An unrelenting fatalism is woven into the fabric of The Widow of Saint-Pierre. Filmed mostly in cold blue hues by French director Patrice Leconte, almost everything around the sunny and beautiful Madame La casts a pall attempts to smother her. But her goodness is powerful enough to overcome the forces of her environment. She is the wife of the French garrison captain stationed on the small island in the cold waters of the new world off Canada. It is a period of upheaval in early eighteenth century France. The empire is unstable and sensitive to issues of loyalty. Two fishermen commit a heinous, senseless murder, and one is sentenced to execution at the guillotine. The problem is that there is no guillotine (nicknamed "the widow") and no executioner on Saint-Pierre. Neel Auguste is detained in the prison under Le Captaine's command and must await a sharp and sudden fate. Madame La, Le Captaine and Auguste form a strange triangle of involvement as the fateful events play themselves out to the only conclusion possible.
There are powers greater than logic driving this film. The human heart
can be overpowering. Le Captaine is madly in love with his Madame La. He is willing to put aside
almost any consideration in deference to that love. Yet, and this is one of the great strengths of
the script, Le Captaine never debases himself, nor do any of the other characters controlled by
emotions that overpower intellect. His love is returned by Madame La. Their relationship is fed by
a mutual respect.
It's really a shame that the perfection of Leconte's widescreen
compositions should be compromised by cropping or pan and scan, but such is the case here. They
have made the DVD anamorphic, but 1.77 instead of 2.35. How can the studios involved be foolish
enough to taint this DVD release by such a senseless decision? Would that were the only problem
with the transfer. There are far too many soft scenes. The cold compositions called for precise
rendering of detail and it's a let down. Colors are fine and probably less saturated because of
artistic choice. Black levels and shadow detail are adequate. The Dolby Digital 5:1 aggressively
captures the lapping of water against the prows of ships and catches the icy island wind
effectively. Removable yellow English subtitles are easy to read and do not disturb the flow of the
film. There's a 2-channel English dubbed track for those foolish enough to eschew sub-titles.
Steven Culp extracts the essence of Robert F. Kennedy in Roger Donaldson's outstanding feature Thirteen Days. Culp recently shared insights on the performance and his career with Films on Disc. Click the image for more.
Have you visited Home Theater Talk lately? One of the friendliest places on the Net for Home Theater and DVD discussion, you can get help for installation problems or simply share your opinions with other Vidiots.