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Ismael's Ghosts

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Desplechin gets Ish with “Ismael’s Ghosts” | DVD Review

Desplechin gets Ish with “Ismael’s Ghosts” | DVD Review

A star-studded cast can’t quite save Arnaud Desplechin’s troubled dramedy Ismael’s Ghosts, which opened the 2017 Cannes Film Festival as an out-of-competition entry (a move which was a return to the fold following the incredible love bestowed upon his 2015 title My Golden Days (review). And yet Desplechin’s regular on-screen persona Mathieu Amalric, bolstered by the likes of Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg, can’t quite find the pulse of this mangy, sometimes delightfully batty exploration of how the ghosts of one’s past create black holes in the present. After the title was re-cut following mixed reviews out of Cannes, US distributor Magnolia released the Director’s Cut in March of 2018, where it took in just a little over one-hundred-thousand at the box office.

From our theatrical review: “There are nuggets of wisdom in an exercise like Ismael’s Ghosts—do we ever leave behind the formative experiences from the past or do they continually influence and haunt what we experience as our present? And at times, this seems a novel exercise, wherein Desplechin fashions Ismael’s experience as a time warp scenario with a vengeance. However, we’re completely estranged from Ismael and his lovers, the emotional grandstanding staged like a self-aware dark comedy, negating the emotional breadth of what such a situation would actually command.”

Disc Review:

Released as a barebones DVD only transfer, Ismael’s Ghosts seems even less of an event in Magnolia’s transfer, presented in 2.40:1 with 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. While picture and sound quality are fair, the presentation leaves something to be desired. No extra features are available.

Film Review: ★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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