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Screen Icons: Alain Delon Collection (Preview)

Alain Delon DVD

Preview by Jack Foley

ONE of the most magnetic and prominent French actors of the post-war era, Alain Delon’s first outstanding success was in Rene Clement’s stylish 1960 thriller Plein Soleil.

An international hit that made the most of Delon’s unique blend of menace and charisma, the film cast him as a murderous American traveling abroad. Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, Plein Soleil was remade in 1999 as the star-studded The Talented Mr Ripley.

Delon was utilised quite brilliantly by Antonioni as a brash young stockbroker in the enigmatic L’Eclisse, a cornerstone of 1960s European cinema. (L’Eclisse is also being released individually for the first time on July 9, 2007).

Thereafter, Delon struck up perhaps the most profitable director relationship of his career, working with Jean-Pierre Melville on a number of pictures including Le Samouraï, Le Cercle Rouge and Melville’s final work, Un Flic (included here), perhaps the director’s most perfect synthesis of style and suspense.

All hugely popular with European audiences, these films honed Delon’s existentialist loner persona. Delon’s work was also typified by his complex portrayals of the troubled cops exemplified by Flic Story, and the killers and sexual deviants typified by Alain Jessua’s disturbing and audacious Traitement de Choc.

As part of the Screen Icons series, Optimum World is releasing an Alain Delon box set collection, featuring the following films…

PLEIN SOLEIL (1960)

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith (who also wrote Strangers On A Train), René Clément’s striking study from 1960 of a glamorous and complex psychopath features a career-defining turn from a young, beautiful and ultra-cool Alain Delon.

In a taut, expertly crafted thriller Delon is Ripley, an emissary sent by a wealthy American industrialist to save his son, errant playboy Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), from a life of decadence in Rome. Insinuating himself into Greenleaf’s existence, Ripley practises his signature and dresses up in his clothes before attempting to steal his life, his girl and, most importantly, his money.

Remade in 1999 as the star-studded The Talented Mr Ripley, Plein Soleil is an engrossing meditation on transference and deceit. Highly rated by the famously critical Highsmith, the film is a genuinely stylish original.

Cert: PG
Feature Running Time: 113 mins approx
Region 2
Feature Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic
Mono
Colour/PAL
French/Italian with English subtitles

L’ECLISSE (1962)

Alongside L’Avventura and La Notte, L’Eclisse completes director Michelangelo Antonioni’s ambitious 60s trilogy on doomed relationships in a fractured world.

The tale involves a woman, Vittoria (Monica Vitti, The Red Desert), who has just suffered the break-up of an imperfect relationship with a staunch intellectual (Francisco Rabal).

Piero (Alain Delon, The Leopard), a brash young stockbroker, casts his romantic gaze in Vittoria’s direction and Vittoria’s resolve gradually relents, precipitating a tentative affair. Yet their innermost fears play upon them in ways that go against an honest expression of their love – and against a lasting relationship.

The winner of a Special Jury prize at Cannes, this exquisitely performed and photographed drama refines Antonioni’s thematic preoccupation with the difficulties of communication and the impossibility of love. A masterpiece of technique and composition, L’Eclisse is a challenging and enigmatic work and a cornerstone of 1960s European cinema.

Extras: Interview with Jose Mouré, author on the films of Antonioni

Cert: PG
Feature Running Time: 121 mins approx
Region 2
Feature Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Stereo
B&W PAL
Italian with English subtitles

UN FLIC (1972)

Made the year before his death, Jean-Pierre Melville’s final film and his third with Alain Delon after Le Samouraï and Le Cercle Rouge is the director’s most extreme and underrated gangster movie.

Parisian police commissioner Coleman (Delon) is not a happy man, but he does what he can to get through each day. Coleman finds solace in his affair with Cathy (Catherine Deneuve), who also happens to be the girlfriend of Coleman’s friend, Simon (Richard Crenna), the head of a gang of daring criminals. As the commissioner’s pursuit of the gang intensifies, so does the rivalry between the two men.

Beginning with a remarkable bank robbery on a deserted beach front and also featuring a helicopter heist shot in real time, Un Flic is perhaps the director’s most perfect synthesis of style and suspense.

A wonderfully fatalistic study of loss and deception and a distillation of Melville’s interest in the codes of loyalty and honour, the film marks a fitting epitaph to one of the finest careers in contemporary cinema.

Cert: 12
Feature Running Time: 96 mins approx
Region 2
Feature Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Mono
Colour/PAL
French with English subtitles

TRAITEMENT DE CHOC (1973)

One of the more unusual entries in Delon’s estimable filmography, Traitement de choc is an effective psychological thriller that also offers a timely comment on medical practice and the exploitation of the poor for the benefit of the wealthy.

Hélène Masson (Annie Girardot, Hidden), a stressed-out retail manager takes up a course of therapy at a centre run by the secretive Dr Devilers (Alain Delon).

At first, Hélène is encouraged by Devilers’ apparent success with his other patients but soon becomes concerned when one of her fellow patients commits suicide. Later, one of the Portuguese serving boys disappears after asking her for help and Hélène soon realises that something is seriously wrong…

Taking a break from the existential loners from both sides of the law with which he is so closely associated, Delon is quite chilling as the aptly-named doctor, displaying a complete indifference to moral issues whilst oozing a seductive and fatally irresistible charm.

Extras: Interview with Director Alain Jessua

Cert: TBC
Feature Running Time: 83 mins approx
Region 2
Feature Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Mono
Colour/PAL
French / Portugese with English subtitles

FLIC STORY (1975)

Based on the memoir of French police detective Roger Borniche, Flic Story grippingly recreates a violent post-war crime spree that shocked a nation still reeling from Nazi occupation.

When Emile Buisson (Jean-Louis Trintignant, Three Colours Red) France’s most notorious criminal escapes from a mental asylum, his bloody rampage has politicians and the press demanding results.

Paris cop Roger Borniche (Alain Delon) gets the thankless job of finding Buisson and either bringing him in or stopping him dead. Through rooftop pursuits, alley stakeouts, nightclub showdowns, and car to car gun battles, Borniche, a stylish and scrupulously ethical “flic” (French slang for “cop”), is forced to break the rules he usually only bends.

Distinctly Melvillian in its moral ambiguity and glacial, existentialist tone, director Jacques Deray’s (Borsalino and Co.) blending of a suspenseful cat-and-mouse thriller with a frank, true-crime exposé make Flic Story one of the most notable French film noirs of the period.

Cert: TBC
Feature Running Time: 107 mins approx
Region 2
Feature Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Mono
Colour/PAL
French with English subtitles