about the mysterious, absent Madeleine, a friend of Catherine's, an aspiring actress looking to Christian for career guidance; but she never inspires the wonder we have for Rebecca, for instance, and as a story device, it feels more forced than organic. Similarly, the cast of characters is odd but never quite odd enough—Chabrol lacks the perverse resourcefulness of David Lynch—and even the blossoming romance between Catherine and Roland doesn't really catch fire. At times, there's a hopeful feeling that Chabrol is going to do some pop-culture variation on Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer, but he settles for more pedestrian plot development instead.

Chabrol sort of asks for it, too, even using the theme music from Alfred Hitchcock Presents at one point; his own movie only suffers by comparison. He does give Noiret a grand, concluding Howard Beale-like aria, but by the time we get there, the horses have long since left the barn.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The colors tend to be a little blotchy and runny, but it's a pretty clean transfer, largely without visual interference.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: There's a little too much ambient noise throughout, but nothing too egregious.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. accompanying booklet, with a Chabrol filmography and an essay on him by Guy Austin
Extras Review: No significant extras to speak of, and British academic Guy Austin certainly overstates the case hugely by calling Chabrol the best filmmaker of the nouvelle vague—it reads like he's just trying to be contrary.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Much stronger on atmosphere than on story, there are some good moody things here, but after a while, you get the sense that it's running on fumes.


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