Joey is a struggling writer with no money. His roommate Carl is a charming stud with a taste for young girls. Together, these two insatiable dreamers will laugh, love and screw their way through a decadent Paris paved with wanton women, wild orgies and outrageous erotic adventures. Based upon the long-banned novel by Henry Miller, QUIET DAYS IN CLICHY is considered to be the most daring film adaptation ever of one of the most controversial authors in history.
In May of 1970, the United States Government seized the only English-language prints of QUIET DAYS IN CLICHY on charges of obscenity. And while it was ultimately cleared in Federal Court, the film mysteriously disappeared shortly after its release. Now more than 30 years later, this landmark 'adults only' classic can again be seen completely uncut and uncensored and featuring the original hit soundtrack by rock legend Country Joe McDonald.
The back of the packaging for 'Quiet Days in Clichy' reveals an interesting fact about the film, concerning its release, with the only English language print supposedly being seized by the US government on charges of obscenity, calling the film pornographic. Sure, it opens with a body double shot that features an explicit sex act, but for the remainder of the film, there really isn't much all that taboo going on. It took until 2002 for there to be a domestic home video release of the film, though, despite numerous films being made in the interim that featured far more explicit nudity, sexuality, and content.
Looking back at this over forty year old film, it's an interesting relic, to be sure, and actually a very intriguing piece of art. At times, seemingly intending to offend, though in others attempting to draw us in to the characters and their escapades, 'Quiet Days in Clichy' is a fairly uneven piece of cinematic experimentation, based off the novel by Henry Miller, that will surely attract or repel its audience, and fast.
This is the story of two men in France, whose bond is seemingly formed by their shared interest in sharing the opposite sex. Both writers who care more for female companionship than money (though the one often buys the other), Joey (Paul Valjean) and Carl (Wayne Rodda) are not so much on a path to self destruction as they are an aimless adventure. The clap can't stop them, as they laugh it off and jest how they can't get it when they already do. Whether their partners are their age, older, or far too young, free lovers, or prostitutes, they have no purpose other than to provide each other pleasure. Starvation may be the only thing that can get in their way, but even that sinking, wrenching feeling is nothing compared to the hunger these men have for their desired company.
On the outside, no, there isn't much of a point to 'Quiet Days in Clichy.' Sometimes, that is the point in film, as the three act construct only fits movies that have a conflict and/or resolution of some sort. Yes, the film can seem like one extended sex scene after another extended sex scene, to the point that there is no plot or purpose other than to string characters together solely to eventually get them naked and rolling around in the proverbial hay. As such, this film is likely to frustrate many, including those looking solely for a bit of classy erotica, as it doesn't quite get all that naughty by comparison to many films of its ilk.
However, 'Quiet Days in Clichy' is more than just what's on the surface. The constant prolonged shots, where any action seemingly is shown for three to five times as long as it needs to take, creates a fascinating look at the characters, even if they are only as interested as their genitalia are locked and loaded. There are no quick flashes, or brief moments whatsoever, and that makes the film somewhat intimate, holding on like a lover right at the edge of satisfaction trying to extend that moment as long as possible. The extended silence that permeates the majority of the film is also quite refreshing, as the Country Joe McDonald soundtrack acts as a narrative, of sorts, crude as it may be. We don't get the characters thoughts, save for some crudely drawn random thought bubbles that pop up on screen, as McDonald tells the tale from a different angle, chauvinistic as it may be, concerning their romps, and predicaments caused by their constant skirt chasing.
Joey is an interesting character, especially due to the very needy, human portrayal given to him. He's got one hell of a heart, even if it's in the wrong place, and his moral compass doesn't seem all that off. Yes, he partakes when he shouldn't, and his mind constantly wanders, where any woman who is attractive and gives him the time of day becomes both an obsession and an instant regret, as he can't make up his mind what he wants with these ladies. With non-prostitutes, he's seemingly a puppy dog, as we see him fall head over heels on more than a few occasions, pondering if he should marry them, despite the fact that there isn't much of a connection outside of a physical one (and all things considered, he should be thankful for that). Sure, his emotions don't quite extend any further than his penis when the chips are down, but he's actually a very sympathetic character, a man who knows his vice but cannot abstain from it, even if it means he has to dig out of a garbage can to eat. This also tells us a lot about his mindset, as rotten food is, in his eyes, better than no food at all, consequences be damned.
Carl, on the other hand, is without doubt self-destructive in nearly everything he does. Bragging about all the wrong things, he's crude, perverse, and may very well be the father of Jay from Kevin Smith's Jersey films, all things considered. He has no morals, no qualms, no dignity and no manners. He willingly breaks the law without fear of the consequences (whereas Joey actually does think ahead), engaging in a sexual tryst with a girl who is both mentally deficient and underaged (Elsebeth Reingaard). He has charisma, and not much else.
Yes, the depictions of somewhat-forced intercourse may disturb, as might the willy dilly nature in which sex is thrown around by every character in the film, and yes, while somewhat erotic, in a darker sense, this story and its depiction can't compare with what filmmakers get away with today. However, audiences willing to accept that this film isn't meant solely to stimulate either the mind or body will find pleasure in the rich obviousness (there are no subtleties here!) and engrossing performances. It doesn't take long for viewers to forget they're watching a movie, as the realism of this surrealistic journey is definitely its strongest aspect. I can say that females may take offense to how freely the four letter "c" word is thrown around, and how many of the women are portrayed, but those willing to look past the crassness of the film (which is part of its charm) may find some interest in these two very different, yet similar men.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Blue Underground's release of 'Quiet Days in Clichy' arrives on Blu-ray on a BD25 Region A/B/C disc, in a non-eco keepcase. There is no annoying pre-menu content. The menu system itself features full motion video, though no audio options aside from subtitles, as there is only one language track on this disc. There is a twenty two second warning before the film that's quite funny, warning audiences of what is to come.
'Quiet Days in Clichy' is one of the lesser looking black and white discs on Blu-ray, with an 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode in the 1.66:1 frame.
Detail levels aren't all too strong, as skin features often lack any real distinction, and foregrounds and fabric patterns hardly impress. Makeup effects can stand out, but they're hardly as distracting as the blown out backgrounds. Distinction, detail, and delineation are all fairly awkward, with random hair becoming blobs, and even some slight bands forming on skin tones at times. The film can be a bit shaky, but that seems to be an artifact of how the film was made. In the early portions of the film, dirt is more present than detail (a slight exaggeration, but it's still worth saying), but it does clear up as the film rolls on, even if it's never perfect.
There are some odd bits of wear, like two marks (at 18 min, 17 sec, and again at 37 min, 53 sec) where the picture shakes, seemingly compressing horizontally for a few frames. What that's all about I could only guess. It's nice that there's no grain tampering in this film, but when detail levels are meager already, that's hardly a highlight.
Blue Underground brings 'Quiet Days in Clichy' and Country Joe McDonald to Blu-ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio mono track that has hopefully seen better days. I was disappointed with the lack of clarity in the score, the random static, the flat spots in the soundtrack, and the beyond questionable dynamics. While I'm a fan of the music in this film, it can get rather tinny and grating after a while. On an interesting note, the default play options for this release does not automatically subtitle the random French dialogue.
'Quiet Days in Clichy' is a very perturbed little chunk of peculiar cinema. It's crude, offensive, and despicable, yet artistic and intriguing. It's definitely not for women, though, as the most reviled word in the English language today is quite literally scribbled all over the film, and it is much more likely to draw ire in today's politically correct world. Blue Underground's Blu-ray release has not so great presentation qualities, but a few nice extras. Definitely not a film for family night (films with real penetration, even with stunt doubles, are definitely not one to watch with Mom or sis...or even Dad...), probably not one to watch with the significant other, either. But still worth a watch!