Release Date(s)1984 (May 10, 2022)
Studio(s)European Classics (Cohen Film Collection/Kino Lorber)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: D-
The Year of the Jellyfish (aka L’annee des meduses) is a French erotic drama starring a young Valerie Kaprisky, released the year after she had made her American debut in Jim McBride’s remake of Breathless. It was written and directed by Christopher Frank, based on his own novel. Chris (Kaprisky) is a teenager summering in Saint-Tropez with her mother Claude (Caroline Cellier). Chris passes the time by seducing an older friend of the family (Jacques Perrin) and toying with a couple of German tourists. She’s fascinated by the local gigolo Romain (Bernard Giraudeau), but he rebuffs her advances. He’s more interested in Chris’s mother, though Claude is resistant. Eventually, he wears her down, but Chris won’t accept the situation. When she doesn’t get what she wants, she starts plotting revenge.
The Year of the Jellyfish could be described as either an erotic drama or an erotic thriller, but it never stays in its lane either way. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as following strict genre classifications can be a limitation. In this case, however, it appears that Frank wasn’t quite sure of the tone that he wanted to strike for the film. He seems to have realized that audiences weren’t going to follow his intentions, so he added a jarring voiceover narration at a few points, just to spell things out for anyone who might have gotten lost along the way. As a result, the film is always reaching for profundity that it can’t quite grasp.
There’s no denying that Kaprisky has a real screen presence, even with her clothes on, and she carries the film as best as she can despite the fact that Frank didn’t give her a coherent character to play. She’s aided by the strong influence of Cellier, who actually won a Cesar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Claude. It’s just hard not to wish that there had been a stronger hand at the helm. Still, while The Year of the Jellyfish never quite lives up to its potential, there’s enough interest going on here to make it worth a look. If all else fails, there’s always the nudity.
Cinematographer Renato Berta shot The Year of the Jellyfish on 35 mm film using spherical lenses, framed at 1.85:1 in this presentation from the Cohen Film Collection and Kino Lorber. There’s no indication of the elements that they used, but it appears to have been a print. The subtitles are burned-in, and there are large changeover marks at the end of every reel. It also shows signs of damage, such as speckling and scratches, as well as a few larger blemishes here and there. Still, it’s reasonably detailed, given the source. The contrast is a bit limited, and the blacks can appear somewhat washed out, but that’s to be expected. The colors look fine, with the abundant flesh tones appearing natural throughout. No issues with tan lines here.
Audio is offered in French 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with those burned-in English subtitles. Everything sounds clean, with clear dialogue, and the music from Alain Wisniak and Nina Hagen sounds relatively robust for a mono track. (Your mileage may vary with Hagen’s songs, so caveat emptor.)
There’s just a single extra on the disc:
- Trailer (HD – 1:10)
The Year of the Jellyfish, ironically enough, is neither fish nor fowl. It can’t quite decide what it wants to be. Since it never quite lands as either an erotic drama or an erotic thriller, what’s left is the common ground between the two. Christopher Frank may not have had a handle on the story, but he had little difficulty pointing Renato Berta’s camera toward the unclothed female form. In that respect, he was an unqualified success as a director.
- Stephen Bjork