Louis Malle meets Lewis Carroll in this bizarre and bewitching trip down the rabbit hole. After skirting the horrors of a mysterious war being waged in the countryside, beautiful young Lily (Cathryn Harrison) takes refuge in a remote farmhouse, where she becomes embroiled in the surreal domestic life of an extremely unconventional family. Evocatively shot by cinematographer Sven Nykvist, Black Moon is a Freudian tale of adolescent sexuality set in a postapocalyptic world of shifting identities and talking animals. It is one of Malle’s most experimental films and a cinematic daydream like no other.
Making its home video debut, Criterion presents Louis Malle’s surreal 1975 film Black Moon in its original aspect ratio of about 1.66:1 on this dual-layer disc in a new 1080p/24hz transfer.
Despite a muted colour scheme and a general dreary look to the film the image here looks outstanding. The opening shot, which presents a badger just wandering about on a lone country road, presents such incredible textures and details, where you can almost make out every little pebble in the paved road and just about every hair on the critter’s body. And from there the transfer holds up, rarely faltering, with just a couple of sequences that look a little flat and soft.
There are a few specs of debris here and there and again the colours don’t really pop since the film has a fairly drab look overall (though they’re rendered perfectly), and black levels vary, but in all it still manages to be impressive.
Criterion presents both a lossless linear PCM English mono track and a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono French track. In all honesty I had a hard time determining a real difference between the tracks but would lean towards the English one since voices (which are rare, most of the film’s dialogue is probably reduced to noises or grunts, or what sounds like English being played backwards—not sure) do come off a bit stronger here.
In general both tracks are clean and have some surprising range to them. The sound design of the film is off but the presentation is perfectly acceptable.
So, after an incredibly strong presentation the disc fails in the supplements department, delivering one significant supplement, an interview with Louis Malle from a 1975 episode from Pour le cinéma. It lasts a measly 12-minutes and presents the director trying to explain his intentions for Black Moon, though ultimately admits he barely understands it, so for those hoping for an explanation to the film you’ll be a bit disappointed as he doesn’t get more deep than the obvious sexual politics. Unfortunately the big annoyance is that the clip is made up heavily of clips from the film, so at most I’d say you only get 7 to 8 minutes (maybe) of material from Malle.
The remaining supplements are basically filler, including a small 30+ image gallery, which you navigate through using your remote, and a 2-minute theatrical trailer which is pretty much just the opening to the film.
Thankfully the essay by Ginette Vincendeau, found in the booklet, offers some much welcome analysis of the film and its possible meanings but it doesn’t get much more profound than the film is basically the ultimate battle of the sexes.
I am shocked as to how little there is here. The film is an interesting entry into Malle’s filmography and is definitely not for everyone, which makes it a great candidate for some heavy analysis and scholarly features yet all we get is a disappointing interview with the director. A large missed opportunity.
An incredible presentation for sure, but the lack of supplements, less than 15-minutes in total, is a huge strike against it, especially since a film like this really calls for Criterion’s more scholarly touch.