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The Private Affairs of Bel Ami Blu-ray Review

The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947) movie poster The Private Affairs of Bel Ami

Theatrical Release: April 25, 1947 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Albert Lewin / Writers: Albert Lewin (screenplay), Guy De Maupassant (story)

Cast: George Sanders (Georges Duroy), Angela Lansbury (Clotilde de Marelle), Ann Dvorak (Claire Madeleine Forestier), John Carradine (Charles Forestier), Susan Douglas Rubes (Suzanne Walter), Hugo Haas (Monsieur Walter), Warren William (Laroche-Mathieu), Frances Dee (Marie de Varenne), Albert Bassermann (Jacques Rival), Marie Wilson (Rachel Michot), Katherine Emery (Madame Walter), Richard Fraser (Philippe de Cantel), John Good (Paul de Cazolles), David Bond (Norbert de Varenne)

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Twenty years before The Jungle Book and over forty before Beauty and the Beast, the voices of Shere Khan (George Sanders) and Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury) made a live-action movie together.
Four altogether, in fact. The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, the second of the actors' four collaborations, is an obscure film by any measure, but it becomes less so with this week's DVD and Blu-ray premieres from Olive Films. Given a dramatic UCLA Film & Television Archive restoration out of funding led by Martin Scorsese, this black and white 1947 romantic drama, last released to VHS in 1991, finally returns to home video two years later than planned.

In 1880 Paris, Sanders plays Georges Duroy, a mustachioed French Army veteran turned newspaper journalist who attracts the attention of women. He's not a very loving or compassionate guy, though, using women to advance himself (he's broke at the film's start) and never looking back. George sets his sights on a married woman (Susan Douglas) with an ailing husband, while also half-heartedly courting young widow and single mother Clotilde (Lansbury), who nicknames him "Bel Ami" after a song that recurs throughout the movie.

Clotilde (Angela Lansbury) and Georges (George Sanders) share an awkward ride home in "The Private Affairs of Bel Ami."

Adapted from Guy de Maupassant's 1885 novel Bel Ami (which indeed was last adapted in 2012 with Robert Pattinson playing Georges) by Albert Lewin, who also directs, the stuffy character study is driven by dialogue, with little change of scenery, little to convince you you're in 19th century France, and a complete dearth of action (save for a rainy climactic duel, invented for this). Early on, there is an extended dinner discussion of the violent marionette puppet Punch (of Punch and Judy). We proceed to see how scoundrel Georges plays women, deflecting their advances and making some ill-advised, extracurricular, strategic ones of his own.

The Private Affairs of Bel Ami Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
2.0 DTS-HD MA Mono (English)
Subtitles: English
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.95
Also available on DVD ($14.95 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video
Blue Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Private Affairs of Bel Ami makes a presentable Blu-ray debut that many will consider worth the long wait. The 1.33:1 presentation reflects obvious restoration work. It's not perfect; there is the occasional faint vertical line appearing on screen. But knowing the state this old, forgotten film must have been in,
the efforts and checks of Scorsese et al. have clearly been put to fine use. As intended, the film is black and white but for a single color shot. The 2.0 DTS-HD monaural master audio soundtrack is passable enough and English subtitles are kindly included.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Unfortunately, English subtitles represent the entirety of features other than the film itself. The basic menu makes that much clear with its minimum of options ("Play", "Scene Selection", and the aforementioned subtitles). It would have been nice if Paramount's original trailer for the film was dug up, but you're apt to cut a little slack for a movie languishing in obscurity for as long as this one did.

Inside the standard blue keeepcase, an insert touting Olive Films' Blu-ray catalogue and enabling you to sign up for the company's mailing list accompanies the full-color disc.

Georges Duroy (George Sanders) is a scoundrel in the rain in the duel climax invented for "The Private Affairs of Bel Ami."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It is fun to discover an old, largely unknown work from the prolific careers of George Sanders and Angela Lansbury. Unfortunately, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami did not do a great job of holding my interest or attention, even with two viewings. I hesitate to dismiss the film on the basis of that, but must acknowledge it won't suit the tastes of all modern viewers, even those with an appreciation for classics.

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Reviewed May 25, 2016.



Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1947 Paramount Pictures and 2016 Olive Films.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.