Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 2nd, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: Czechoslovakia / France, 1968
Director: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Writer: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Ivan Mistrík, Zuzana Kocúriková, Sylvie Turbová, Sylvie Bréal, Jozef Cierny, Jozef Kroner, Dominique Prado
BluRay released: May 27th, 2014
Approximate running times: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono French
BluRay Release: Kino Lorber / Redemption Films
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $34.95
Synopsis: After narrowly escaping soldiers that had been relentlessly pursued him, a man named Boris finds refuge in rural village that years before had been the home of a resistance fighter Jean who is believed to have died during the war. And not long after his arrival Boris integrates his ways into the lives of Jean’s widow, her sister and their maid by seducing this trio of women with a series of tall tales about encounters with Jean. Unfortunately for Boris his charade is put in jeopardy when another stranger arrives claiming to the widows long lost husband.
Where the overwhelming majority of his contemporaries have had their worked reappraised, the same could not be said for the films of Alain Robbe-Grillet. That was until recently as his films have been made more widely available. And now that the bulk of his oeuvre has been given quality releases, the films of Alain Robbe-Grillet are ripe for their own reappraisal.
Alain Robbe-Grillet began his career as a novelist and as an author he is one of pivotal figures associated with the Nouveau Roman (new novel) trend that emerged in 1950’s French literature. This type of writing is best summed up as creating a new style with each new writing. From there Alain Robbe-Grillet would make the shift into the world of cinema when he was asked to collaborate on the screenplay for Last Year at Marienbad. His screenplay would receive an Academy Award nomination for Writing Original Screenplay and won the Golden Lion for best screenplay. This success would lead to Alain Robbe-Grillet making the transition to directing, his directorial debut in 1962 with the film L’Immortelle and following that up four years later with Trans-Europ-Express.
For his third feature film Alain Robbe-Grillet would re-team with Jean-Louis Trintignant (Death Laid an Egg, The Conformist) the leading man from his previous film Trans-Europ-Express. Only this time around Jean-Louis Trintignant would be given the task of portraying the dual role of Jan Robin, a presumed to be deceased resistance fighter and Boris Varissa, a man that nobody seems to remember and yet he claims to have been a close friend of Jan Robin. From a performance stand point Jean-Louis Trintignant does a remarkable job maintaining his characters liability, which is not an easy task considering the unreliability of this film’s protagonist? Also his role is very important to the story at hand, since the remaining cast of characters are never fully explored and their own motivations never enter the fray. With that being said, despite the limitations of their characters the rest of the cast are very good in their respective roles.
Though there is a semblance of a linear narrative, the end result like all of Alain Robbe-Grillet is any remotely straight forward. Also the film’s appropriate title The Man Who Lies gives the viewer the ultimate clue on how to process what they are about to see. The protagonist is not to be trusted, don’t rely on what you hear, but what you see as it holds what’s left of the truth. And from a visual stand point Alain Robbe-Grillet creates a world only seen in dreams and nightmares. There is never any moment in this film where anything ever comes close to being grounded in reality. The events which unfold in this film are firmly rooted in a subconscious world that deeply resonates and leaves itself open for multiple interpolations.
There are many great moments visually in this film like a scene where the widow, her sister and their maid are paying a game of hide and seek while the seeker is blindfolded. Or this film’s finale which features a striking image of this film’s protagonist as he appears to have come to terms with truth he has been trying to avoid for the whole film. Another area where this film excels is its use of repetitive sounds and images as a means to reveal things that are just beneath the surface. Also though this film is not as provocative as some of his later films, The Man Who Lies still delves into many of the themes that would dominate Alain Robbe-Grillet’s filmography like sexuality and bondage. Overall The Man Who Lies is an engrossing exercise in where the truth ends and a lie begins.
The Man Who Lies comes on a 50gb dual layer Blu-Ray. This release has been flagged for 1080 Progressive playback and the film is presented in its intended 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Black levels look excellent throughout and during darker moments there is a significant amount of clarity. Contrast levels outside of a few minor moments fare well, details look crisp and the source used is in great shape. There are no issues with DNR or compression and there is a healthy layer of grain.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in French and also included with this release are removable English subtitles. There are no negative issues to report in regard to this releases audio mix as dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and the film’s score sounds appropriately robust. Considering this film’s age and the type of film it is, its range is more than adequate all things considered. And when it comes to the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack everything sound very good.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (3 minutes 22 seconds – 1080 Progressive 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in French with English subtitles), trailers for Trans-Europ-Express (3 minutes 21 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in French with English subtitles) and Eden and After (2 minutes 41 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in French with English subtitles), a 2014 promo reel for the six Alain Robbe-Grillet films that Kino Lorber / Redemption Films are releasing (2 minutes 9 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and an interview Alain Robbe-Grillet (35 minutes 22 seconds – 1080 Progressive 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in French with English subtitles) who discusses the origins of The Man Who Lies, shooting in Slovakia, how he developed this film specifically for Jean-Louis Trintignant who he had previously worked with on Trans-Europ-Express, he also discusses in depth the plot and the characters in the film and critics reaction to the film. Overall The Man Who Lies gets an exceptional release from Kino Lorber / Redemption Films.
Note: Kino Lorber / Redemption Films are only releasing this film on Blu-Ray.