The erotic thriller was another genre that really got a ton of spotlight in the 1990s, though the more cerebral titles of the bunch, like Louis Malle’s 1992 film Damage, certainly are less heralded than their more salacious counterparts. Damage arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Imprint with a good 1080p presentation of a 2K scan and a nice collection of new and archival supplements. See Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche abandon all rational thought and engorge in the pleasures of the flesh with this Recommended release!
Filmmaker Louis Malle cut his teeth on making movies during the French New Wave, and he brought that politically-charged style to the US when he emigrated in the 1970s. His work is filled with depictions of controversial and morally ambiguous acts. Although he was less of an iconoclast than his French New Wave peers, Malle still opted to delve into the psychic underpinnings of his stories, and Damage is no exception to that observation. As a matter of fact, Damage is much less concerned with matters of sex than the role of physical passion when it’s disconnected from anything mentally.
Such hot passion is given the proper stage in Damage, which posits matters of sexuality against better judgment without letting the two main players create a world in which they can live out their desires. Their flagrant affair has collateral damage, and that’s reflected by all the normal people dealing with the consequences. And Malle’s assured direction gives way to that hot passion in some shocking ways. These matters of flesh aren’t to be bought into but feared and revered.
Dr. Stephen Fleming (Jeremy Irons), a successful member of Parliament, lives in London with his wife Ingrid (Miranda Richardson) and daughter Sally (Gemma Clarke). His son, a young and successful journalist named Martyn (Rupert Graves), brings home Anna Barton (Juliette Binoche), the daughter of a British diplomat and someone to whom Stephen is attracted and strikes up sexual tension immediately. Although Anna is Martyn’s girlfriend, both Martyn and Ingrid are completely unaware of the sexual tension that threatens to cause, well, damage!
Damage is very, very unique when compared to its peers in the 1990s, like Paul Schrader’s The Comfort of Strangers and the Wachowski Sisters' Bound, in that it’s much more concerned with the downbeat notions of romance and passion. The affair between Stephen and Anna is not one filled with mutual love or affection, it’s one driven by destructive desire. Jeremy Irons is terrific as an aristocrat that thinks himself to be immune to certain consequences. His affair with Anna sucks the life out of him, looking more and more gaunt as the film goes on. And the central sex scene that the film is well known for? It’s like watching two people recede inside one another in violent convulsions. There’s nothing quite like it.
For fans of erotically-charged dramas, there’s much to love in Damage, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has not seen it before. The ways in which it sidesteps the easy conclusions of affairs separate it from the pack, as does Malle’s expansive, gorgeous emotional scope.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche cause some emotional damage in Damage, presented here with a one-disc Blu-ray edition from Imprint Films. The Blu-ray is a BD50 and comes housed in a thick clear case and a slipcase over it. The disc boots up to a standard menu screen with options to play the film, set up audio and video, plus browse special features.
This 1080p presentation comes sourced from a 2K scan. Of what film materials? I’m not sure, but this transfer is certainly better than the decades-old DVD of the film. Contrast is solid overall; however, grain and delineation have certainly seen better days. Flesh tones are tuned in just right and black levels are fine. Just don’t expect the kind of inkiness achieved by a fresh scan. Some shots look troublingly soft and marred by a gauze-like smear, but the encode does handle everything very well. On the whole, this presentation is good despite the 2K scan leaving quite a bit to be desired.
This release comes with a single LPCM 2.0 track that’s in much better shape than its video counterpart. Dialogue is sharp and mixed well with the score and atmospherics, and not much damage could be heard. No hiss to be heard, either. This is a very good presentation.
Imprint provides this long, long-overdue Blu-ray release of Damage with a great collection of newly produced and archival supplements to dig into. The interview with editor John Bloom is very good in his recounting of the production and relationship with Louis Malle. There’s an archival feature with Malle himself that’s terrific as well, as the man, like many of his French New Wave peers, is very outspoken and direct in describing his approach to filmmaking.
The ups and downs of marriage have nothing on the throes of destructive passion in Louis Malle’s Damage, finally on Blu-ray from Imprint Films. The new transfer does leave a bit to be desired, however I don’t fault Imprint for the scan provided to them. The new encode is good and there’s a great selection of supplements to enjoy. This release comes Recommended!