The Crimson Rivers
is an openly acknowledged French attempt to make a big Hollywood-style serial-killer thriller. Jean--Ronin
(1997)--Reno is Niemans, who while investigating the case of a horrifically mutilated body finds himself partnered with Kerkerian, a younger detective played by Vincent Cassell, (La Haine
). Set in beautiful mountain country and shot in CinemaScope by Thierry Arbogast (Leon
), it looks fabulous. Kassovitz packs the frame with stylish flourishes from a breathtaking helicopter shot in homage to The Shining
(1980), to a lavish stairwell tracking shot inspired by Vertigo
(1958). With a sumptuously layered score and some superbly achieved special effects The Crimson Rivers
has all the expensive sheen of the American movies it imitates. Unfortunately it also proves Europeans can make films as technically accomplished but ludicrously plotted as Hollywood can: for what begins as a tense and unsettling police procedural, mutates into an action movie where the details make no sense. Even the Boys From Brazil
inspired plot is ludicrous. Demonstrating Kassovitz has seen plenty of Brian De Palma and Dario Argento movies, The Crimson Rivers
entertains despite its own absurdity, and should see the director following Luc Besson to Hollywood to make even bigger and dumber blockbusters.
On the DVD: Despite not being labelled a special edition this two disc set is one of the most impressive releases on DVD this year; all the more remarkable for being a French film barely seen in UK cinemas. The 2.35-1 anamorphically enhanced transfer is virtually flawless while the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is superb. Apart from the original French soundtrack there are English and Spanish dubbed versions, and subtitles in 20 languages (including English and French). The first disc includes three trailers, plus three more for other Columbia releases, and two commentary tracks. The first features Reno, Cassel and Kassovitz--all talking at full speed providing a wealth of information. The second--a commentary by composer Bruno Coulais--offers a real insight into the use of music in film as he explains his approach to specific scenes and his overall philosophy of film scoring. This track also features the score isolated in Dolby Digital 5.1, though Colais does talk over the beginning of some cues.
The second disc contains over two hours of documentary material. First is a serious 52-minute making-of, in which cast and director explain how the film was constantly re-written, going so far as to admit it makes no sense. Further documentaries are on "The Scalpel Scene" (26 min) and the "making of the corpse" (9 min) used in the opening scenes. There is seven minutes on shooting the martial arts fight, with or without commentary, nine minutes on shooting the car chase and a section playing the chase alongside the original storyboards, with or without commentary. A documentary on filming the mountain climax (10 min) and a further documentary on creating a digital avalanche (15 min), plus a multi-angle feature presenting the scene as storyboards, edited rushes, special effects or outtakes. The Production Designer archives (13 min) covers the sets. Additionally there is footage from the Far East promotional tour, a poster gallery, filmographies of Cassel, Reno and Kassovitz, the complete storyboards for four sequences, including the never-filmed originally planned opening and a gallery of on-set still photographs. It's a veritable "how to make a blockbuster" on two shiny discs. --Gary S Dalkin