Brotherhood of the Wolf: Director’s Cut (2001) – DVD Review

Brotherhood of the Wolf Director's Cut DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Stéphane Cabel & Christophe Gans
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Starring: Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Vincent Cassel, Émilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci

Features:

  • Deleted scenes with context by director Gans
  • “The Guts of the Beast” making-of
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • A history of the true story of the Beast
  • Storyboards

Released by: Universal
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Own it if you like the film.

The French region of Gevaudan is getting its ass handed to it by a mysterious Beast. It’s some sort of hideous monster that noms on people a bit and then leaves their corpses lying about. Into this chaos ride Grégoire de Fronsac (LeBihan) and his companion and brother Mani (Dacascos), ready to get to the bottom of the mystery. But there’s plenty of mystery to go around. Everybody acts a little strange in town and to make things more clouded–at least as far as their mission goes–Fronsac hooks up with not just Marianne (Dequenne), the daughter of a local important family, but also Sylvia (Bellucci) a–sultry? Shall we say sultry?–sultry denizen of the local bordello. And, oh yeah, there’s murders.

When Brotherhood first hit in 2001, it was a revelation. And rather startling, since what you had was basically a kung fu-western-mystery-conspiracy-thriller-pseudo-historical period piece in French with subtitles. It cherry picked what it wanted from each of those genres and made a casserole out of it. And it got so terrifically mental, that by the time the anime weapon shows up in the final reel, you just went with it. Because there was no reason not to. Adding wonderment was the fact that it was the best wide release fu film of its kind, beating out Jet Li’s lame Kiss of the Dragon
that year.

The film has a lot going for it. Especially its costumes. How could you not want the giant collared riding coats that Fronsac and Mani show up in? It’s worth watching the film again just to pick up on all the art direction and costume work, since the first time you see it you’re probably in genre-shock.

Next up, the cast. The standout is Mark Dacascos as Native American asskicker and healer Mani. He’s the sober Watson to Fronsac’s libertine Holmes, and he grounds the movie for a good portion of it. Vincent Cassel should be cast in just about everything, as far as I’m concerned, since he’s rather good and seems to have a blast doing his thing. LeBihan is especially impressive when you learn, through the special features, that this is not your usual martial arts hero. This isn’t some fu star bursting out of France–he’s an actor, that’s all. Who happens to have worked really hard to look like he can kick some ass (due to the tutelage of choreographer Philip Kwok). Bellucci and Dequenne play the bookends of experience and innocence quite well.

Samuel LeBihan as Fronsac and Mark Dacascos as Mani in Brotherhood of the Wolf

And credit must be given to the Henson Creature Workshop for designing both the CG and animatronic Beasts and doing it so well, I didn’t know, even on rewatching, which was which.

The film, by itself, is worth owning, just because I think it’s such an odd animal it deserves to be on your shelf. But now that it’s out in a Director’s Cut 2-disc version, what does that mean?

Well, the first disc is pretty much the disc we received last time: there’s a series of deleted scenes with Christophe Gans on hand to contextualize them and talk about why they were cut. And like most deleted scenes, it’s a good thing they were cut. A meeting on a frozen lake between Fronsac and Marianne is more inadvertently comical than anything else, for example.

Director Christophe Gans from Brotherhood of the Wolf

The second disc provides a ton of stuff. “The Guts of the Beast” is a really excellent making-of that lets you look at the casting, the fight choreography, and perhaps most impressive: the making of the Beast and the digital effects that went into things. Like how you turn a few wolves into many, or how you make the snow more prevalent. The little things that you might not even notice while watching the film.

The “documentary” on the second disc is actually not a documentary at all. It’s instead a plethora of behind the scenes footage with very little narration or interviews at all. That’s not to say it’s not worth watching. There’s nothing on the features cooler than Vincent Cassel comparing his makeup job to a Six Million Dollar Man action figure while eating onion rings and listening to funk music. And then geeking out over Robert DeNiro. Cassel seems like a character and a half.

One thing that seems apparent by watching all of this footage, the real docu and the provided storyboards is that Gans is the type of director who likes to show up and see what happens. It seems like every time you see the crew at work, they have to improvise something because the lamb isn’t behaving or the fall isn’t working or…something. And the storyboards show a lot of story that just didn’t make it. The Marquis’ hallucination after being given the Native American sacrament, for example. Wondering why nothing ever happened with that? It probably was cut to save production time. The weather also was a total bitch to this production. Seriously. I understand wanting to shoot outside to keep from having to have such a huge studio…but damn. You’d think by the time you spent so much money sitting on your ass in damp grass you could have built your own.

Brotherhood of the Wolf fight choreographer Philip Kwok

Also, there’s a small featurette where author Michel Louis discusses what he believes the beast was and who was in control of it. As to what he thinks of the film, he keeps going back to the fact that it’s not nearly as preposterous as blaming the whole incident on wolves.

The main thing about the director’s cut, though, is that I prefer the theatrical cut. It’s a bit more indulgent on time, yes, but the main problem is that a subplot involving Marianne and her family vs. Fronsac and his dalliances makes what happens later between Fronsac and Marianne make absolutely no sense.

Anyway, that’s the main drawback to this edition: the theatrical cut isn’t on here. So if you wanted to watch that one, you’d have to go back to the original release. And we still don’t have all the features that some other regions have had, so we’re not to the ubermongo edition yet. Fans of the film or fans of the many genres involved will want to pick this up. If you’re content with your original edition, then at least rent it to check out what’s extra.

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By | 2017-09-24T23:12:49+00:00 September 21st, 2008|DVD Reviews|2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. cavalaxis September 22, 2008 at 10:51 am

    I love this film so much. It’s such a wonderful, wild ride.

    Also interesting to note: Mark Dacascos(Mani) can also be seen currently on the Food Network, hosting “Iron Chef America” as the Chairman.

  2. Widge September 23, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Cavalaxis: Indeed…and while I dig that show, it can never, ever take the place of the original madness that is Iron Chef Prime! :)

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