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Maison Close: Season One (Blu-ray Review)

Maison-Close-Season-OneLast August, longtime New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley penned a feature entitled “The Elusive Pleasures of French TV Series”.   In the feature, she highlighted MAISON CLOSE as one of several Gallic series to seek out.  However, she also noted “There is exotic and beguiling television all across the world, far away by plane but near enough by satellite, cable or Web to be tantalizingly just out of reach.”  The acclaimed first season of MAISON CLOSE will no longer be “tantalizingly just out of reach”, as Music Box Films delivers the acclaimed Foreign TV import to North American shores on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD.   Period dramas on TV have always entranced viewers and ruled the Nielsen’s: PBS’ “Downton Abbey,” HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire,” AMC’s “Masters of Sex,” “Turn,” and “Hell on Wheels” and BBC’s “Ripper” and “Mr. Selfridge”.  Add to that the allure of the world’s oldest profession seen in an entirely new light and the success of recent French programming such as last year’s Sundance Channel smash, “Les Revenants” (a/k/a “The Returned”, and also distributed by Music Box), and there’s never been a better time for home audiences to dive in to a new viewing experience.

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Season 

Paris, 1871. This is a story of the women trapped in a luxury brothel, ‘Paradise’. The very young Rose came to Paris in search of her mother, former prostitute. She is trapped and forced to enroll in Paradise. Vera is 35 years. She knows that the end of her career as a prostitute is near. She is betting everything on the Baron Du Plessis, her main client and the only one able to redeem her debt. Hortense is the owner of Paradise. She must take care her girls and resist pressure from a thug from the suburbs who is charging her money.

Here comes another in what seems to be a little push of 50 Shades Of Gray inspired releases.  Anything that seems to hint to or persist in some kinky sex is going to prompt someone to try and cash in on the 50 Shades Of Gray craze.  We’ve already seen the redone poster and trailer for the James Spader/Maggie Grace indie/cult classic film from some years back Secretary get 50 Shades’d earlier this week.  Maison Close even has a comment on the box that this one is so scandalous it would make 50 Shades Of Gray fans blush.

I went into this expecting a really raunchy experience.  I mean, its a French period television show that has a brothel for a setting.  Like, that seems to be an honest expectation right?  To my surprise, this show was rather tame when it came to its sex scenes.  There are plenty and they strive to be tough softcore, but this is an incredibly light affair compared to the likes of Game Of Thrones or almost any HBO, Showtime or Starz show.  For starters, there’s really not much nudity at all.  A lot of clothed sex going on.  Or, a dude will have his shirt off.  There is some nudity, but none of it comes from the main cast members really.

Since this sex show, is a lighter affair in that regard, how’s the plot?  Well, its all right, I suppose.  Competent enough to withstand 8 episodes, but I really wasn’t taken by any of it, or eager to get to the next episode.  It does provide some solid drama a little bit of intrigue with some mysteries, but overall I’m not sure I could recommend it or even feel like moving on to season two.  However, this one really wasn’t my thing, but I’m sure it has its fans and an audience.  This box set will give the US a chance to check out this international hit, as it includes all 8 episodes from season one.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  This period drama features a nice, rock solid transfer.  Details on things such as bed sheet fabrics, clothing and wood surfaces all shine through.  The cobblestone streets and brick buildings are also nicely defined.  Its not greatness, but its still good nonetheless.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and provide plenty of shade.  A lot of this is dimly lit and looks pretty good, with only a light amount of detail hidden.

Color Reproduction:  This isn’t a “pretty” looking show as it deals with the underbelly of a town and is an 1800s period piece.  It does feature nice, rich representations of each color.

Flesh Tones:  Skin is aplenty, consistent and clean.  Details such as wrinkles, stubble, sweat beads and the like are all plenty visible.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): French 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Maison Close has a solid 5.1 track that accurately depicts this period drama.  Vocals, sound effects and music all feature a nice even share in this mix and never step on one another’s toes.

Low Frequency Extension: Not a whole not is demanded here.  But, there are some “action” moments that get a nice enhancement from the sub.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Mainly ambiance and music come from the rear speakers.  The front channels provide an accurate representation of what’s going on onscreen in terms of volume, pitch and movement.

Dialogue Reproduction:  The orgasms come in loud, clear and filthily clean.

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Extras 

Maison Close: Season One comes with a collector’s booklet featuring production notes, photos and interviews.

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Summary 

While I have no experience with 50 Shades Of Gray, I don’t know how much this has in common with it aside from some scandalous, “perverse” sex going on.  It really has more in common with period dramas than it does the little I know of 50 Shades.  This Blu-ray packs all of season one and has a nice presentation.  It also comes with a nice little booklet providing you with the extras.  Fans should be pretty happy its coming to the US alone.  Its currently got a steep price tag ($39.99 as of writing this) for a 2-disc set currently, so you may want to hold off until it comes down a little if you are interested in purchasing.  There is a second season, but I’m not sure if that’s in the cards for the future.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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