Le Fantôme du
[The Phantom of the Moulin Rouge]
René Clair’s first feature film stars Georges Vaultier and Sandra Milovanoff, with support from Maurice Schutz, Albert Préjean, Paul Ollivier, José Davert and Madeleine Rodrigue.
More straight-forward than his earlier Avant-Garde shorts and less stylized than his later silent features, Clair’s romantic drama of star-crossed lovers nonetheless ventures into surrealist territory when Paris becomes plagued by a series of bizarre and unexplained phenomena.
Yvonne (Milovanoff), the daughter of a retired politician, is in love with Julien Boissel (Vaultier), a succesful businessman. However, Gauthier (Davert), the publisher of a disreputable newspaper, holds incriminating evidence against Yvonne’s father (Schutz) who is then obliged to encourage his daughter not to see Julien and consider Gauthier’s demand that she marry him instead. Julien and Yvonne are, of course, extremely distressed by the situation. Boissel is in turn encouraged by his cousin (Rodrigue) to forget his troubles at the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub.
When a psychologist, Renault (Ollivier), intervenes to free Boissel from the troubling cares of his earthly body, Julien’s soul wanders Paris playfully creating the mysterious phenomena. Boissel eventually settles into the Moulin Rouge, encouraging its carefree frivolity, but he is soon remorseful and yearns for the love of Yvonne. Julien’s spirit learns of Gauthier’s blackmail and proceeds to right wrongs.
Meanwhile, Renault is arrested for the ‘murder’ of Boissel and an autopsy of Julien’s body is planned. His soul must return to his body before it is too late.
While the ghostly special effects of Julien’s soul moving about in the mortal world were not new in cinematic history when this film was produced, they were notably very well executed. Much of the appeal of the film, which actually has little to do with the Moulin Rouge, is in observing Julien’s ghostly exploits. — Carl Bennett
Sinister Cinema, ST48, no UPC number.
One single-sided, single-layered, Region 0NTSC DVD-R disc, 1.33:1 aspect ratio image in full-frame 4:3 (720 x 480 pixels) interlaced scan MPEG-2 format, ? Mbps average video bit rate, ? kbps audio bit rate, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, English language intertitles, no foreign language subtitles, 12 chapter stops; standard DVD keepcase, $16.95.
Release date: 2007.
Country of origin: USA
This DVD-R edition has been mastered from an older analog videotape transfer of a good to very-good 16mm reduction print of the British release version distributed by Wardour. The results are not great, as the low-resolution of the videotape master coupled with the marginal resolution of the DVD itself produces a coarse picture full of analog and digital artifacts. Highlights are often blasted-out and featureless; shadows are plugged-up and black. Shots with light highlighted areas that cut into dark intertitles will ghost — that is, the highlights take about a second to totally disappear into the blackness of an intertitle or a head movement against a dark background will briefly leave a brief series of trailing ghost images. These are sure signs of a vintage videotape transfer made on older equipment and a problem that used to plague VHS videotapes produced by small companies such as Videobrary, Video Yesteryear and Grapevine Video.
The film is presented with a music score compiled from preexisting vintage orchestral recordings.
We note that this appears to be the only home video edition of the film and reluctantly recommend this not horrible but marginally watchable disc until a high-quality edition comes along.
USA: Click the logomark to purchase this Region 0NTSC DVD-R edition from Amazon.com. Your purchase supports the Silent Era website.