DVDFr | The Messenger: The Complete Blu-ray Review

One of Joseph Losey’s masterpieces, Palme d’Or 1971, is, for the first time, offered at the expected level of quality.

Leo Colston, 13, of humble origins, was invited by a classmate Marcus Maudsley to spend the summer holidays of 1900 with him at his family’s castle in Norfolk. Leo, captivated by the beauty of Marian, Marcus’ older sister, of marriageable age, agrees to secretly send the messages that the young woman exchanges with Ted Burgess, a tenant farmer.

The messenger (The Go-Between), Palme d’Or 1971, the twenty-fourth feature film by Joseph Losey is Harold Pinter’s adaptation of a novel published by LP Hartley in 1953. It will be Losey’s third film from a screenplay by Harold Pinter after The Servant (1963) and Accident (1967).

The messenger offers a realistic representation of the English aristocracy of the early twentieth century, whose particularism is underlined by the presence of the character of Leo, the son of a poor woman. We find there, recurrent in Losey’s work, the opposition of social classes, the aristocracy on the one hand, the servants and the tenant farmer on the other, occasionally united: the servants attend the morning prayer led by the squire and a cricket match once a year brings together aristocrats and sharecroppers. But, the rest of the time, everyone stays in their assigned place to do their work, as Marcus illustrates by throwing down the clothes that Leo had placed on a chest, so that the servants have to bend down for them. pick up: “That’s what they’re for!” ” (They’re here for that !).

The messenger is served by a remarkable cast. Julie Christie and Alan Bates reunite four years later Far from the raging crowd (Far from the Madding Crowd, John Schlesinger, 1967), the best of five screen adaptations of Thomas Hardy’s novel. The title role is played by a boy of Leo’s age, Dominic Guard, who will be seen again in the unforgettable Picnic at Hanging Rock (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Peter Weir, 1975) and in some thirty titles, mainly for television.

The secondary characters are played by renowned actors. The role of the squire is held by Michael Gough (200 roles, with a dozen contributions to British horror films of the 60s). Margaret Leighton, revealed by The Lovers of Capricorn (Under Capricorn, Alfred Hitchcock, 1948), was appointed to theOscar for Best Supporting Actor for his interpretation of the chatelaine. Edward Fox, the brother of James Fox whom Joseph Losey had employed in The Servant, camp Hugh Trimingham, Marian’s suitor. Michael Redgrave plays Elderly Leo and Jim Broadbent makes his very first screen appearance here.

Added to the emotion retained by the adaptation, the quality of the interpretation, served by the holding of the dialogues and the experience of directing actors acquired by Joseph Losey during his years of theater, the haunting beauty from the composition of frames and landscapes photographed by Gerry Fisher, cinematographer of nine Joseph Losey films, from Accident, in 1967, to Don Giovanni, in 1979.

The icing on the cake, the haunting original score by Michel Legrand, thirteen variations and fugues on a very simple theme, for strings and two pianos.

The messenger, for a long time not found, had been published in France only in the Joseph Losey Box, grouping together seven films, published by Studiocanal in 2006, long out of print. The release of this masterpiece by ESC, the first edition in high definition in France, fills a void, especially since it offers us a restored version of the film, accompanied by a beautiful analysis by Michel Ciment, the great specialist of the cinema of Joseph Losey and of an interesting libretto.

The messenger

The messenger (116 minutes) and its supplement (26 minutes) fit on a BD-50 Blu-ray housed, together with a DVD-9, in a digipack not provided for the test, performed on the only Blu-ray.

The fixed and musical menu offers the film in its original version, in English, with optional subtitles, and in French dubbing, both in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono format.

Inside of digipack, a 32 page booklet, written by Olivier Père, opens with the “complexification of the narrative structure of the literary source”. “Two eras overlap in an extremely subtle way” with the unexplained appearance, in several shots, of an unknown character who will not be known until the end of the film that he is Leo, returned to Brandham Hall about sixty years after spending his vacation there. It’s a greeting from Losey to Alain Resnais for films like Muriel ou le temps d’un retour (1963). Then parade the photography of Gerry Fisher, the music of Michel Legrand, the importance of “labyrinthine mansions” in which Losey “likes to trap his characters”, the story of a boy “who collides with the adult world”, as The Boy with Green Hair (The Boy with Green Hair) of his first film, in 1948, the “denunciation of the corrupting and destructive hold of man for man”. The booklet continues with Julie Christie, portrait of an anti-star, a review of the actress’s career discovered by John Schlesinger and launched in 1965 by Darling Lili which earned her a Oscar. Then Harold Pinter, a fruitful relationship with cinema
notes the novelist, playwright and poet’s solid contribution to the seventh art as a screenwriter, his “perfect understanding” with Losey, for whom he had written an adaptation ofIn Search of Lost Time, “Film entered in the pantheon of the great masterpieces never shot”. The booklet closes on Joseph Losey, a filmmaker in exile, an overview of the life and work of the filmmaker forced by McCarthyism to leave the USA for Europe where he will make 26 feature films, the main part of a work in which he tackled “social or political subjects by underlining the alienation of its characters ”and which contains films that deserve to be re-evaluated, such as Two men on the run (Figures in a Landscape, 1970).

The messenger

The lovers factor (26 ‘, ESC Éditions, 2021) by Michel Ciment, author of The Book of Losey
(Ramsay, 1979), a collection of interviews with the filmmaker,
Joseph Losey: the eye of the Master, a collection of texts by the filmmaker on his work (Institut Lumière / Actes Sud, 1994) and Kazan Losey (Stock, 2009). Fruit of his association with Harold Pinter, The messenger is “one of the peaks of the career of Joseph Losey”. The attribution of the
Palme d’Or was a surprise, everyone expecting her to return, for Death in Venice (Dead in Venezia), to Luchino Visconti to whom was attributed, by way of consolation, the Festival 25th Anniversary Prize, designed for the occasion. MGM, who did not believe in the film, sold it to Columbia just before the festival opened! The main liberty taken by the script vis-à-vis the novel is the destructuring of time, symbolized by several unexplained appearances of elderly Leo. “The tragedy is not lacrimal”, the film “erases” all sentimentality and offers a cold portrait of English society, so aptly drawn “by an American from the Midwest and a Jewish refugee from Eastern Europe”. There is also the theme of the arrival of someone in an environment to which he does not belong that Losey exploited in several of his films, for example, in 1968, in Cérémonie secrète (Secret Ceremony) Where Boom (still absent from our video catalogs), just like that of the house, revealing the characters who inhabit it. Losey was a man of extreme intelligence and great lucidity, author of 500 pages of reflections on his films, “a man of the theater who immediately integrated cinema as a means of expression”, which is demonstrated by the quality of his work. his first three films.

The messenger

The image (1.85: 1, 1080p, AVC), very clean, well resolved, stable, pleasantly contrasted, with grain control respectful of the texture of 35 mm, deploys natural colors, delicately calibrated.

Night and day with the image of the 2006 Sudiocanal cabinet version, cropped at 1.33: 1, unstable, with random cleanliness and color grading and definition affected by very strong grain.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound of the original version, also very clean, practically breathless, clearly reproduces the dialogue. A good dynamic and a reasonable opening of the bandwidth highlight the beautiful original composition of Michel Legrand.

The dubbing in French, a little muffled, with dialogues with narrow timbre and lack of naturalness, was not taken into account for the attribution of the note.

Image credits: © EMI Films Productions, Robert Velaise / John Heyman Production

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DVDFr | The Messenger: The Complete Blu-ray Review