Providence on DVD


Providence (1977). Polish poster by Andrzej Klimowski.

After mentioning Alain Resnais’s Providence in the Sibylle Ruppert post I tried searching eBay again to see if any of the long-deleted French DVDs of the film could be found for under £100. This has been at the top of my DVD/blu-ray wants list for some time even though I’ve had an illicit DVD rip for a couple of years. I like having hard copies of favourite films, however, and this particular one has been bizarrely, stubbornly unavailable for far too long. Is it streaming somewhere? Probably. That may be fine for you but I don’t use those services.


Anyway, there were no French DVDs at all but there are now plenty of these, a new Italian DVD which is almost the same as the French one—Italian/English audio tracks rather than French/English—with the same bonus feature about the making of the film. (French or Italian, the film was shot in English with a British and American cast.) I could enthuse at length about Providence but it’s one of those films that’s probably best seen without knowing too much in advance. Last Year at Marienbad is the film for which Alain Resnais will always be remembered but Providence is very clever and more fun to watch. Jan Dawson in Time Out described it as “a haunted, haunting journey through the corridors of the unconscious mind…a Freudian ballet that is also pure cinema.” The original screenings in France were accompanied by Scarabus, a very strange animated short by Gérald Frydman.

So that’s another one to tick off the list, although I’d still prefer a blu-ray edition; the sombre photography by Ricardo Aronovich deserves as much. Meanwhile, I think another Resnais film, Je t’aime, Je t’aime, may now be at the top of the wants list. Either that or a collection of all the short films made by Anthony Balch in the 1960s, although I’m not expecting these to surface any time soon.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Art on film: Je t’aime, Je t’aime
Art on film: Providence
Marienbad hauntings
Les Statues Meurent Aussi, a film by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais
Toute la mémoire du monde, a film by Alain Resnais

6 thoughts on “Providence on DVD”

  1. I agree about hard copies. I feel control of access to a favorite is important. Streaming is evanescent. Who wants to have to borrow a favorite book from a library every time you want to read it, knowing access could be denied at any point?

    As for film, it does help to have a multi-region player. I finally gave up waiting for a Region A NTSC edition of Phase IV with Saul Bass’ original ending.

    I suppose this would be a good time to mention my own cult favorite recommendation, a 2016 French TV miniseries entitled Beyond the Walls (Au-delà des Murs) directed by Hervé Hadmar. It was originally broadcast on French TV in three episodes but made the theatrical festival circuit elsewhere. I have a region 4 DVD version with English subtitles. I think there is a Region 2 available now. Note there is also an erotic Spanish film with the same name. Caveat Emptor. Definitely worth checking out.

  2. Ease of access and knowing that the film hasn’t changed at all since the last time you saw it. I often think of Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly in this context, a film that was so brutal for the late 1950s that censored prints were common. My first viewing on TV was of the uncensored version, the second time it was the censored print, and the times after that. This went on for years without anyone seeming to notice or care. There’s plenty of other objections to streaming, especially if you have eclectic tastes or want more than Hollywood fare from the past 30 years.

    I’ve not heard of Beyond the Walls but I’ll search it out, thanks.

  3. On-line viewing is okay for initial discoveries, but you’re still at the mercy of someone who’s put the first version they’ve found up on the screen (the version of A Day at The Beach I watched recently was certainly shorter than IMDB stated), whereas film companies have the resources/money to put out decent editions, along with all the ephemera that comes with them. And, as a recent article in The Guardian pointed out, physical editions of films aren’t at the mercy of broadband going down. Physical rules, digital drools! I had the Redemption VHS edition of the original Nosferatu for years before I found out that there was in fact a longer, complete version out there!

  4. Yes, I read that Guardian piece. Internet connections are better today (although I still don’t have fibre) but my own connection has been plagued by rainwater in the wires and even tree branches growing around and into the junction box.

    Things are especially hazardous with older films since the extant prints may be uncut but the print itself can be a scratched mess. I’ve been watching a huge amount of film noir recently, and this is especially noticable with the more obscure films. Or you get things like D.O.A. which has been out of copyright for a long time with the result that the available copies vary widely. Some are too dark, some are cropped to 16:9 ratio, there’s even a colourized version!

  5. Yes, Rarefilmm (which I’ve linked to in the past, and which I keep up with via my RSS feed) is technically a streaming site but it’s more a download site for the things that fall through the cracks elsewhere; all the more recent entries include download links for the files. I separate Rarefilmm and the torrent world from the streaming ecosystem because the former are dedicated to keeping everything available for the widest audience. The streaming model is always about renting, or if they let you buy a thing you still don’t own it if you can’t download it, as people have discovered when their cloud-based purchases are rendered unavailable.

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