When it comes to stories about medieval identity theft in France, the tale of Martin Guerre’s life has to be the king. Based on true events, the story has been told in books, plays, opera, and two films. So it clearly resonates, and is not going away anytime soon, but the best telling is still undoubtedly Daniel Vigne’s 1982 film “The Return of Martin Guerre.”
The movie tells the story of a soldier who returns to his small town after a brutal war and displays more wisdom and compassion than he had ever exhibited in the past. While he can recall intimate details from his life, his small town has a hard time believing he is the same Martin Guerre they once knew. His wife and family begin to suspect that he is an imposter, and he is taken to court for theft of identity.
It also comes with a bit of film trivia, as it was written by Bunuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, who penned “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.” The tense film was nominated for an Academy Award, and it is most remembered for its incredible use of color.
The film’s visuals were all based on the art of legendary Belgian painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Known for his lush depictions of medieval landscapes and agricultural scenes, he turned peasant existences into high art. Vigne and cinematographer Andre Neau closely follows his techniques, creating the effect of paintings come to life.
Those colors will soon be on full display, as New York City’s Quad Cinema will be premiering a new 4K restoration of the film next month. The rich, textured visuals and Oscar-nominated costumes will be clearer than ever, allowing audiences to experience the way it blurs the line between cinema and painting.
While the film was remade in 1992 with Jodie Foster and Richard Gere, Daniel Vigne’s film remains the definitive take on the story. The Quad is showing the New York premiere of the director’s cut of the film, restored in 4K.
The release comes with a new, Bruegel-inspired poster and a recut trailer, both of which are premiering exclusively on IndieWire below.