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REVANCHE – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #502 (A J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 1, 2010 by  



Extraordinary, smart and compelling!  Spielmann’s masterpiece -“REVANCHE” receives a fantastic release on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection!

© 2009 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: REVANCHE – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #502

DURATION: 122 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), Color, in German with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: February 16, 2010

Directed by Götz Spielmann

Screenplay by Götz Spielmann

Produced by Sandra Bohle, Mathias Forberg, Götz Spielmann, Heinz Stussak

Cinematography by Martin Gschlacht

Edited by Karina Ressler

Casting by Rita Wasziloics

Production Design by Maria Gruber

Costume Design by Monika Buttinger

Starring:

Johannes Krisch as Alex

Irina Potapenko as Tamara

Andreas Lust as Robert

Ursula Strauss as Susanne

Johannes Thanheiser as Grandfather Hausner

Hanno Poschi as Konecny- Tamara’s Boss

A gripping thriller and a tragic drama of nearly Greek proportions, Revanche is the stunning, Oscar-nominated international breakthrough of Austrian filmmaker Götz Spielmann. In a ragged section of Vienna, hardened ex-con Alex (the mesmerizing Johannes Krisch) works in a brothel, where he falls for Ukrainian hooker Tamara. Their desperate plans for escape unexpectedly intersect with the lives of a rural cop and his seemingly content wife. With meticulous, elegant direction, Spielmann creates a tense, existential, and surprising portrait of vengeance and redemption, and a journey into the darkest forest of human nature, in which violence and beauty exist side by side.

Extraordinary, smart and compelling!  Spielmann’s masterpiece -“REVANCHE” receives a fantastic release on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection!

I have been highly anticipating the release of Götz Spielmann’s wonderful film “REVANCHE” on Blu-ray.  His masterpiece has received mostly all positive reviews worldwide, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and fortunately for cinema fans, the Blu-ray and DVD release has been given The Criterion Collection treatment.

“REVANCHE” is a compelling thriller filmed in Austria and is about an ex-con named Alex (played by Johannes Krisch) who works as a handyman at the brothel “Cinderella” in Vienna.  He has a secret relationship with a Ukrainian prostitute named Tamara (played by Irina Potapenko).  The two want to begin a new life with each other, away from their current jobs but the two don’t have much money.  So, for now they are employees of the brothel owner Konecny (played by Hanno Pöschl).

Meanwhile, the film shifts to another couple.  Police officer Robert (played by Andreas Lust) and his wife Susanne (played by Ursula Strauss).  Susanne has suffered a miscarriage and both want a baby.  In fact, while she was pregnant, they began making their nursery and they have been having problems trying to conceive.  In fact, it is Robert who has fertility problems but refuses to believe it.  Susanne wants to adopt, and because his refusal to believe that the problem is his and refusal for adoption, their marriage is suffering.

The film also focuses on a third relationship which is between father and son.  With Alex as an ex-convict, he tries to form a new relationship with his elderly father Hausner (played by Johannes Thanheiser).    Hausner is surprised that his son is finally visiting him, and didn’t even visit when his mother died.  So, because Alex’s had his share of problems in life, Hausner looks at his son as a deadbeat and vagrant.  Although, Hausner has been lonely living in the farm since his wife has passed away, he is often helped and taken care of by Susanne who lives close by.

As for Alex and Tamara, their lives change when Tamara is offered by her boss Konecny to move to another area and earn more money.  But she is comfortable being at work knowing that Alex is nearby.  But when she is manhandled by one of Konecny’s clients, Alex and Tamara escape their life at the brothel.  Knowing that they need money to escape, Alex plans to rob a bank.  Tamara is against it but because she loves Alex and believes in him, she goes along with it.

The two hatch their plan, Alex robs the bank while Tamara waits in a stolen car and they escape.  The plan goes well and  Alex successfully robs the bank.  But meanwhile, police officer Robert is on duty and sees a car parked in an area mysteriously.  He sees that Tamara is alone and starts to question her about why she is parked there.  Alex (who is wearing a mask) who sees the police officer confronts Robert and forces him to the ground.  As the two speed off in the car, Robert tries to fire shots at the tires.  But instead, hits the window and one of the shots hits Tamara fatally.

Although he was able to rob the money, Alex lost the woman he has loved.  He retreats to the only place he knows he will be safe, his father’s home.  As for Robert, when he finds out that he has killed the woman in the car, this leads him to a path of guilt and his actions causing problems within the police force.  When his wife Susanne tells Hausner (who is accompanied by Alex) about the robbery and how her husband Robert shot and killed one of them, Alex now knows who killed his beloved and now wants revenge.

VIDEO:

“REVANCHE” is featured in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio).  The film captures the beauty of the Austrian countryside, with the blue skies, clouds on top.  While green fields and lush vegetation and trees surround the area.  Colors are absolutely beautiful when focused on the countryside, but the we get to see the details of the seedy Vienna underground especially from the “Cinderella” brothel where Alex and Tamara works.  Red lighting is featured in the prostitute rooms and a different contrast to the warm, earthy colors of Robert and Susan’s home.

Detail can be seen everywhere from old, painted walls of Hausner’s home to the woods in the forest, the walls in Alex’s apartment, the bark on the trees to the serene lakes as it ripples through wind or a rock hitting.   Blacks are nice and deep and skin tones are natural.  Cinematographer Martin Gschlacht captures nature quite vividly through his cinematography and looks absolutely beautiful.  But also a poetic and yet interesting way of filming certain scenes with the quick pans from character to character, pictured the way that Spielmann has thought of it in his mind (note: a special feature is included on the Blu-ray to show us Spielmann’s approach to filmmaking and camerawork) and specifically knows how he wants things to be on screen.

The camerawork really catches your attention and of course, the choice of using 16mm instead of 32mm is quite intriguing but for the most part, for a film such as “REVANCHE”, the film is detailed.  I didn’t find any major compression artifacting, edge enhancement or banding.

According to The Criterion Collection, the transfer was approved by director Götz Spielmann.  The high-definition digital transfer was created from the Super 16mm color negative which was scanned at 2K on a Northlight scanner and color graded on a Baselight EIGHT system.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the audio, the film is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio.  The film features a fully digital surround soundtrack in German.  Audio was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master files using Pro Tools HD.  Dialogue is crystal clear and certain scenes with Alex on his motorcycle or Robert at the shooting rage or firing shots from his gun are the primary sounds that catch your attention.  You occasionally hear the surrounding ambiance of the policemen talking to each other at the station in the background, the birds chirping in the field to the cows mooing inside the barn but for the most part, the film is dialogue driven.

Subtitles are provided in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“REVANCHE” comes with the following special features:

  • Götz Spielmann Interview – (35:32) A Criterion Collection exclusive interview with director Götz Spielmann recorded in 2009.  Spielmann talks about being a director, his approach to filmmaking and more.
  • The Making of “Revanche” – (36:13) A documentary about “REVANCHE”.  Behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the film and interviews with cast and crew.
  • Foreign Land – (44:43) Director Götz Spielman’s debut short film from 1984.  The winner of a European Film Academy Award.  An optional director’s introduction by Spielmann is included (3:31).
  • U.S. Trailer – (1:37) The U.S. original theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

  • 12-Page Booklet – Also, included is a 12-page insert booklet with an essay titled “REVIVAL OF THE FITTEST” by Armond White, film critic for the New York Press.

The word “REVANCHE” in German means “revenge” but also has the meaning of “second chance”.

Götz Spielmann manages to craft his masterpiece through utilizing these five characters in whose lives are intertwined after tragedy but not going through the cliched route of banality or a theme of built on misanthropy.  Each character at their own moral crossroads and each character brings something to the viewer.  Alex as a man in love and in a man in mourning.  Robert as a man who is proud but broken down by guilt.  Hausner as a man who knows he’s growing older but seeing a side of his son that he has never seen before.  Susanne as a wife, who will do anything to save her marriage.  These characters are all vulnerable and must struggle with their own personal dilemmas.  Spielmann uses the theme of “REVANCHE” as a choice the character Alex will need to make.

The Criterion Collection once again brings a quality release.  For Spielmann fans, just to see the man in work while he is creating the film via the documentary included is quite wonderful.  Plus the addition of his debut short film is another plus in this release.  I have also been asked by my readers to let them know in my Criterion Collection reviews if I can mention if the films are family friendly films.   In “REVANCHE”, this is definitely not a film to showcase in front of children as there is full frontal nudity and sexual themes in addition to some violence.

What makes this film work for me is that these Australian talents are people that I have never seen before in a film, they play their role remarkably well and the film is well-cast.  No one has this image of unbelievability.  Spielmann is able to craft a tale that captivates your attention from beginning to end through its characters but also the beautiful cinematography of the naturalistic surroundings of where these characters live but also capturing the seedy underground of Alex’s and Tamara’s life earlier in the film.

Overall, “REVANCHE” is compelling, smart and an extraordinary film.  This is a true masterpiece for Götz Spielmann and for the Criterion Collection, another magnificent Blu-ray release.  Highly recommended!

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