THE WOLF [LE PACTE DES LOUPS]
Samuel La Behan, Vincent Cassel, Marc Dacascos, Monica Bellucci
year is 1766. A fearsome beast – “no ordinary wolf” – has claimed
the lives of more than a hundred of the peasants living in Gévaudan,
France. Sir Grégoire de Fronsac, a libertine with some relevant
experience and his mysterious Iroquoi colleague Mani (“a sort of
priest”) are sent by the King to track down and capture the demonic
creature, which seems to have almost supernatural power.
Gans’ remarkable film is a treat for the senses. It perfectly blends and
contrasts the traditional trappings of the most sumptuous costume dramas
with spectacular Matrix- style fight sequences. It boasts a
detective story that Arthur Conan Doyle could have penned, and spectacular
production values. It’s a film that’s sure to build an intensely loyal
cult following, but may equally alienate viewers who aren’t willing to
adjust to its wavelength.
to the vagaries of international distribution Brotherhood of the Wolf [Le
Pacte des loups]
has been released in various territories in versions offering different
extras, some subtitled in English, some not.
you’re convinced of the film’s merits, and aren’t fluent in French,
the best option is the Canadian three-disc
from local licensee TVA Films. This features all of the extra materials on
the now-deleted three-disc French Limited
Edition release, but with the added benefit of English
subtitles for everything it contains, except for the two commentary tracks
(which have been dropped completely from the UK and USA releases). The
Canadian discs are intended for both English and French-speaking
customers: when you initially load the discs you’re given a choice
between the film’s French and English titles. From that point onward all
the menus are presented in your preferred language.
Canadian release is not without some problems, however, and it means that
fans of the film may have to resign themselves to buying more than one
version. The chroma is a little over-saturated, but this is easily
rectified with a little tweaking. Flesh-tones are slightly orange, which
poses real problems in scenes where the lighting is skewed towards that
part of the spectrum (the brothel scenes, for example).
transfer has good detail, and excellent contrast, and is generally solid,
but there are occasional signs of MPEG blocking when the bitrate is
struggling to keep up with the action (the fight scene at the beginning of
the film, which takes place in torrential rain, for example). This is
rarely obvious, however, and shouldn’t be too troublesome under normal
viewing conditions. (Average bit rate for the film is 6.1Mb/s). Edge
enhancement is present in most shots, and will definitely be an annoyance
to anyone sensitive to the problem. Both the American and British disc
transfers are better, but neither presents the extended version of the
film (which is on the Canadian disc).
fifteen minutes of footage has been added to the theatrical version of the
film, including the reinstatement of a subplot that shows
Fronsac clashing with another investigator, Beauterne, who has been sent
to the region by the impatient King. Beauterne forces Fronsac to perform
surgery on a dead wolf, to create a credible scapegoat for the attacks (in
much the same way that Chief Brody had to fight against the mayor of Amity
Island in Jaws). Although the added material adds little to the
plot, it does help the pacing, and significantly bolsters the relationship
between Fronsac and Sylvia. Fans of Monica Bellucci will definitely want
to see the new scenes, which include an eerie dream sequence.
Edition presents the film on a single dual-layer disc, with a choice
of three audio options: the original French audio in either Dolby Digital
5.1 (at 448kbps) or DTS (also 5.1, at 754kbps). An English dubbed
soundtrack is also offered, in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448kbps). Either of
the French mixes is outstanding, but the DTS version certainly has an edge
that the Dolby Digital version is unable to match. The disc allows for
audio switching on the fly.
ON THE OTHER TWO DISCS?