VIVA MARIA! blu-ray review

Australia Region B blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 2:35.1

French: Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles: English (non-removable)

IMDB

MOVIE: 8

VIDEO QUALITY: 8

AUDIO QUALITY: 7.5

ENGLISH SUBTITLES: 10

EXTRAS: 1

 

Viva Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau – two of the hottest French actresses of the 1960s! Viva Maria! is an underrated film that I had only heard of after I watched Louis Malle’s wacky Zazie Dans Le Metro a couple of months ago. After watching Zazie, I was impressed with Malle’s successful style of pulling off a fun and crazy film.  I have always associated Louis Malle as being a serious director – known for dramas such as Au Revoir Les Enfants, My Dinner With Andre, Elevator to the Gallows, Vanya on 42nd Street, The Lovers, and Atlantic City. With the experimental Zazie fresh in my mind, I learned that Malle had made another exciting and zany film, but this time it was more of a mainstream popcorn film – Viva Maria! I read some mixed reviews and watched a trailer. I don’t know about others, but the following keywords add up to my kind of movie: Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau in Bandidas mode (the movie starring Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek), striptease, IRA, western, traveling circus, slapstick, sex, explosions, action, musical, Mexican revolution, crazy Mexican dictators, Gatlin gun, and a custom-made curved gun. I’m sold! After watching the trailer a couple of months ago, I thought to myself that this movie was made for Blu-ray, but there was only a DVD available. To my surprise, I just discovered last week that an Australian Blu-ray of Viva Maria! was released last week!

Viva Maria! is proof that Louis Malle could make a mainstream action film. Don’t look for depth and an amazing story in this film, which can be found in Malle’s other films. Viva Maria! is just an entertaining adventure of two sexy French ladies. Maria 1 (Bardot) grows up tough with an IRA extremist father blowing up British places as often as possible. By the time she’s a teenager, the British govt. has wanted posters of both her and her father posted all around England. With her weaponry and bomb-making skills, Maria 1 escapes England and hides with a traveling circus in Mexico. Maria 1 meets striptease performer Maria 2 (Moreau) and instantly become friends. Moreau teaches Bardot how to act, sing, dance, and love. Bardot teaches Moreau how to fight. Maria & Maria become a striptease duo sensation as they travel around Mexico. They only take a break from super stardom to help a village fight off some Mexican dictators. As silly as it sounds to see Bardot, Moreau, and their circus troupe fight a whole army with magic tricks, bombs and a Gatling gun, the movie’s wackiness works. With the right mixture of drama and humor, Viva Maria! comes across as a black comedy which could be remade by someone like Emir Kusturica (a director who loves to mix misfits and comedy into war situations).

I never had the DVD version of Viva Maria! but after looking at DVD screencaps online, this Australian Blu-ray is a big upgrade regarding video quality. This doesn’t mean that the video quality has no faults: the 1080p 2.35:1 image has scratches and dirt that show up here and there, the colors are a bit inconsistent at times, blacks aren’t handled that great (literally – in a quick scene with African soldiers, the detail of their faces are lost under the shadows of their hats and their faces become blurry shadows. This wouldn’t be a big deal if it was a night scene, but this was during a bright day scene), and long shots look sometimes like an upconverted DVD. With the negative out of the way, the majority of this Blu-ray still feels like a Blu-ray. Medium shots and close-ups look impressive with detail, clarity and sharpness. I don’t remember any shot of Bardot and Moreau being ruined by poor Blu-ray remastering. George Hamilton’s face looked plastic, but I’m not sure if that’s because he is plastic man or if there is a hint of DNR on this Blu-ray. The beginning of the movie has questionable video quality, but as the movie progresses, video quality improves. I was afraid that I had wasted money on an upconverted DVD as I watched the first scenes, but as the film ended, I was pretty satisfied with this Blu-ray. The disc has all the benefits of being a high-definition Blu-ray – sharp, crisp, and clear characteristics – but no one bothered to do a better job of cleaning up the dirt, scratches, and colors.

The French DD 2.0 is nothing special – just expect a decent old school audio track found on a DVD. Although the track isn’t some spiffed-up lossless audio track, the dialogue is pretty clear with no distortion, musical scenes sound very nice, and subwoofer and speakers fortunately show a little power during gunfire and explosions. The majority of the film is in French. When English is spoken, the English subtitles don’t pop up. And when Spanish is spoken, English subtitles pop up.

The only extra is a trailer and the non-removable English subtitles for the film are excellent. I only noticed one spelling mistake.

Louis Malle’s Viva Maria! is a highly rewatchable action film with funny and sexy performances by Bardot and Moreau. Although Bardot is known as the more traditional beauty, I think that Moreau is much more attractive with a similar face and body language to Italy’s Monica Bellucci. As beat-up as this Blu-ray may seem, watch the Blu-ray and then look at DVD screencaps online to see what a big difference this Blu-ray makes. I can’t imagine the UK or USA releasing this on Blu-ray anytime soon, so I definitely recommend this Blu-ray!

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