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Stavisky

Stavisky(1974)

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Home Video Reviews

Fans of french director Alain Resnais will be glad to know that Image Entertainment has recently released STAVISKY on DVD. The 1974 film is the story of Serge Alexandre, a Russian Jew (his birth name was Sacha Stavisky) who became a powerful and politically well-connected financier in France during the thirties. Based on the real-life Stavisky, whose career ended in scandal in 1934, resulting in a major embarrassment for the French government, Resnais' depiction of the events are presented as an elegantly mounted fable about deception and fraud. STAVISKY was the first film Resnais had made since Je t'aime, Je t'aime (1968), an underrated science fiction drama which explored time and memory. It not only marked his return to filmmaking after a six year absence but also stands out from his earlier features in its look and tone. As the director himself stated, "It is not a political or historical document but rather an entertainment." Unlike the more challenging narrative structure of Hiroshima, Mon Amour or Last Year at Marienbad, STAVISKY is a vivid character study of a professional swindler who moved from small time cons to embezzlement on a grand scale. Jean-Paul Belmondo is perfectly cast as the charming and completely incorrigible title character - it's one of his best performances - and the lyrical score by Stephen Sondheim contributes greatly to the nostalgic mood of the film which is enhanced by the glittering period decor. But this is a Resnais film, after all, and the director's cold, analytical style seems well matched for his mysterious, enigmatic subject; the camera dissects the character's facade as it romantizes him.

When STAVISKY first appeared in 1974, some critics found the film disappointing in comparison with Resnais' earlier work but a re-evaluation is in order now that Image has made the film available on DVD, presented in its 1:66:1 theatrical aspect ration. Although this is a no-frills disc - that's right, no commentaries, photo galleries, trailers, or filmographies - it's a handsome digital transfer and a welcome addition to the Resnais films available on DVD. As film critic Verina Glaessner of the TimeOut Film Guide wrote: "Resnais' film about political destiny in France in the '30s is always thoroughly chilling, never merely elegant. The chill stems not simply from the cold precision of the images, but from the unshakeable implications of what he allows us to witness...Stavisky's fall reveals him to be a pawn in a swindle of vaster dimensions than even he dreamed of, the fall itself a screen behind which other forces operate. Resnais conveys the atmosphere of moral degeneracy with a tact which makes it all the more insidious, through a film that is superbly paced."

For more information on STAVISKY or to purchase a copy, visit the distributor's web site at Image Entertainment, Inc..

By Jeff Stafford