A delicate orchestra of grief, Francois Ozon's Frantz is a somber affair, but also an affecting and piercing drama.
Paula Beer stars as Anna, a young woman who lives in a small town in Germany some time after the conclusion of World War I. She still grieves for her fiancee Frantz, who was killed in the war, and this is compounded by her living arrangements, since she lives with Frantz's parents (Ernest Stotzner and Marie Gruber).
All of them live under a poignant cloud of grief. One day a young Frenchman (Pierre Niney) shows up to visit Frantz, and that sets off a very unexpected chain of events, which promise to change all their lives.
Our own Dustin Chang reviewed the film earlier this year, writing in part: "Frantz is, as usual for Ozon, a seductive concoction. Disguised under period costumes and sumptuous monochrome cinematography that bursts into color at pivotal moments, the film holds some sinister undertones of lost innocence and the pain/joy of growing up.
"Beer, a young German actress, is marvelous here, carrying the whole movie on her shoulders. It's perfectly natural to see the film from a female perspective in Ozon's films, and obviously he flirts with sexual attraction and sensuality (albeit very subtly). But Anna being a German lost in an unforgiving world of its enemy gives another layer to this delicious concoction."
He concluded: "Beautifully nuanced and poignant and still encompassing all the Ozon film characteristics - secrets, sexuality, twisty genre conventions and its searing political undertones, Frantz is Ozon's most accomplished film to date." His review can be read in its entirety here.
I very much agree with Dustin's conclusion. And now that Frantz has arrived on Blu-ray and DVD from Music Box Films, it's a good time to catch up with it, or to watch it again.
The transfer looks splendid, and when the film occasionally bursts forth with color, as Dustin mentioned, it's done with a subtle touch. I missed the film in theaters, but it seems well-suited on home video; Ozon makes good use of the entire frame, but the extensive close-ups and medium shots transfer well to smaller screens.
The home video release is adorned with a variety of extras, totaling about 45 minutes in all, including a question-and-answer session with Ozon (17 minutes, conducted by Dennis Lim); scenes from the film's premiere at the Venice Film Festival (six minutes); deleted scenes (adding up to about 12 or 13 minutes); costume and light tests (3-4 minutes, with the actors often looking directly at camera); a poster gallery (with a multitude of variations) and the theatrical trailer.
A printed booklet is also included, which includes a very good essay by Scott Tobias and another (uncredited) interview with Ozon.
As usual, Music Box Films also includes a host of trailers (five, in this case) for their other offerings. All in all, this will make a good addition to the home library of any fan of modern arthouse cinema. The official release date is today (Tuesday, June 13).