On Guard/Five Day Lover Blu-ray Review

  • Actors: On Guard: Daniel Auteuil, Fabrice Luchini, Vincent Perez, Marie Gillain, Philippe Noiret
  • Director: Philippe de Broca
  • Format: Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: August 9, 2016
  • Run Time: 216 minutes

        This two-film Blu-ray set includes a pair of films that might never be viewed together if it weren’t for the director they share in common. The two films come from French filmmaker Philippe De Broca, though they are movies from different genres and separated by over 35 years. Five Day Lover is a romance drama from 1961, while On Guard is a swashbuckling action comedy from the late 1990s. It makes for a strange double feature, but these two films offer a sampling from the beginning and end of De Broca’s expansive career.

        Five Day Lover is an surprising take on the adultery romance drama, with the ending offering a bold twist on the narrative by playing with audience expectations about each of the characters and gender roles. The film centers around an affair that begins when Claire (Jean Seberg) meets Antoine (Jean-Pierre Cassel) at a fashion show run by her successful friend, Madeleine (Micheline Presle). Claire takes Antoine as her afternoon lover, despite the fact that he is already Madeleine’s kept boyfriend. Their relationship only exists during weekday afternoons because Claire is married to a passionately dull historian named Georges (François Périer).

        This narrative could easily have been fit to a film noir or a heavy melodrama, but De Broca’s style remains characteristically lighthearted. Many of the scenes which might have slipped into heavy soap opera drama are instead played like a screwball comedy, complete with quick-witted banter in a battle of the sexes. This cheerful demeanor only fades towards the end, when the film suddenly becomes heartbreaking with certain revelations. Both in themes and stylistic approach, Five Day Lover was way ahead of its time, likely to be compared to Woody Allen if remade today with a Manhattan setting.

        On Guard, the second film in the set, instead speaks to an older tradition of storytelling and filmmaking. France has a rich history of swashbuckling storytelling, mostly thanks to the work and adaptations of Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo), and On Guard is based on a lesser known novel by Paul Féval in the same vein. All of the elements are there, from the sword-fighting and nobility to the betrayal and subsequent plan of revenge. There is plenty of spectacle and physical comedy mixed with violence and just a hint of eroticism, making this energetic French blockbuster a signature De Broca film.

        The epic narrative begins with an unlikely friendship between a sword-fighting street urchin named Legardére (Daniel Auteuil) and the Duke of Nevers (Vincent Perez). Their friendship ends up being priceless when the Duke is betrayed by his cousin, Gonzague (Fabrice Luchini). After keeping the news of his bastard child from the Duke, Gonzague plans a sabotage that kills him and nearly all of his men. The only survivors are the young baby girl and rightful heir of the Duke, along with Legardére, who protects and raises the baby as his own. Sixteen years later the baby has grown into a young woman named Aurore (Marie Gillain), leading to some confusing feelings and an unlikely romance amidst the expected swashbuckling action.

        Each of the film is kept on its own disc, along with special features. The only extra included on Five Day Lover is a 2016 re-release trailer, while On Guard has many more perks in addition to the 129-minute film. There are interviews with five of the main actors, producer Patrick Godeau, and De Broca, along with behind-the-scenes footage and an assortment of trailers.    

Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance:  6.5/10
Special Features: 6/10

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