Bobby Deerfield, a famous American race car driver on the European circuit, falls in love with the enigmatic Lillian Morelli, who is terminally ill.
During the 1970s, Al Pacino acted in eight films, most of which became major award winners and box office hits. Pacino performed amidst one of American cinema's greatest decades and in an era that saw the future Oscar winner star in six consecutive critically acclaimed films. He produced a decorated résumé over a five-year span that rivals any leading man in artistry and pedigree.
Sydney Pollack's 'Bobby Deerfield' (1977) stands out as the decade's wild card for Pacino. He plays the title character--a Formula One racecar driver which was orginally intended for Paul Newman--who undergoes an existenstial crisis when his racing partner, Bertrand Modave (Steve Gadler), perishes in a fiery crash. Bobby lives in a Paris abode with his girlfriend, Lydia (Anny Duperey), but the couple grows apart as Bobby becomes disinterested and bored with his lover's conventional affection. Determined to find the cause of his friend's accident, Bobby heads on a trek to a clinic in the Swiss Alps where he visits another racecar driver who was injured on the same track. There Bobby also meets Lillian (Marthe Keller), a vivacious and eccentric woman who joins Bobby on a road trip.
On the one hand, Pacino is cast against type as a fairly well-known racecar driver in purportedly a sports movie (which this is really not). Indeed, Columbia Pictures had a difficult time selling this as a romantic melodrama. On the other hand, the part calls for Pacino to go all Method, which he ably does in a protracted narrative that takes us to Paris, Switzerland, and Florence. In his audio commentary, Pollack states that there was a bigger role for the Duperey character in a longer cut of the movie. I suppose that the Keller character is more interesting but I never really sensed any chemistry between Lillian and Bobby. Granted, Lillian has her own mental issues and screenwriter Alvin Sargent wanted to show that their relationship has frequent moments of disconnect. Bobby is certainly lonely and bored with his life so the movie presents us with a lingering mystery for his intrigue and fasciation with Lillian. One of the characters, who I will not reveal, faces a life-altering condition and the film ends on a rather sour note.
'Bobby Deerfield' appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this BD-50. The first reel contains pockets of grain and there is some debris on the print struck for this release. There is only slight flickering and no major stability issues to report. The transfer has definitely been color-corrected. The palette looks bright, particulaly during the hot air balloon sequence. Henri Decaë's lush cinematography looks lovely on all of the location shots. Skin tones appear natural and unmaniuplated during close-up shots. A stellar transfer with only a couple anomolies.
Twilight Time has provided four audio options on this disc: a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround, a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo, a DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono, and Dave Grusin's score on an isolated track. I primarily focused on the 5.1 and 2.0 mixes and there seems to be little between them. Dialog is center-channel heavy and engine-revving sounds are dispersed across the surround channels. Grusin's music, which alternates between breezy, jazz melodies and more serious material, is heard on occassion in the rear. The original mono track is a nice inclusion.
I also played the entire film with the English SDH. The text is legible and placed on the screen along or below the character who is speaking.
'Bobby Deerfield' is a curious oddity that I awaited on Blu-ray for years and am glad that it is finally available. The movie's narrative arc gestates with confusion and scatterdness but it is very attractively photographed by Decaë and gently scored by the consistently dependable Grusin. The film does not stack up well with Pacino's seventies classics but fans of the actor will want to add it to their collections.