Director:  Christophe Gans

Starring:  Samuel La Behan, Vincent Cassel, Marc Dacascos, Monica Bellucci

The 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.

Christophe 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.

Thanks 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. 

Assuming you’re convinced of the film’s merits, and aren’t fluent in French, the best option is the Canadian three-disc Collector’s Edition, 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.

The 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).

The 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).

About 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.

The Canadian Collector’s 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.

















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