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Maison Close - Season 1 Review




Buy from Amazon.com (US)
Buy from Amazon.ca (CAN)
Buy from DVDEmpire.com (US)

Rating
Video:   6/10
Audio:   7/10
Extras:   1/10

Really cool show
by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
5/12/2015

    Paris, 1871. The gorgeous ladies of The Paradise - an exclusive and glamorous brothel renowned and infamous in equal measure to the men and women of Paris - are trapped by circumstances beyond their control. As each strives for liberation from their 19th century shackles, the social bonds of wealth and privilege gradually start to loosen and the women's destinies, both professional and romantic, usher them ever closer to a new era.

    Sumptuous, provocative and meticulously - crafted, Maison Close is a dark exploration of desire and power, re-imagining age-old themes-and the world's oldest profession - in revolutionary, and modern, ways.
I can't recall how I first heard about Maison Close, but it may have been when one of our regular users asked me to add it to the site for voting. I remember reading about it and thinking "Hmm... a foreign show about prostitutes in Paris over 100 years ago? That sounds interesting, but I doubt I'll ever see it released here." Of course I should know by now that the studios will always surprise me, and that nothing is ever off limits; just look at the "impossible" shows we saw released last year!

This 2-disc set contains all 8 episodes from the first season of the show:

Disc 1 (3:42:12)
Episode 1 (57:58)
Episode 2 (55:22)
Episode 3 (54:06)
Episode 4 (54:46)

Disc 2 (3:33:50)
Episode 5 (52:12)
Episode 6 (55:08)
Episode 7 (54:10)
Episode 8 (52:20)

Video

Well... this was disappointing. Despite being a fairly new show, the quality of this is probably the worst I've ever seen on Blu-ray (though the first season of Damages could be tied with it). There's a lot of noise in the picture, which I found often distracted me from what I was watching. I can't really figure it out, either, as there appears to be thin vertical stripes that were always present. I had initially thought the noise was caused by film grain, maybe them choosing to use 16mm instead of 35mm, but the booklet included with the set contains an interview with the director, Mabrouk El Mechri, who states that they shot in HD, so I really can't explain why it's there. Also, the stripes weren't there during the opening credit sequence, or the closing credits, just on the filmed material. It was very unfortunate, especially since the show looks so pretty. There isn't always a chapter placed directly after the opening credits, so using your "skip" button may skip some of the show.

Audio

There's a French DTS-HD Master Audio track, along with English subtitles to help non-French speakers with understanding what's going on. The subtitles were great, and I didn't notice any flaws in them (something which can be extremely distracting when watching foreign shows and movies). The DTS-HD track was nice, though I didn't find myself pulled into the experience with the audio; it lacked much use of the rear speakers. The picture is, of course, 1.78:1.

Extras - How we rate extras

Booklet
The only extra in the set, but it's extremely helpful, containing interviews with the director, the producer, the CANAL+ director of French fiction, and also creates a setting for the show in history.

Summary

This show caught me off guard in a number of ways. I was surprised by the lack of nudity and sex scenes in the show, especially since it was a French series about prostitues, but also because of some of the themes they addressed. I won't go into much detail (spoilers, you know), but they were just things that I wasn't expecting. The show got a bit uncomfortable for me in a few places, but I think that was part of why I enjoyed it. It's more interesting to watch something that makes you think, or makes you feel something than a show where you just watch it passively.

I'm still bummed about the quality of the video, as I don't think it represents the quality of the show. Without knowing more about it, I can't say whether it was the fault of the process to get it on the disc, or how it was shot, I just know that it doesn't look good at all. I'm definitely interested in watching the second season (also, the last), to continue the story, but also to see if the quality is any better. It'll be out on June 16th.


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