'A Pure Formality' was, to my surprise, one of the very best films I've seen in a long time. I'd seen snippets of the Italian version on Italian TV and the English-language one on US cable, neither encouraging me to delve further, but in its original French, with both Polanski and Depardieu voicing themselves, it manages to turn a potentially hoary old psychodrama into something much more life affirming.
Depardieu is the confused great writer arrested in the middle of a rainstorm and taken to a dark, leaking Italian police station where he is interrogated by Roman Polanski's inspector, who also happens to be an ardent fan, over the identity of a murder victim. Naturally, layers of self-deception are gradually pulled away on this long dark night of the soul before it reaches a not entirely unexpected but still remarkably satisfying conclusion. Despite the claustrophobic setting, Giuseppe Tornatore's excellent composition keeps it vividly cinematic, with several memorable moments (the most impressive a beautiful sequence following a song as it floats through the room). The flashbacks are sometimes awkward and I could definitely have done without Depardieu's nudity, but this is still one of the most remarkable films I've seen in recent years. Two-thirds through the movie a power cut hit for two-and-a-half hours, and it was excruciating waiting to get the chance to finish the film.
The film is very highly recommended indeed. However, the DVD is less than perfect. The English subtitles are non-removeable, there is a synchronisation problem on the sound at one point and it only offers the French-language version (although both Polanski and Depardieu use their own voices). The only extra is the Italian trailer.