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Koch Lorber presents
Fresh Bait (L'Appat) (1995)

"You always lend, and they never repay."
- Nathalie (Marie Gillain)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: September 30, 2005

Stars: Marie Gillain, Olivier Sitruk, Bruno Putzulu
Other Stars: Richard Berry, Clotilde Courau, Philippe Duclos, Marie Ravel, Jacky Nercessian
Director: Bertand Tavernier

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, violence)
Run Time: 01h:51m:37s
Release Date: June 07, 2005
UPC: 741952302797
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-C+B C+

DVD Review

Fresh Bait is the domestically retitled release of Bertrand Tavernier's 1995 Euro-slacker leisurely paced thriller L'Appat, one of those films where characters find the supposed lure of easy money never quite as easy as originally imagined. Tavernier—director of the Dexter Gordon jazz opus 'Round Midnight—adapted the screenplay from a 1990 Morgan Sportes novel, and sticks with the kind of laid back European pacing generally not found in films made in the U.S. The pacing sets Tavernier's film apart, so much so that Fresh Bait clocks in at nearly two hours, moving casually on its predetermined path of criminal tragedy in a long, slow circles that fly in the face of the quick edits and short attention span that usually pass for storytelling in mainstream thrillers.

Nathalie (Marie Gillain) is a bubbly 18-year-old aspiring "model/actress", who supplements her meager clothing store job by serving as an escort for wealthy, older men, all of whom present themselves as people who can help her in her career path. She shares a flat with her barely working boyfriend Eric (Olivier Sitruk) and his equally unemployed pal Bruno (Bruno Putzulu), who spend most of their days watching Scarface and dreaming of coming to America to open a clothing store. A plan is eventually concocted to rob Nathalie's rich clients—though not without much consternation—make their big score, and set sail to a new life. If only it were that easy.

Tavernier flaunts the cultural disregard for Nathalie's youthful sexuality, and whether she is parading around nude in front of both Eric and Bruno as they numbly watch Scarface or applying a no-harm-no-foul approach to her after hours career, Gillain's character represents a distant cousin to the tighter sexual morals found in most U.S. films. It's hard to imagine how someone like Nathalie would be portrayed had this been made by an American director, though I suspect it would be somewhere between hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold and lurid-sexpot, whereas Gillain holds an even keel as a young woman comfortable with herself, and who treats the attention of older men with the practiced disdain of a bored shop clerk.

It is understood that the plans of Nathalie, Eric and Bruno will go awry—that is practically a given in a film like this—though Tavernier takes his own sweet time getting there, filling Fresh Bait with false starts and an ending that isn't quite fully spelled out. Gillain, however, holds our attention throughout, allowing Tavernier to carry out his often slow narrative; she is an understated force on film, akin to Audrey Tautou, alternating constantly between lyrical doses of innocence, disinterest and sexuality, and she gives Fresh Bait an edge in a story that ultimately takes too long to get to its logical conclusion.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Mediocre job on the image transfer, with Koch Lorber issuing Tavernier's film in 1.85:1 nonanamorphic widescreen, and to make matters worse the print itself is sprinkled with a fair amount of nicks and specks. Dark scenes look rather muddy, but most other sequences carry fleshtones and colors that have a natural, lifelike palette, though the print is a little soft around the edges.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: Nothing extraordinary about the original 2.0 stereo French language track. I relied on the optional English subtitles to understand dialogue, but voice quality was clear, with no trace of clipping or crackle.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sister My Sister, 301/302, God Is Great, I Am Not
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Extras consist of the feature Interview with Colo Tavernier O'Hagan, Marie Gillain, Bruno Putzulu and Olivier Sitruk (30m:03s), in which screenwriter O'Hagan (the now ex-wife of Bertrand Tavernier) smokes quite a bit, and gets the three leads to discuss how they were cast in the film. Sitruk and Putzulu show much more life than they did in Fresh Bait, and Gillain is once again effortlessly charming. The segment is in French, with burned in English subs.

An automated Photo Gallery (02m:16s), a theatrical trailer, 26 chapter stops and optional English subtitles complete the sparse supplements.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Marie Gillain carries buckets of natural, streetwise charm in Bertrand Tavernier's Euro-slacker crime film, and if nothing else, is the main reason to seek this one out. The story itself, while peppered with a couple of interesting twists, is fairly predictable, but is thankfully overshadowed by a carefree performance from Gillain.


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