A Couch in New York

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Dr. Henry Harrison (William Hurt) has a successful practice as a psychoanalyst and seems to have an above average lifestyle, but under the surface things are much, much different than they seem. Harrison is called on to be a beacon of hope and strength for his clients, but in his own personal life is on the verge of a total nervous breakdown. In order to preserve his sanity and maybe even add some spice to his life, Harrison decides he needs to make a change in his surroundings. And the change he need arrives in the form of a newspaper ad about switching apartments, so overnight he decides to change his entire life for a while and switch apartments with Beatrice Saulnier (Juliette Binoche). Beatrice is the opposite of Harrison’s boredom as she is wild and dances for a living. What makes this so interesting is that her apartment is in Paris, so the two switch countries as well as apartments. While it all starts off well, soon events that involve mistaken identity arise and all chaos breaks loose. Beatrice ends up working as Henry’s replacement, while Henry gets beaten up by Beatrice’s former lover. But through all this confusion, there might be a chance for love in a direction totally opposite than either of them expects.

I had heard many good things about this film and since I have a soft spot for romantic comedies, I decided to give this release a full review. The storyline is interesting to be sure and while you have to suspend disbelief at the basic premise, just remember this a movie and you have to do that sometimes. So pair that cool storyline with a pair of accomplished actors (William Hurt & Juliette Binoche) and I was expecting a very entertaining film. I’ve now seen the movie of course and while it delivers some humorous moments, I feel the film falls short of the potential the storyline and actors offer. The mistaken identities game is played often and when it works, it works well but when it fails, it stinks to high heaven. This creates an uneven balance about the film which come fine touches to the script could have evened out. So the movie isn’t as good as I expected it to be, but I was entertained and this makes for a good rental choice. The disc is better than most Winstar/Fox Lorber releases, but they still have a ways to go before winning me over as a fan, with anamorphic transfers and improved surround sound mixes in the forefront of my demands.

This film was directed by Chantal Akerman, who also helped pen the screenplay along with Jean-Louis Benoit. The screenplay has a terrific basic premise, but seems to falter from time to time when involved in details and such. Perhaps if some more time were spent on the subtle touches or maybe an outside assistant used, this would have been a much more rewarding screenplay that did justice to the potential of the basic premise. But still, this is better material than many romantic comedies out there so you could do a lot worse. As a director Akerman delivers a solid, but never overly flashy picture that seems to let the actors and dialogue do all the work. This works well here because of the dialogue heavy sequences, which would have been downplayed if fancy camera work were used. If you want to see more of Akerman’s films I recommend The Captive, Window Shopping, The Meetings Of Anna, and Night And Day. The leads in this movie are William Hurt (Smoke, Broadcast News) & Juliette Binoche (Three Colors) and both seem to have been cast well for their roles. The chemistry is decent enough, but not as powerful as you’d expect from a movie of this kind. The supporting cast also includes Richard Jenkins (Snow Falling On Cedars), Barbara Garrick (Sleepless In Seattle), Paul Guilfoyle (In Dreams), and Stephanie Buttle (Urban Ghost Story).

Video: How does it look?

A Couch In New York is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is a decent transfer that provides a better than expected image, but there is also plenty of room for improvement. The source print seems clean at all times, but sometimes it seems faded and several instances of compression hiccups are evident. The colors look good, but never that bright or rich although flesh tones appear natural throughout. I did find some problems with the contrast, as shadows seemed soft from time to time. But all in all, this is an adequate transfer that shouldn’t scare anyone away from the disc.

Audio: How does it sound?

This release uses a stereo track for audio and once again I am left wondering why Winstar/Fox Lorber refuses to issue some decent surround tracks for some of these titles. While this movie wouldn’t benefit much from a full surround track, the music would sound much fuller and the total atmosphere would be a little more immersive. As it stands this is an adequate audio track, but never more than that. The music sounds good, but lacks range and sound effects seem flat and uninspired at all times. The dialogue is the focus and it always comes across well in this mix. The French language sequences feature English subtitles, so you’ll never be left in the cold.

Supplements: What are the extras?

You’ll find the theatrical trailer and some filmographies on this disc, as well as a weblink.

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