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La Vallee (Obscured By Clouds) (with Pink Floyd soundtrack) Print E-mail

La Vallee DVD cover, featuring Pink Floyd soundtrackAvailable to buy through this special link  and at our Pink Floyd stores!

Long unavailable on video, and now freshly released on DVD in a new digital transfer (approved by director, Barbet Schroeder) the 1972 film La Vallee steps into the twenty first century.

Famed for its Pink Floyd soundtrack (more on that later), this French film, with optional English subtitles, is also known as The Valley or Obscured By Clouds.

At present, the title is only available from American retailers, and has region 1 DVD encoding. The NTSC picture is a remarkably well defined anamorphic widescreen - a very nice job has been done at cleaning the picture up.

There is a slight jolt to the picture around fifteen minutes in (a fault on the original negative) and the odd digital artifact creeps in a couple of times, but not too badly.

The sound is pretty crisp and clean, a Dolby Digital 2.0 (stereo) mix only; the dialogue (or what there is of it) gets a bit lost in places but this again is not a fault of this version, being the same on the original print.

A cult classic, it relives the hippy ideals in travelogue style. The plot is described thus:

    Set in the rainforest of New Guinea, a restless diplomat's wife, played by Bulle Ogier (Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Maitresse), goes in search of a rare bird's priceless feathers. In the process she meets up with a group of hippies seeking spiritual and sexual enlightenment. Together they are transformed when they encounter the indigenous Mapuga tribesman and the secret "valley of the gods".

Following the opening titles, the film proper starts with a very awkwardly acted scene in a curio shop. An accident with a feather (don't ask!) leads to a trip to the local hospital, then a meeting with the hippy group. The obsession with feathers, and the boring, normal day-to-day life of Bulle Ogier's easy on the eye character, leads to her joining the journey to the valley, and enlightenment.

From the outset, the dialogue switches between English and French, within scenes and conversations, and unless you've used your remote to switch on the subtitles (there's no onscreen option, curiously) you'll be totally confused.

The encounters with the tribesmen are unintentionally amusing. The tribesmen themselves seem ill at ease, and don't appear to be taking the whole thing seriously. Some of them openly laugh at the things they are doing for the cameras! Some of the footage is pretty authentic though - some well filmed scenes of tribal traditions and dances add to the feeling that you are actually watching a National Geographic programme. One word of warning though - there is a very unpleasant scene with pigs being slaughtered by having their heads bashed in. Quite unnecessary to show so much of this; I can't think many would relish seeing the pigs suffering in the way they obviously do.

The scenes with the hippies generally appear very dated, and very studied. However, the communal lifestyle is for once, approached in a more realistic way than often portrayed. The film itself feels pretty drawn out, with little action getting in the way of the photography and concepts being covered.

The main draw for Floyd fans is the music. Many will already be familiar with the soundtrack album, but anyone expecting another album's worth of material in this 105 minute film will be disappointed. Apart from the titles, you get only snippets of songs, some in the background, some on the car radio, although some of these are different versions to those on the record. So, interesting, but not as much as I had hoped.

Some people will love this movie - it is not a cult classic for nothing. For me, the pace was too slow, and the characters and situations too dated. For others, the look at discovery, and alternative lifestyles, will be fascinating.

 
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