Romy Schneider’s Peak Performance

A darling of French cinema, German actress Romy Schneider earned accolades and critical acclaim in Polish director Andrzej Żuławski’s That Most Important Thing: Love a.k.a. L’important c’est d’aimer. The disturbing portrait of love and sacrifice is rewarding cinema, making you question what you watched.

Released in 1975, a bizarre yet passionate relationship develops between a tabloid photographer and an actress with a badly fading career. The intrinsically French film stars Romy Schneider, Fabio Testi, Jacques Dutronc, and Klaus Kinski. Schneider shines in her portrayal as a struggling actress desperate to prove her ability and endure an unhappy marriage.

Things are never the same for Servais Mont (Fabio Testi) after meeting Nadine Chevalier (Romy Schneider), an aging actress forced to earn a living by appearing in seedy roles beneath her acting talent. The photographer becomes infatuated with the former star and secretly bankrolls a stage production to save Nadine’s struggling career for her sake, admiring her newfound success from the shadows.

Andrzej Żuławski’s L’important c’est d’aimer explores the darker side of love and its selfish desires

Standing in the way of their potential relationship is her marriage to Jacques (Jacques Dutronc), a fan that once pursued Nadine and obsessed over her career much like Servais. The world’s saddest and most emotionally convoluted love triangle develops with no one getting what they desire.

The always amusing Klaus Kinski plays an Austrian actor that takes the troubled Nadine under his wing, sympathizing with her fading career prospects. He’s one more strange character in the movie’s menagerie of complete weirdness. Servais hates himself, hopelessly in debt to a degenerate pornographer and loan shark named Mazelli. Forced to shoot adult pictures for Mazelli, his idealized conception of Nadine makes the actress an unattainable dream. He would rather admire her from afar than ruin her troubled marriage.

Loosely based on a novel by Christopher Frank, Andrzej Żuławski’s L’important c’est d’aimer explores the darker side of love and its selfish desires weighed against a man’s twisted sense of honor. It is not a romance in the traditional sense and each character’s path is laced with bitter irony. Every small happiness is quickly smashed by darker struggles along the way.

Deconstructing the prospects of a fading acting career for grim amusement, the performances are searing. Already a well-established star in Europe, Romy Schneider gives a vulnerable and deeply humanistic rendering of an actress past her prime. Appearing without make-up, Nadine plays up the deep insecurities felt by all aging starlets.

Fascinating despite a few shocking set pieces seemingly borrowed from much trashier cinema, L’important c’est d’aimer avoids becoming the pretentious bore-fest intellectual European melodrama often becomes. The flawed characters are buffeted by forces greater than themselves, exposing the deeper recesses hidden in their personalities. Everything nicely comes together in an unforgettable and bittersweet conclusion.

Video

Film Movement licensed the French production from StudioCanal, claiming a “new restoration” for the 1975 movie. The uncut main feature runs 113 minutes and is presented in a slightly windowboxxed 1.66:1. While not unpleasing, Film Movement’s transfer isn’t state of the art. It resembles an older telecine scan taken from adequate, uncorrected film elements. The color timing is flat and dull, leaving cold flesh tones and muted color saturation. The contrast could be improved, lacking warmth and traditional HD pop.

The print is in decent but not perfect condition. Stray gate hairs and even a couple running scratches pop up. Nothing terribly distracting but obviously not pristine. Cinematic texture and fidelity is acceptable, though fine detail is occasionally limited and soft. The transfer isn’t overly processed but lacks the refined definition and superior detail of a 4K film scan.

Film Movement always reliably encodes their movies in high-bitrate AVC, taking up the vast bulk of a BD-50 with the 1080P video. It’s a relentlessly professional and clean encode, free of artifacts. L’important c’est d’aimer offers satisfactory but underwhelming video quality on Blu-ray. Look elsewhere for a reference-quality film transfer.

Audio

The swooning, heavy score by composer Georges Delerue is the most prominent element of the mono soundtrack. Both the French soundtrack and English dub are heard in dual mono PCM options. Please ignore the English dub, it’s far inferior in fidelity and execution than the French language audio.

Mostly a dialogue-driven drama, the audio strains in the upper registers and reveals a grainy glare when pushed. French dialogue is cleaner and better reproduced than English dialogue. At best these are serviceable soundtracks in terms of overall recording quality.

Optional English subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

Film Movement includes their standard clear Blu-ray case for L’important c’est d’aimer with a well-appointed 16-page booklet. Fitted out with photographs and a new essay by critic and author Kat Ellinger, Film Movement customers know what to expect.

Interview With Andrzej Żuławski (16:22 in SD; French audio w/ Forced English subtitles) – The director goes over his cast and making the movie in this engaging archival interview. He discusses the challenges faced by Romy Schneider playing against type, casting Jacques Dutronc, and dealing with Fabio Testi.

Original L’important c’est d’aimer Theatrical Trailer (03:41 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

L'important c'est d'aimer
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Romy Schneider’s searing portrayal highlights this complex and disturbing portrait of twisted love.

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