Top

KINO Video/KINO International/KINO Lorber (a J!-ENT Listing of All KINO Blu-ray and DVD Reviews)

September 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Kino International was founded in 1977 as a theatrical distribution company specializing in classics and foreign language art films. The company began operation with a license to handle theatrical distribution of the Janus Collection, a library containing over 100 important European and Asian art films of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Kino now boasts a catalog of over five hundred films — one of the most important libraries of classic and contemporary world cinema titles available to the home video collector — and has been honored by numerous critical accolades, including the prestigious Heritage Award from the National Society of Film Critics for its work in film preservation in 2002 and 2003.


The following is a list of all the KINO VIDEO/KINO INTERNATIONAL/KINO LORBER Blu-ray and DVD’s we have reviewed on J!-ENT thus far.


Note: Reviews are from 1999-Present

5 Broken Cameras

Abraham Lincoln

Amal Akbar & Tony

Anatahan

Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and ’30s: Ménilmontant by Dimitri Kirsanoff

Barbara

Battleship Potemkin 

Beggars of Life

Big Joy: The Adventures of Jim Broughton

Bird of Paradise

The Birth of a Nation

Blank City

The Blue Angel (2-Disc Ultimate Collection)

The Blue Angel: Special Two-Disc Collection

Boccaccio ’70

The Bubble

Buster Keaton: The Short Films Collection 1920-1923

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Café de Flore

Casanova ’70 (as part of the “Great Italian Directors Collection”)

The Cat and the Canary: The Photoplay Restoration (as part of the “American Silent Horror Collection”)

The Charley Chase Collection Vol. 2: Dog Shy

Charlotte Rampling: The Look

The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom

City of Life and Death

College

Computer Chess

The Constance Talmadge Collection: Her Night of Romance

The Constance Talmadge Collection: Her Sister From Paris

David Holzman’s Diary: Special Edition

Destiny

Deutschland 83

The Devil Bat

The Devil’s Needle & Other Tales of Vice and Redemption

Diary of a Lost Girl

Die Nibelungen: Special Edition

Dormant Beauty

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Deluxe Edition

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler

Drawing Flies: Anniversary Edition

Edge of Dreaming

Elles

The Epic of Everest

A Farewell to Arms

Fastball

Fear and Desire

Film Socialisme

A Fool There Was

Foolish Wives

Fritz Lang: The Earlier Works

Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916

The General

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould – Director’s Cut

The Gianfranco Rosi Collection

The Girl on a Motorcycle

Giorgio Moroder presents Metropolis

Go West and Battling Butler

Gog in 3-D

Going Places

Goodbye to Language 3D

The Good Fairy (as part of the “Glamour Girls” DVD Box Set)

Great Directors

Great Italian Directors Collection

Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation

– Gueros

happily ever after (Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants)

Harry Langdon…the forgotten clown: Long Pants

Hell’s House

Himalaya

The Hitch-Hiker

if i were you

Ingrid Bergman in Sweden

Intermezzo (as part of the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set)

Intolerance (as part of the Griffith Masterworks DVD Box Set)

It/Clara Bow: Discovering the “It” Girl

It Felt Like Love

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi

June Night (as part of the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set)

King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis

Korczak

La Ronde

The Last of England

Le Quattro Volte

Les Vampires

Life of Riley

Little Fugitive

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Littlerock

Liverpool

Lost Keaton (DVD)

Lost Keaton (Blu-ray)

Mademoiselle Chambon

Manuscripts Don’t Burn

Marriage Italian Style

Mauvais Sang

The Max Linder Collection

The Messenger

Metropolis: The Complete Metropolis

Metropolis: Restored Authorized Edition

More Than Honey

Mountains May Depart

The Navigator

Neon Bull

The Norma Talmadge Collection: Kiki

The Norma Talmadge Collection: Within the Law

Nosferatu

Nostalghia

Nothing Sacred

Obit.

The Ocean Waif (as part of “The Ocean Waif plus 49-17”)

Of Human Bondage

Our Hospitality

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

The Penalty

Pig

Rabin, the Last Day

Rapt

The Red Chapel

The Retrieval

The Robber

Russian Ark

The Sacrifice: Remastered Edition

Sample This: The Birth of Hip Hop

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

The Saphead

Scarlet Street

The Scent of Green Papaya

Seven Chances

The Sheik

Sherlock Jr. and Three Ages

Shoot the Sun Down: Restored Director’s Cut

Sidewalk Stories

Sister

The Son of the Sheik

The Sound of Insects

The Spiders (DVD)

The Spiders (Blu-ray)

A Star is Born

Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Story of a Love Affair (as part of the “Great Italian Directors Collection”)

The Stranger

Strike

A Summer in La Goulette

They Made Me a Fugitive

Those Redheads from Seattle

A Touch of Sin

Two in the Wave

United Red Army

Vice & Virtue

Violette

The Wanderers

Way Down East

We Won’t Grow Old Together

The Well-Digger’s Daughter

Who is Harry Nilsson (and Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

– Who’s Crazy?

Winnebago Man

Winter Sleep

A Woman’s Face (as part of the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set)

The Woodmans

A Year in Burgundy

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Zaza


Swastika (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

January 16, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

For those who are interested in older historical footage  of Germany especially the Nazification of the German population, will find “Swastika” to be a surprising and possibly disturbing documentary.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Sanford Leberson, Philippe Mora and Luiz Becker. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Swastika

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1974

DURATION: 95 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, German with English Subtitles, Color & BW

COMPANY: Kino International

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: December 29, 2011

Directed by Philippe Mora

Written by Lutz Becker, Philippe Mora

Producer: Sanford Lieberson, David Puttnam

Edited by Andrew Patterson

Starring:

Adolf Hitler

Eva Braun

Galeazzo Ciano

Albert Einstein

Josef Goebbels

Hermann Goring

Heinrich Himmler

Benito Mussolini

Jesse Owens

Joachim von Ribbentrop

Swastika is the most controversial documentary about Hitler ever made. Utilizing intimate color home movie footage shot by Eva Braun, it presents the private life of a dictator, going on picnics and joking with friends, displaying an affable face to the man labeled as the Devil incarnate by history. The film interweaves rare propaganda films, which presented Hitler as he wanted to be seen, consoling war widows and frolicking with young children. Director Philippe Mora combines these materials together to form an unintentional autobiography of Hitler’s rise and fall, from the formation of the Nazi state through the end of WWII. Mora lets the images speak for themselves, leading to misinterpretations and its bans in Germany and Israel. But it is one of the most fearsome anti-Nazi films ever made. As the opening credits state, “If Hitler is dehumanized and shown only as a devil, any future Hitler may not be recognized, simply because he is a human being.”

“If Hitler is dehumanized and shown only as a devil, any future Hitler may not be recognized, simply because he is a human being.” – Intro to Swastika

Adolf Hitler, the Fuhrer of Germany and the dictator who will be remembered as the evil devil incarnate of modern history which led to the death of eleven million people.

Through many staged videos shot during the 1930’s, the images that people have seen of Hitler was the military leader who would transformer the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single-party dictatorship which was based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideology of Nazism (National Socialism which incorporated biological racism and antisemitism).

But what many people have a difficult time understanding is how can millions of people follow such an evil man?  How can they look up to this person who preached hatred?

Fastforward decades after World War II and the death of Adolf Hitler and his bride, Eva Braun (in April 1945, as the Red Army closed in on Berlin, Eva killed herself by biting into a cyanide capsule while Hitler shot himself in the head with a pistol).

Philippe Mora and Lutz Becker had wondered about how can people follow someone like Hitler?  What kind of research material is available?  And through their research, what was found were the home videos of Adolf Hitler captured by Eva Braun.  Never touched or viewed by the American military who confiscated it.  So, this is 16 mm footage that has never been seen since they were in the possession of the Hitlers until 1973.

Both Mora and Lutz found eight hours of home videos showcasing video taken by Eva Braun but also footage that no one has ever seen of Adolf Hitler before.  Away from the staged military propaganda films, Mora and Becker assembled the footage along with other historical footage to show how people of Germany fell for Hitler and why they followed him.  The power of propaganda film could help ignite the nation to back a leader, which many soldiers vowed to God to follow Hitler and his ideology.

And thus “Swastika” was created.  A controversial documentary featuring banal home videos but showcasing a side of the evil leader among his family and friends and inter-weaved with propaganda footage as we see Hitler with Eva Braun, with children, dogs and being shown as a compassionate and beloved leader.

For the film, the audio-less footage which was overdubbed (but verified by those who were featured in the film and also by German lip readers) by actors and featured music, and while the film received a tumultuous reception at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973 (to put it bluntly, a fist fight among the audience had taken place), the film was also banned in Germany for 37 years until 2010 in worries that the humanistic footage of Hitler may inspire Neo-Nazi’s, nor did they want footage to be shown of a time when Germans absolute adored their “charismatic” leader.

The film had been used as educational tools for universities as a way of understanding Nazism but also to engage viewers of why the documentary was deemed as controversial.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Swastika” is presented in 1:33 Full Frame and in color and black and white.  As expected from a documentary featuring older footage, footage was restored back in 1973 but the fact that Eva Braun’s video were not tampered with, the quality was very good considering the age of the film.  According to Lutz Becker, the film was shot using American 16mm color stock, Ektachrome.

For the most part, picture quality is very good for archived and historical footage and the editing of putting together Eva Braun’s home video along with propaganda and Nazi film were done well, although some may find the home videos quite banal as they are old home videos.

As for audio, while the audio was dubbed by actors utilizing research by German lipreaders to people who were featured in the film, it gives you an idea of what types of conversations were being discussed on the home video.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Swastika” comes with the following special features:

  • Introduction from Jonathan Petropoulos – (1:58) Jonathan Petropoulos talks about how he used “Swastika” as a teaching tool and asking the students of why this documentary was so controversial.
  • Filmmakers Discussion – (30:05) Producers Sanford Lieberson, David Puttnam, director/writer Philippe Mora and writer Lutz Becker talk about the making of “Swastika”.
  • Manipulation and Nazi Propaganda – (12:12) Producers Sanford Lieberson, David Puttnam, director/writer Philippe Mora and writer Lutz Becker talk about the propaganda documentaries at that time.
  • Interview with Albert Speer and Lutz Becker – (14:43) In 1937, Lutz Becker was interviewed by the BBC about how he had access of Eva Braun’s films and how sound was incorporated into this film.  And a discussion with Albert Speer, former photographer for Hitler on knowing Hitler and Braun.
  • Color Film in Nazi Germany – (1:59) A special feature on the use of color in the films by Nazi Germany.
  • Puncturing the Myth of Leni Riefenstahl – (5:53) Lutz Becker talks about actress and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, who was known for a being a filmmaker for Hitler work but the discussion relates to how Riefenstahl may been given attribution of being a director of films that were not done by her but also showing how amoral she was with her footage taken in the concentration camps.
  • Trailers – The theatrical trailer to “Swastika” and also other titles available from Kino.

He has been called a demon.  A murderer.  And his name will be forever linked to hatred and evil… Adolf Hitler.

There is no forgiving a man who led to massive atrocities and the deaths of millions but it’s important to remember that he is also human and that one human can inspire a country to do horrific things.  How is this possible?  How can this even happen?

As a person who loves watching documentaries especially to see a city and lifestyle of a time period that is no more, I am also fascinated by watching footage of propaganda films that have been used to fool a country and disguising the truth of their people.

“Swastika” is rather intriguing in a historical sense because in other footage,  the most vile person of this century, Adolf Hitler, typically shown as a dictator, shown during his speeches but mostly as a military leader.  But with “Swastika” and the home video footage shot by Eva Braun, we see a side of Hitler that no one has seen before.

We see footage of a man discussing hunting of a bore with his colleagues, the discussion with his colleagues (such as Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels) of the young children that look up to him as a hero, the dictator out walking his dogs and of course, his time with his Nazi soldiers and also with his mistress Eva Braun, as she stretches and has fun in the water with her dog.  Shots taken at Hitler’s Bavarian mountain retreat in Berghof in Obersalzberg.

But by no means was “Swastika” trying to show the good-side of Hitler.  The film was banned from Germany for 37-years in fear that the documentary’s humanistic approach may make Hitler look like a good guy than an demon.  In fact, because of the home videos of Hitler…people were so uncomfortable at Cannes that a fight broke out in the audience.    It’s a controversial film but this is an anti-Nazi film that shows how a nation was fooled by Hitler’s grasp on the city.  The control that the Third Reich had in instilling this belief in men, women and children.  But a film that shows that evil tyrants are human and it’s important to show how a human can lead a country to do terrible things.

It’s important to also note that the director, Philippe Mora is Jewish and when he took on the goal to make Swastika a film, it was during a time he wanted to document the making of Albert Speer’s (a photographer for Adolf Hitler and friend of Eva Braun) book about the Third Reich.

Also interesting is how the film came about.  According to various news sources, including an interview with Australia publication, “The Age”, Mora began to become interested in the project when he saw a photo of Eva Braun in a book and she was holding a 16 mm camera.  Lutz Becker then tried to find out more information and talked to an army officer who was part of the raiding party at Berghof and was told that “a pile of cans” had been taken away.  Becker contacted the Pentagon and it was revealed that a bunch of film cans were found in Eva Braun’s bedroom and when they received permission to look at it, there were eight hours of footage with only a fraction being used for “Swastika”, footage featuring Adolf Hitler.  And the footage featured Hitler with Goebbels, Goering, Himmler, Heydrich, Eva and her sisters and Hitler’s dog Blondi.

But the question that has been raging since 1973 when it comes to “Swastika” was will this documentary humanize Adolf Hitler or will people see the anti-Nazi message of this film.

It’s one thing to have seen footage of similar situations in North Korea with the late Kim Jong-il and seeing his near rock-star presence to his countrymen, the tight grasp the country has on what their people can see on television and seeing their propaganda films that reinforce their belief in their leader, their country and their goal to have this Aryan utopia.

“Swastika” shows us along with the home video footage these other historical footage of how thousands of people were enchanted by Hitler, women going so far to jump barriers to see him.

To see y0ung German soldiers making an oath to God that they will follow their leader, to see child soldiers fighting each other and then are back to marching.  To see these young women sing in glee to their leader and to see even American Olympic champion Jesse Owens smiling to the camera and talking about how great the German people are and actually praising the treatment he received during the 12th Summer Olympics in Berlin.

But when you look at the history of dictators, they all have similarity in the fact that they controlled communication and people saw their leader as charismatic and wonderful.  And while the film does showcase Germans being wooed by their leader, we are also given that image of what their had lead them to do as we see images of dead Jewish people, nearly skeletal as they are being bulldozed and buried.

The German people were so ignorant of what was going on around them that they were continually fed the good news about their leader and the Third Reich. One story that Philippe Mora had told was of a sculptor who worked with Hitler and when he saw the documentary, he felt everything featured in “Swastika” was factual until the part of the Jews being bulldozed and insisted that the video footage was constructed by Hollywood.

As for the DVD release of “Swastika”, viewers are treated with an insightful filmmakers discussion plus discussion about the manipulation of the people and the power of Nazi propaganda, classic interviews with Lutz Becker and also Albert Speer, the use of color film in Nazi Germany and also conversation of the amorality of filmmaker/actress Leni Riefenstahl who worked with Hitler.

Overall, “Swastika” is an intriguing documentary especially with the home video footage of Hitler/Braun which I have never seen before and many others haven’t.  But as far as the argument goes and the worries about whether or not this documentary will humanize Hitler, my feeling is that it’s all subjective on the viewer.  This film is obviously an anti-Nazi film when watched from beginning to end but it’s also a film that easily shows us that the worst in humanity can be disguised through propaganda and how many people believed in it.

For those who are interested in older historical footage  of Germany especially the Nazification of the German population, will find “Swastika” to be a surprising and possibly disturbing documentary.

 

Casanova ’70 (as part of the “Great Italian Directors Collection” DVD Set) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

This is a sexy comedy that Mastroianni literally hits the ball out of the ballpark with his performance.  A true Casanova with a libido problem… And Mario Monicelli does a great job of building the storyline with efficacy thanks to the beautiful women and the comedy presented throughout the film.

Images courtesy of ©1966 Surf Film SRL. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Casanova ’70

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1965

DURATION: 115 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color (1:85:1), 16×9, Italian with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Lorber Films/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2011

Directed by Mario Monicelli

Story and Screenplay by Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Mario Monicelli, Tonino Guerra, Giorgio Salvioni, Suso Cecchi d’Amico

Produced by Carlo Ponti

Associate Producer: Armando Trovajoli

Cinematography by Aldo Tonti

Edited by Ruggero Mastroianni

Production Design by Mario Garbuglia

Costume Design by Maria De Matteis

Starring:

Marcello Mastroianni as Andrea Rossi-Colombotti

Virna Lisi as Gigliola

Marisa Mell as Thelma

Michele Mercier as Noelle

Enrico Maria Salerno as Lo psicanalista

Liana Orfei as La dominatrice de leoni

Guido Alberti as Il Monsignore

Beba Loncar as La Ragazza del museo

Moira Orfei as Santina

Margaret Lee as Lolly

Rosemary as La Cameriera

Jolanda Modio as L’addolorata

Marco Ferreri as Il Conte

Nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Screenplay, Casanova ’70 is a raucously funny sex romp starring Marcello Mastroianni at his charismatic peak.

Directed by Italian comedy legend Mario Monicelli (Big Deal on Madonna Street), it finds army officer Andrea (Mastroianni) dealing with a particularly strange case of impotence: his libido only gets aroused in the middle of near-death experiences. So while candle-lit dinners leave him cold, a female lion tamer or a General’s wife expand his lust to dangerous proportions. After a visit to a psychoanalyst, he fears his vice will lead to an early grave, so he attempts to live as a celibate with the virginal beauty Gigliola (Virna Lisi), but he is only delaying his inevitable descent back into sin.

Packed with bed-hopping hijinks, a parade of gorgeous actresses, and Mastroianni’s hilariously dry wit, Casanova ’70 is a colorfully ribald gem from the Golden Age of Italian comedy.

When there is discussion of the oeuvre of an Italian filmmaker, it is easy to mention the names of Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti and Mario Monicelli.

And what great way to pay tribute to these filmmakers by giving audiences a bit of a taste of their filmmaking through Kino Lorber’s “Great Italian Directors Collection” which features Antonioni’s “Story of a Love Affair”, the uncut version of “Boccaccio ’70” featuring a compilation of short films by De Sica, Fellini, Monicelli and Visconti and “Casanova ’70” featuring a film directed by Mario Monicelli.

Mario Monicelli is known in Italy as one of the masters of Commedia all’Italiana (Comedy Italian style) and received Oscar nominations for his screenwriting for “The Organizer” (1963) and “Casanova ’70” (1965).  As well as a Grand Prize of the Festival nomination at the Cannes Film Festival (“Guardie e ladri”, 1951) and Palme d’Or nominations for “For Love and Gold” (1966), “Vogliamo i colonnelli” (1973), “An Average Little Man” (1977) and “Le due vite di Mattia Pascal” (1985).

In his lifetime, he won 27 awards worldwide and won an Honorable Mention at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival and a Golden Lion for Career at the 1991 Venice Film Festival. His final film was in 2006 in which the filmmaker directed “The Roses of the Desert” at the age of 91.

A man full who lived life to the fullest, unfortunately his final years with prostate cancer would become too much of a burden on the filmmaker that he committed suicide in 2010 at the age of 95.

But for many fans of Monicelli’s work, it’s the comedies that he reigned supreme.  From creating “I soliti ignoti” (Big Deal on Madonna Street) which was nominated for for “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 31st Academy Awards, he followed it up with another nomination for the same category for “La Grande Guerra (The Great War).

But “Big Deal on Madonna Street” is where he would find the young actor Marcello Mastroianni (who would win International recognition through Federico Fellini’s “La dolce Vita” and “8 1/2” and known for his films with actress Sophia Loren for “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” and “Marriage Italian Style”), who would be cast for “Casanova ’70”.

The Italian sex comedy would star Marcelo Mastroianni as NATO Officer Andrea Rossi-Colombotti.

Andrea is a suave ladies man but with a big problem.  He can only be sexually active when his life is in danger.  If he is with a woman and is unable to feel danger, he is unable to perform.

We watch as Andrea does all he can to make things dangerous for himself before meeting a beautiful woman for sex.  He tries to break into one girlfriend’s room by using stilts to climb up her window and when she thinks its a robber, she shoots at him, enhancing his passion.  With an Asian air stewardess, he tries to make up a story which backfires on him.

Unfortunately, Andrea’s gallivanting is taking its tool and now, Andrea needs to get counseling and the best advice that his psychiatrist can give him is to not pursue any women and try to live a natural life.  To connect with women more emotionally.

So, Andrea goes to Switzerland and meets the beautiful Gigliola (played by Virna Lisi).  Gigliola is absolutely beautiful and he tries to connect with her emotionally and because she is spiritual and lives with her strict family, it is enough to stop him from his dangerous habit and she becomes his fiance.

But one day, as he goes to the circus with the family, a beautiful lion tamer asks the males in the audience if anyone is brave to come inside a cage full of lions and if so, they can get a kiss from her.  No one volunteers, but the invitation of danger peaks Andrea’s curiosity and he forgets about his fiance and her family and goes into the cage where he kisses her passionately.

Unfortunately, this ends his relationship with Gigliola.

And once again, Andrea’s habit is re-ignited and this time, he goes after the gorgeous wife of a NATO Captain.   Unfortunately, he is caught and he is transferred to Italy.  This is where he encounters the beautiful countess, Thelma (played by Marisa Mel), a woman who married to the wealthy Il Conte (played by Marco Ferreri).

Andrea tries to seduce her after giving her a ride back home but she tells him that her husband is constantly watching her and will kill him if he sees him.  Needless to say, the danger of being with a woman like her intrigues him.

Meanwhile, there are many other women that Andrea’s passion is ignited due to the danger involved, meanwhile, the woman who truly loves him, Gigliola awaits his return.

Will Andrea find a way to cure himself of his dangerous libido or will his constant searching for women that will put him in danger, end up hurting him?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Casanova ’70” is presented in 1:85:1 and the picture quality is very good on DVD.  For a 1965 film, the print is in good condition and discovered no major defects or warping, colors are also vibrant and not faded.  And the audio , presented in monaural 1.0 is clear and understandable.

It’s important to note that if you want the best picture and audio quality of “Casanova ’70”, a Blu-ray version release of the film is available.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Casanova ’70” comes with the following special features:

  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (2:17) Theatrical trailer for “Casanova ’70”.
  • Stills Gallery – Featuring stills from the film and photos of the cast of the film.
  • Trailers – Featuring trailers for Lorber Films: “Boccaccio ’70”, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, “Sunflower” and “Marriage Italian Style”.

EXTRA:

“Casanova ’70” comes with two other DVD’s that fit into a slipcase.

It’s one thing to watch a sexual comedy but it’s even better when you have something that is unlike the banality of sex-com films of today. Especially one with international flair!

Mario Monicelli is the King of Italian comedies and what he brings to the audience is the charm of Marcello Mastroiani but the hotness of a Bond film with style (the costume design for this film by Maria De Matteis is elegant and sophisticated!) and beauty as each women featured in the film screams of hotness.

Actress Verna Lisi (known for starring with Jack Lemmon in “How to Murder Your Wife”) plays the innocent Gigliola, Austrian model/actress Marisa Mel (“Danger: Diabolik”, “One on Top of the Other”) plays Thelma, and these are just two of the several beautiful women shown throughout the film.

But unlike today’s sex-com films that usually are connected to alcohol or losing one’s virginity, Mastroianni’s Andrea Rossi-Colombotti is the character that men can only hope to be in his shoes, that is until you learn what drives his libido and that is “danger”.

I know these individuals exist and some enjoy the risk of lovemaking, but this is not about the lovemaking but more of what it takes Andrea to get started in order to engage in lovemaking.   He is suave, can easily charm women and get them into bed but he has to rely on danger to get him going and that is a major problem because he can’t perform when he has a beautiful woman waiting for him in bed.  He must come up with some lie or anything that would make him challenge fear head on before the fornicating and who would imagine such a story?

You have to give Mario Monicelli’s credit for creating a hilarious, fun and titillating film that does become farfetched but because we know that this kind of urge that Andrea has can land him in big trouble, we wonder if the suave playboy will make it to the end.

This is a sexy comedy that Mastroianni literally hits the ball out of the ballpark with his performance.  A true Casanova with a libido problem… And Mario Monicelli does a great job of building the storyline with efficacy thanks to the beautiful women and the comedy presented throughout the film.

If you are looking for a film that showcases Italian sexual comedy, you can’t go wrong with “Casanova ’70”!  And while Mario Monicelli is known for many great films in his oeuvre, “Casanova ’70” is a worthy addition to Kino Lorber’s “Great Italian Director’s Collection” DVD Box Set, especially as it is totally opposite compared to the more darker and deeper Michelangelo Antonioni film “Story of a Love Affair” included in the set.  But whether you buy this film as part of the DVD box set or on its own via Blu-ray, it’s a film that is definitely worth watching!

“Casanova ’70” is a sensuous Italian comedy film from the King of Italian comedies worth recommending!

NOTE: The following review is for the DVD and not the entire DVD Box set.

 

Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

An amazing collection of short films from French silent cinema ala 1908-1916. The fact that we are getting the opportunity to watch these early gems from Gaumont’s silent era is fantastic and I can only hope that Kino considers doing a third volume.  I have nothing but praise for this DVD box set and anyone who loves watching the history of cinema, especially the earlier silent years of French cinema, will definitely enjoy this set!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1909-1919 Gaumont.  2009 Gaumont Video EDV.  2011 Kino International Corp. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1908-1916

DURATION: Emile Cohl  (190 Minutes), Jacques Feyder (205 Minutes), Jean Durand (203 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Full Frame (1:33:1)

COMPANY: Kino International/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2011

During its second decade of existence, the Gaumont Film Company continued to prove itself an indomitable force in cultivating and advancing the fledgling art of cinema. It was also a place of great technical innovation. Included in this collection are some of Gaumont’s revolutionary experiments in color (the Trichromie process) and synchronized sound (the Phonoscenes). DVD 1 showcases the work of animator Emile Cohl, DVD 2 focuses on Jean Durand (who specialized in slapstick and innovated the “French Western”), and DVD 3 highlights the romantic comedies of Jacques Feyder, while paying tribute to some of French cinema’s lesser-known pioneers.

DVD 1: EMILE COHL
Includes Fantasmagoria (1908), The Puppet’s Nightmare (1908), The Living Fan (1909), Comic Mutations (1909), The Twelve Labors of Hercules (1910), Petit Faust (1910), Bébé’s Masterpiece (1910), and more!

DVD 2: JEAN DURAND
Includes Calino Wants to Be a Cowboy (1911), Onésime Goes to Hell (1912), Onésime, Clockmaker (1912), Onésime Loves Animals (1913), Zigoto Drives a Locomotive (1912), The Railway of Death (1912), Burning Heart: An Indian Tale (1912), Under the Claw (1912), and more!

DVD 3: JACQUES FEYDER AND THE EARLY MASTERS OF FRENCH CINEMA
Includes Heads…and Women Who Use Them (1916, Jacques Feyder), The Barges (1911, George-André Lacroix), La Marseillaise (1912, Etienne Arnaud), Child’s Play (1913, Henri Fescourt), Feet and Hands (1915, Gaston Ravel).

The Gaumont Film Company, the oldest film company in the world.

Created in 1895 and headed by Leon Gaumont, he marketed Georges Demeny’s invention which would be known as the “Bioscope” and Demeny’s partner, Etienne-Jules Marey, was the inventor of the chronophotography cameras.  These cameras were able to study movements by shooting a whole series of photos within seconds.

The following year, Gaumont would introduce a camera that would utilize 58mm roll film and many used it for scientific uses.

But the French film company is known for producing short films since 1897 in order to promote its camera-projector.   And through Gaumont, Leon Gaumont’s secretary Alice Guy-Blanche would become the first female director in motion picture history but also one of the first directors of fictional film.  But while Alice Guy-Blache was in France working for Gaumont, she would utilize screenplays written by Louis Feuillade in 1905 and allowed him to direct his own films.  And the company would have another director and actor named Leonce Perret work on numerous short films for the company.

In 1910, Alice Guy and her husband Herbert Blache would move to the United States and partner with George A .Magie to form the Solax Company, which was the largest pre-Hollywood studio in America in 1910.  Feuillade would take her position as artistic director for the company and Perret would become a fixture as a director for Gaumont.

These three individuals were great contributors to the French film company and would be featured in the first Kino DVD box set “Gaumont Treasures 1897-1913”.

But there were other contributors to Gaumont during those earlier years between 1908-1916.  They were Emile Cohl, Jean Durand and Jacques Feyder and the three would be next to be featured in Kino International’s “Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916” DVD Box set.  But Kino also included other filmmakers who worked for Gaumont – Romeo Bosetti, Georges-Andre Lacroix, Etienne Arnaud, Rene Le Somptier, Henri Fescourt, Gaston Ravel including three more films by anonymous filmmakers.

 The first disc is dedicated to Emile Cohl, a cartoonist and animator who is known as “The Father of the Animated Cartoon” and also has his roots in the “Incoherent Movement (a short-lived French art movement) which would take current art which were re-interpreted via a satirical irreverence but also a style which many would deem as surreal.

A member of the artistic circle known as the Hydropathes, a group united by modern ideas and their passion towards poetry, Cohl was known for creating bizarre but vibrant expressionist art during his younger years.  But when he approached his 50th year, by 1907, motion pictures became big throughout the world and Cohl would eventually work for Gaumont.

But in America, when animation was used for the Vitagraph film “The Haunted Hotel”, when shown in Paris in 1907, many wanted more animated films.  So, in 1922, Cohl who studied various animated films began to learn the techniques of animation and sure enough, Emile Cohl would create “Fantasmagorie”, which is considered as the first fully animated film.   The two minute film would feature 700 drawings, featured in reverse and the film would be a tribute to the Incoherent movement that Cohl was once a part of more than 20 years ago.

Similar to Alice Guy, Cohl also left to America to create more films but many of his work after Gaumont were destroyed in fires (note: Many films at the time were filmed on nitrate which was susceptible to catching on fire).  Fortunately, a good number of Emile Cohl’s work at Gaumont did not perish in fires but while some are in better condition than others, the first DVD in the “Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916” includes the following short films from Emile Cohl.  The following is curated by Pierre Philippe and features original music by Bernard Lubat.

  1. Fantasmagoria (1908, 2 min.)
  2. The Puppet’s Nightmare (1908, 2 min.)
  3. Drama at the Puppets’ House (1908, 3 min.)
  4. The Magic Hoop (1908, 5 min.)
  5. The Little Soldier Who Became a God (1908, 4 min.)
  6. The Boutdebois Brothers (1908, 2 min.)
  7. Transfigurations (1909, 6 min.)
  8. Let’s Be Sporty (1909, 5 min.)
  9. Japanese Fantasy (1909, 1 min.)
  10. The Happy Microbes (1909, 4 min.)
  11. Modern Education (1909, 3 min.)
  12. The Living Fan (1909, 4 min.)
  13. Spanish Clair de Lune (1909, 4 min.)
  14. The Next Door neighbors (1909, 4 min.)
  15. Crowns (1909, 5 min.)
  16. Delicate Porcelains (1909, 3 min.)
  17. Monsieur Clown Among the Lilliputians (1909, 4 min.)
  18. Comic Mutations (1909, 3min.)
  19. Matrimonial Shoes (1909, 5 min.)
  20. The Enchanted Spectacles (1909, 5 min.)
  21. Affairs of the Heart (1909, 4 min.)
  22. Floral Frameworks (1910, 5 min.)
  23. The Smile-o-Scope (1910, 5 min.)
  24. Childish Dreams (1910, 5 min.)
  25. En Route (1910, 6 min.)
  26. The Mind of the Cafe Waiter (1910, 5 min.)
  27. Master of a Fashionable Game (1910, 4 min.)
  28. Petit Chantecler (1910, 7 min.)
  29. The Twelve Labors of Hercules (1910, 7 min.)
  30. Petit Faust (1910, 5 min.)
  31. The Neo-Impressionist Painter (1910, 6 min.)
  32. The Four Little Tailors (1910, 7 min.)
  33. Art’s Infancy (1910, 4 min.)
  34. The Mysterious Fine Arts (1910, 5 min.)
  35. The Persistent Salesman (!910, 8 min.)
  36. A History of Hats (1910, 5 min.)
  37. Nothing is Impossible for Man (1910, 6 min.)
  38. Mr. Crack (1910, 5 min.)
  39. Bebe’s Masterpiece (1910, 4 min.)
  40. Music-mania (1910, 5 min.)

The second filmmaker featured in “Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916” is writer/filmmaker Jean Durand.

Jean began his career in 1908 with Pathe but switched over to Gaumont where he took over the series “Calino” after Romeo Bosetti left.   While working with Gaumont, Durand started to focus on comedy but also American-style Westerns.  He would surround himself with a group of popular French actors at the time who were known as the “Les Pouittes” (including his wife and leading lady Berthe Dagmar)and would continue to create silent French Westerns with actor/director Joe Hamman to the end of the Silent Film era in 1929.

Although known for his French Westerns, he is also known for creating short film series “Calino”, “Zigoto” and “Onesimus” to name a few which were comedy or western driven but also known for using large animals such as elephants, lions, camels, snakes, dogs and more.  And at Gaumont, Durand would direct 168 films.

For “Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916”, the following short films are curated by Pierre Phillippe and features music by Patrick Laviosa.

The following Jean Durand short films are featured in Disc 2:

  1. Calino’s Baptism (1911, 3 min.)
  2. Calino Wants to be a Cowboy (1911, 6 min.)
  3. Zigoto and the Affair of the Necklace (1911, 8 min.)
  4. Calino the Love Tamer (1912, 6 min.)
  5. Zigoto’s Outing with Friends (1912, 5 min.)
  6. Oxford vs. Martigues (1912, 4 min.)
  7. Onesime Goes to Hell (1912, 7 min.)
  8. Calino, Station Master (1912, 6 min.)
  9. Onesime, Clockmaker (1912, 5 min.)
  10. Onesime vs. Onesime (1912, 8 min.)
  11. Zigoto Drives a Locomotive (1912, 6 min.)
  12. Onesime Gets Married… So Does Calino (1913, 7 min.)
  13. Onesime: Calino’s Inheritance (1913, 11 min.)
  14. Onesime Loves Animals (1913, 6 min.)
  15. Onesime, Trainer of Men and Horses (1913, 13 min.)
  16. Onesime and the Heart of a Gypsy (1913, 7 min.)
  17. Oneisime, You’ll Get Married…or Else! (1913, 7 min.)
  18. Onesime’s Theatrical Debut (1913, 10 min.)
  19. Onesime’s Family Drama (1914, 7 min.)
  20. The Railway of Death (1912, 17 min.)
  21. Burning Heart: An Indian Tale (1912, 13 min.)
  22. Under the Claw (1912, 25 min.)

The third and final filmmaker featured is Jacques Feyder and the early masters of French cinema.

Feyder is a Belgian screenwriter and filmmaker who worked in France, USA, Britain and Germany.  During the 1920’s and 1930’s, he was known for his style of poetic realism in French cinema.

Jacques Feyder joined the Gaumont Film Company in 1914 and became an assistant director to Gaston Ravel, by 1916, Feyder received his opportunity to direct films, although for a short while as he had to serve in the Belgian army from 1917-1919.  But after the war, he was able to return to cinema in which he made his mark as one of the most innovative filmmakers at the time for French cinema.  The films that he brought him attention was L’Atlantide (1921) and Crainquebille (1922).  But also known for directing Greta Garbo in her last silent film, “The Kiss” (1929).

The films featured on “Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916” are his three short films from 1916: “Heads…and Women Who Use Them” (36 min.), “Friendly Advice” (16 min.) and “Biscot on the Wrong Floor” (15 min.).

The second filmmaker featured on the third disc is Romeo Bosetti, an Italian who was known for making French films.  Bosetti’s directorial debut was in 1906 and featured on this DVD is his 1909 7 min. short “The Long Arm of the Law”.

The third filmmaker featured is Georges-Andre Lacroix.  Lacroix began making shorts for Gaumont in 1911 and featured in this third disc is his 1911 10 min. film “The Barges”.

The next filmmaker to be featured is Etienne Arnaud, a French filmmaker who worked with Emile Cohl at Gaumont for the 1909 film “Shot of the moon”.  Featured on this DVD is his 10-min. short “The Barges”.

Rene Le Somptier is filmmaker who made his first short film “Poum a la chasse” with his father in 1908.  He would go on to make his first full length film in 1918 titled “La sultane de l’amour”.  Featured on this DVD is Somptier’s 17-min. short “A Drama in the Air” from 1913.

The sixth filmmaker to be featured is Henri Fescourt,  a French filmmaker who began his career in 1912.  Featured in this DVD is his 1913 12 min. short film “A Drama of the Air”.

Next is Gaston Ravel,  a French filmmaker who worked on a number of other filmmakers films by taking on other tasks.  So, he co-directed several films while working at Gaumont.    He also was an actor in a few of them.  Featured on the DVD is Ravel’s 1915 17 min. short “A Drama of the Air”.

The next three and final films featured on the third DVD are films in which the filmmakers are anonymous.  They include the 1912 13 min. short “A Factor Drama”, the 1912 13 min. short “The Pavements of Paris” and the 25 sec. “The Fairy’s Farewell”.

The third DVD features music by Patrick Laviosa, Ben Model and Didier Goret.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

For those who are new to Gaumont films from the early 1900’s, it is important to note that many of these films are over a 90-100+ years old and during that time, many of the films were not taken care of.  Mainly put into canisters and are forgotten, because many were shot in the flammable nitrate, many were destroyed by fire or literally disintegrated.

Those that have survived, fortunately many have just white speckles and occasional flickering, some are in worse shape with maybe one or two showing negative damage and major blackening.    But for the most part, picture quality for these shorts is very good and if you’re a silent fan, it’s hard to complain because Kino International did a wonderful job in putting together these rare gems of early French cinema.  And those very few shorts with damage, you either watch them or you don’t.  The fact that they have been salvage to the point where you can make it out is better than not having them.  And unfortunately, nearly 90% of silent films created are lost/destroyed.

As for music, music has always been subjective with silent film fans.  The good news is that you get variety with each short, the bad news is if you are one of the people who could care less about the music.  Fortunately, I enjoyed the music selections for these shorts and I’m glad they are not re-used over and over with every episode.  Granted, there are a few that are reused, some from the first volume.  But considering the cost to create a different piece for so many shorts, I can understand why certain scores were re-used.

While these are shorts, there are some English subtitles.  For example, during scenes where a written letter is shown.  The letter is translated via English subtitles.  So, viewers will understand the context of the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The following special features are included in “Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916”:

Disc 2:

  • Jean Durand 1882-1946 – (12:17) Featuring a mini documentary written by Pierre Philippe and recounts the career of filmmaker Jean Durand including photographs and video from his career at Gaumont.

Disc 3:

  • Phonoscenes – Early synchronized-sound musical shorts for “Anna qu’est-ce que t’attends?” (2:20), “Chemineau Chemine” (2:34) and “Le Mouchoir rouge de Cholet” (3:00).
  • Gaumont in Actualities – (13:11) A Collection of clips featuring rare behind-the-scenes of Gaumont Studios.
  • Trichromie Films – (12:06) Excerpts of Gaumont’s full-color film process using Trichromie film (shot in black and white with red, blue and green filters).  Featuring films from 1913-1919.

EXTRAS:

“Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916” comes with a slipcase.

If you are a silent film fan, you have to love Kino for their dedication in bringing fans films that are literally the origins of cinema.

As they have done for American cinema with “Edison: The Invention of Movies”, “The Movies Begin” showcasing European pioneers including the Avant-Garde DVD box sets (to name a few), these films are not only historic but for cinema fans who are appreciative of the early history of cinema, these are great collectibles.

With the release of the first Gaumont Treasures DVD box set, viewers were treated with many early shorts from three pioneers of French cinema and because Gaumont is still one of the oldest, surviving film companies in the world, there is a lot of history and many filmmakers that made many short films during the silent era.

So, here were are with “Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916” featuring three more of Gaumont’s talented filmmakers but also featuring a film with a few others filmmakers who directed Gaumont films between 1908-1916.

I’ve often been asked if these box sets are worth it.  For me, the opportunity of having the chance to watch these films that are over or nearly 100-years old is a blessing.  As a silent film fan, nothing disappoints me more but to find out that many silent films are lost.  And the fact that we have a good number of early Gaumont shorts presented in very good condition is amazing.

But where the last volume showcased the beginning of the cinematic process, this second volume starts to incorporate more storytelling but also the beginning of animation in French cinema.

With Emile Cohl’s films are entertaining, I’ve shown one friend and he found them to be a bit boring as he is more of a casual viewer who was expecting animation something along the lines of “Steamboat Willy” and early Disney.  This is not that type of animation.  If anything, it was Emile Cohl learning how to use frames of drawn sheets, putting them on reverse and animating them.

At times, he would create hybrid films with live actors and animated characters.  For example, “The Magic Hoop” is an endearing tale of a girl who’s hoop is broken and a man uses magic to repair it.  But then the film goes into a tangent by showcasing animation.  Some may like it, some may not as it takes away from the live actor storyline.  But one must remember that this was the early beginning of animation and for many, it was a technological advancement for entertainment.

Possibly one of my favorite shorts from Cohl was a story of three men who look into a machine’s peep hole for a bit of animated future storytelling of what their love will look as they grow older.  And of course, you see a beautiful drawing of a woman slowly change to something horrid or ugly.  And of course, some of these men are not at all happy with what they see.

But of course, some shorts may seem a bit repetitive but its how Emile Cohl grows each year with his animation and his willingness for experimenting which makes this first DVD quite intriguing, historically educational but as far as entertainment goes, its subjective to the viewer as some shorts may not be as accessible as others to the casual viewer.

Needless to say, Emile Cohl’s work was a big hit when he was younger, but also when he was older as an animator.

Which leads to the next DVD featuring Jean Durand.  Durand’s short is definitely much more accessible but also amazing in the fact that you wonder how these talents would lay next to a lion, cougar or animal that would  seem as if they would easily rip your head off.  Even today, you will not see to many talents be that close to a deadly animal, no matter how trained they are.

So, you get a good balance of crazy slapstick and also adventure/Western films ala American-style with Durand’s short films.  If anything, the second is possibly the most liveliest, upbeat shorts in this set.  Literally everything that is Calino and Onesime-related are fun to watch and typically involve a variety of topics.

Actor Ernest Bourbon does a wonderful job playing the amusing Onesime and Clément Mégé as Calino.  Examples of these characters include “Onesime Gets Married… So Dies Calino” in which both men compete for space in a church, space in the banquet hall, etc.

In “Calino’ Wants to be a Cowboy”, Calino does what he can to become a cowboy (including destroying everything in his way).

In “Onesime, Clockmaker”, Onesime receives a letter that he has inherited a fortune but because he is a lazy (and not-so-smart) man, he must wait 20 years before he can receive any of it.  So, he wonders if he can advance time by advancing the speed of a clock.

But these shorts are not all about two comedic characters.  You also have “Oxford vs. Martigues” featuring a man who is being chased while Oxford is taking on Martigues in a rugby match through the city streets.

For “The Railway of Death”, two men compete in who can get to an area of where gold was discovered.  First person who arrives there gets to claim the area.

So, for the second volume, you get a good diverse number of short films, but primarily, you will find comedy-driven shorts in this collection for Jean Durand.

With the third disc, we do get a few films from Jacques Feyder as well as a few other Gaumont filmmakers.  Similar to a concept of a compilation album, the third DVD is more like a Gaumont compilation in which the viewer can get a taste of a variety of shorts from different filmmakers.

With Jacques Feyder, we get films that are more relationship-based.  For “Heads…and Women Who Use Them”, it’s rather an interesting film as women are arguing over a professional escort for married women.  When he’s with one woman, he gives them a lot of attention but when he moves on to the next woman, the other women he was with start to get jealous when they don’t get the attention from him.  And he is growing tired of it.

In “Biscot in the Wrong Floor”, actor George Biscot has Charlie Chaplin-esque flair as a Biscot, the drunk tenant who keeps finding himself sleeping in the wrong room.    A fun, upbeat short film.

Romeo Bosetti’s “The Long Arm of the Law” is an interesting short as a police officer is known for helping people by elongating his arm.  And just to think, a hero with the ability to use his long arm for good, a story that is many years before the Marvel’s Mr. Fantastic and DC’s Plastic Man.

Georges-Andre Lacroix’s “The Barges” revolves around family and relationships.   Living on the barge is an older couple and their daughter.  The father wants her daughter to take over the barge but she wants to get married.  But because the father is quite hard-headed about someone taking over the barge after he’s gone, he realizes that his argument with his daughter may have pushed her away and he may have lost her.

While the previous films on the third disc dealt with relationships and a police officer who can stretch out his arm, Etinne Arnaud created “Le Marseillaise” (which is the French national anthem) based on Claude Joseph Rouge de Lisle, the French Army officer during the Revolution who wrote the words and music that would later become the French national anthem.

Rene Le Somptier’s 1913 film short film “A Drama of the Air” focuses on a blacksmith who wanted to create a weapon for the revolutionary war but instead, the blacksmith would work on a project to create a flying machine.  He creates an airplane and invites a young man to fly with him.  Of course, everyone who knows them are worried about man’s first ride through the air.

Possibly the most interesting part about this short film was that at this time, there were controversies of who flew the first airplane.  The Wright Brothers claim they rode the first airplane (the Wright 1903 Flyer 1) in 1903, while Brazilian Santos Dumont who flew his 14-Bis plane for the The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in France.  Not to say the film was being polemic of France’s stake on airplane flights vs. the Wright Brothers but nevertheless, it was an interesting short film to watch.

Henri Fescourt’s “Child’s Play” revolves around a stubborn and spoiled child named Delphine, daughter of a wealthy man who owns a nearby factory and a young girl who always gets what she wants.  One day while playing ball, she loses it and a boy finds it and starts to play with it.  But she accuses the boy who is an apprentice of the factory of stealing the ball.  When the parents leave for vacation and leave the maid to watch over them, what happens when Delphine and her younger relatives leave their play area and venture to play inside a dangerous factory alone?  But when Delphine gets into bad trouble that may kill her…who can save her?

Gaston Ravel’s “Fear and Hands” is a love story that features only the man and woman’s hands and feet as they go through love, a breakup and rekindled love.

Overall, “Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916” is a DVD box set that gives you so much in terms of classic silent short films from France from 1908-1916.   There is nothing to complain about as picture quality for the majority of all shorts are in very good condition, complete and while debatable and definitely subjective, I personally enjoyed the music for these short films.

With that being said, knowing that many people are discovering silent films via Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, can one easily migrate towards these short films.  I say “yes” because I have.  But it all comes down to one’s appreciation of silent films.  For example, for the first “Gaumont” volume, I would tell people if they get any viewing satisfaction of watching people’s personal home videos or people they are not familiar with on YouTube.  If so, then watching life’s moments from that era may appeal to you.  There were a lot of those experimental films back then, especially in the beginning use of cinema.

The stories were not deep, the technology was not perfect but for historical purposes and people who love watching things from an era over a hundred years ago, it can easily be quite entertaining and amusing.  But it’s not for everyone.

The good news with “Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916” is that you are getting more developed stories.  While you still get the experimentation via animation in the first disc featuring Emile Cohl, you are getting more stories featured in the shorts from Jean Durand, Jacques Feyder and other Gaumont filmmakers.

And while Jean Durand has created many videos on Onesime and Calino, there is so much yet that need to be explored and shown on video as Durand made plenty of shorts with these two characters.  Including Zigoto.  But I’m not sure how many of those are available on video or are destroyed.  The good news is that there are a good number of them included in this set.

As for the third volume, these filmmakers featured also have a good number of short films in their oeuvre, so not sure how many of those are in-tact and how many of them are lost.  It would have been great to have more shorts featured for the other filmmakers but it makes you wonder if they are being reserved for a possible third volume of “Gaumont Treasures”.

In conclusion, I have nothing but praise for this DVD set.  The fact that we are getting the opportunity to watch these early gems from Gaumont’s silent era is fantastic and I can only hope that Kino considers doing a third volume.  Sure, I would have loved more shorts offered for each of the other filmmakers featured on the third disc but for what is offered in “Gaumont Treasures Vol. 2 1908-1916”, I’m quite satisfied.

If you are a fan of French cinema and want to know its cinema origins, you can’t go wrong by picking up both volumes of “Gaumont Treasures”.

Definitely recommended!


City of Life and Death (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 20, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“City of Life and Death” is the most visceral war film that I have seen to effectively capture the atrocities and the brutality of the Nanking massacre in cinema.  This is an unforgettable film that resonates within you for a very long time with its realistic and stunning cinematography.  Director Lu Chuan has created a masterpiece!  This Blu-ray is fantastic!  “City of Life and Death” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2009 China Film Group Corporation/Stellar Mega Films Ltd./Jian Su Broadcasting Corporation/Media Asia Films. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: City of Life and Death

FILM RELEASE: 2009

DURATION: 113 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1920x1080p (2:35:1), Mandarin with optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Lorber Films/Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: October 25, 2011

Written and Directed by Lu Chuan

Produced by John Chong, Sanping Han, Hong Qin, Andy Zhang, Li Zhou

Music by Tong Liu

Cinematography by Yu Cao

Edited by Yun Teng

Production Design by Yi Hao

Starring:

Ye Liu as Lu Jianxiong

Yuanyuan Gao as Miss Jiang

Hideo Nakaizumi as Kadokawa

Wei Fan as Mr. Tang

Yiyan Jiang as Xiao Jiang

Ryu Kohata as Ida

Bin Liu as Xiadouzi

Yuki Miyamoto as Yuko

John Paisley as John Rabe

Beverly Peckous as Minnie Vautrin

Lan Qin as Mrs. Tang

Sam Voutas as Durdin

Di Yao as Tang Xiaomei

Yisui as Shunzi

On December 9, 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army laid siege to the Chinese capital of Nanking, beginning a reign of terror that killed as many as 300,000 civilians — an infamous tragedy now referred to as the Rape of Nanking. The first big-budget fiction film by the Chinese to deal with this seminal event in their modern history, CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH is a visceral, heartbreaking portrait of life during wartime, and an unforgettable masterpiece of contemporary world cinema.

For many years, I have been waiting for a powerful film that would show people of the atrocities that took place from December 1937-January 1938 in the capital city of Nanking.

While there have been several films on what occurred in Nanking over seventy years ago, young writer/director Lu Chuan accomplished what many felt he couldn’t do, to create a realistic portrayal of the genocide.

Known as the Nanking Massacre and also the “Rape of Nanking”, the atrocities were committed during the Second Sino-Japanese War when the soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army slaughtered civilians of all ages, raped women until they died.  It is estimated that 300,000 people were massacred.

Despite records kept by Nazi-supporter John Rabe (the person who tried to save the Chinese in Nanking by developing a safe zone) , the records kept by Westerners working for the Red Cross or were missionaries and journalists and residents who witnessed the atrocities, to this day, the genocide of the civilians of Nanking is still being disputed by Japanese nationalists who believe that the massacre was fabricated.

Needless to say, because of the war and atrocities that were committed during the war, it remains to be a tense and problematic situation between both countries today.

I have researched the Nanking (or Nanjing) Massacre since I was in college, as my eyes were opened to the atrocities committed, I know that many people around the world are not familiar of what happened to the Chinese people.  And since the ’90s, I have been wanting to see novels receive film adaptations and while there have been several films featuring John Rabe and also bits and pieces of the battle of Nanking, there have not been many movies that would realistically capture the battle but also the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial troops towards the Chinese people of Nanking.

Especially since its a touchy subject and the fact that many Chinese still hold a lot of pain and anger towards the Japanese because of the war.  And for director Lu Chuan, his goal was to create a realistic portrayal of the atrocities committed towards the innocent civilians of Nanking but also to show a sympathetic side to the Japanese and show that while what the Japanese Imperial soldiers did do to Chinese was barbaric, it does not make the whole country barbaric.

In an interview with Empire Magazine, Lu Chuan said, “Yes, Japanese people committed a crime but maybe it’s not a fault of a certain nation, maybe it’s a fault of the war, so I’m not going to make a movie against a certain nation, but against the war. If the government forces us to go to the battlefield, everybody can be a killer.”

But most importantly, it was a film that Chuan, who did countless research, lived and studied in Nanking wanted the film for people outside of China to know about what took place in Nanking.

“City of Life and Death” was created with a budget of $10 million, casting of hundreds of people which would include both Chinese and Japanese talent and the film would receive rave reviews from critics worldwide and would win numerous awards around the world for “Best Film” and “Best Cinematography”.

“City of Life and Death” is a film that begins shortly after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese war, the Imperial Japanese army has captured the capital of the Republic of China, Nanking and because of that, many of the Chinese commaders of the KMT began to flee Nanking.  Meanwhile, soldier Lu Jianxiong (played by Liu Ye), his comrade Zhao try to fight the fleeing Chinese troops from abandoning the city.  But as the Chinese soldiers attempt to leave, they are captured by the Japanese Imperial troops.

As the Japanese scour the city, we are introduced to Japanese soldier Sergeant Masao Kadokawa (played by Hideo Nakaizumi).  Like everyone on the Japanese side, they are low on food and drinks, so they loot the Chinese restaurants for anything to drink.

The soldiers who are led by Ida (played by Ryu Kohata) are approached by Dr. John Rabe (played by John Paisley) and Mr. Tang (played by Wei Fan).   [Note: John Rabe was a foreign national from Germany and a Nazi-supporter who along with 15 American and European missionaries and businessman created the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone.  The Safety Zone provided Chinese refugees with food and shelter and prevent them from being slaughtered by the Japanese Imperial troops).

As Rabe tries to talk to Ida and tell them that Japanese can not interfere with the Safety Zone and that he is German and is a Nazi, he hopes that because of Germany and Japan’s alliance, he could deter them from hurting the Chinese.  But unfortunately, Ida could care less about what Rabe and Mr. Tang have to say and continue on their way to scouring the city.

We see a small group of Japanese soldiers led by Commander Ida (played by Ryu Kohata) which includes Sgt. Kadokawa approach a church-like area and as they go inside, they see possibly thousands of men, women, children, elderly and wounded soldiers giving themselves up.  For Kadokawa, he is sent to bring Japanese reinforcements to the church.  And we see the first act of defiance as the soldiers shoot innocent people hiding inside closet.

But while scouring the city, Lu Jianxiong along with a group of young children who are Chinese soldiers begin to help him kill the Japanese troops.  So, as a sneak attack takes down the Japanese troops, more Japanese troops come to the area and there outnumber Jianxiong and the Chinese troops and all are captured and will all be executed.

All the people are rounded up and then the massacre begins.  We see the Japanese shooting and killing the innocent Chinese people of Nanking, people of all ages as they are gunned down.

We see thousands of people who are standing being shot and killed by soldiers.  We see hundreds of people being buried alive.  We see many people being lined up and slaughtered by the Japanese troops bayonets.

Thousands slaughtered…

And as his people are being killed, soldier Lu Jianxiong accepts his fate and joining him is his young soldier, a young boy named Xiaodouzi.

As the Japanese prepare the Chinese soldiers, young and old, for execution, the Chinese soldiers, with their last breath, yell scream about their pride for China, but for Lu, he looks at Xiadouzi and puts his hands over his eyes.  The Japanese soldiers shoot at the Chinese and kills them all in the mass execution.

For those staying in the safety zone, Mrs. Tang  and the women can not believe what has happened to everyone in the city. As some of the Chinese go out to see if they can check if there are any survivors, Zhao who survived the massacre also finds young Xiaodouzi alive.

Both escape to the safety zone in hopes that John Rabe and Mr. Tang can help them.

But there are thousands of people there and its way more than Rabe and others can watch over.  So, each night, bands of Japanese soldiers try to infiltrate and rape the Chinese women and some of them do just that in front of a crowd of other scared refugees who do not want to die.  As Rabe and the other Westerners try to stop the Japanese from raping the women, some of the women decide that they must take precautions and many go as far as cutting their hair and begin dressing like men in hopes that they do not get raped.

Meanwhile, on the Japanese side, Sgt. Kadokawa spends his time with a Japanese comfort woman named Yuriko.  Because he is conflicted by the violence around him, unlike other soldiers, he manages to show his act of kindness towards her and vows to marry her once the war is over.

At the Safety Zone, the Japanese soldiers pull a ruse and trick all the westerners who were protecting the Safety Zone to all come out while many Japanese soldiers go inside to the Safety Zone to rape more women.  Japanese Commander Ida tells Mr. Tang and John Rabe that he requires 100 female refugees to become comfort women or else more will be killed.  When they go after Mr. Tang’s wife and daughter, he tries to fight back and because Mr. Tang tried to fight against the Japanese, they grab his young child and throw her out the top window many levels down, killing her.

John Rabe and teacher Ms. Jiang Shuyun (played by Gao Yuanyuan) know that they have no choice and must tell the women in the Safety Zone that 100 female refugees must become “comfort women” for the Japanese Imperial Troops.  And those who were previously victimized realize that in order to save the others, they will need to volunteer themselves and become comfort women.

So, thousands of soldiers prepare to have their 15 minutes with the 100 women, including Commander Ida who beats Mr. Tang’s sister-in-law May for not smiling to him or kissing him as he rapes her.   As Sgt. Kadokawa meets Xiao Jian (played by Jiang Yiyan) and brings her rice, he can not rape her but when one soldier wonders if he is done, he immediately pulls down his pants and starts raping Xiao Jian in front of Kadokawa and the woman looks at Kadokawa with a lifeless stare.

And eventually, many of the women are killed due to the non-stop rape and many go crazy.  Such as May, who begins singing opera loudly and  is shot and killed by Commander Ida.  Kadokawa is repulsed by what Ida has done but Ida tells him that he liked her and that its better for her to die than being subjective to living this way.  Meanwhile, Xiaio Jian is dragged to a wheel barrow with other women who have died from rape and this time, the lifeless stare is there, but this time, she is dead.

Unfortunately because Dr. Rabe’s interference with German and Japan relations because of the Safety Zone, the Nazi’s order him to return to Germany and now the Safety Zone will be taken down.  With Rabe gone, what will happen to the many Chinese refugees still living in Nanking?

And for Kadokawa, what happens when the atrocities, the violence and alienation gets the best of him?

VIDEO:

“City of Life and Death” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), black and white.   Director Lu Chuan was influenced by Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” and felt the film should be kept in black and white and the decision to do so, in my opinion, made the film quite effective.  Because the film already focuses on the atrocities committed by the Japanese towards the Chinese citizens, the film would be too gory to watch if we were to see blood everywhere.  But by no means does that mean picture quality would be inferior.

In fact, this film is enhanced by its high details.  From the worn out skin of the soldiers, the grime on the skin and dark blood (which is seen as black) on the soldiers is shown effectively in HD as well as the clothing as you can see the stitching patterns and the threading with clarity.  Skin pigments with clarity.  Especially with the destruction of buildings during the battle, the scene of Nanking looks realistic in the film.

Black levels are deep while whites and grays have amazing contrast and the picture is sharp.

But I must credit cinematographer Yu Cao for capturing the brutality and the massacres with his camera shots.  What is captured on camera is heartbreaking, stunning and realistic.  The details are in the eyes, shots of fear, panic, despair…and people with tears knowing that they are not going to survive the ordeal… I was literally captivated and sickened at the same time.  To know that what is shown on screen is non-fiction and these atrocities took place (and many situations even worse as seen in photos from Nanking), many times during the film, I had to pause and collect myself.

This is the second time this has ever happened to me, the other time was watching Alain Resnais’ “Night and Fog”, a documentary about the Nazi concentration camps.  But the fact that a film such as “City of Life and Death” can have this much of an effect, it goes to show how viscerally powerful this film is.

So, overall…picture quality is magnificent, cinematography is fantastic!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack of “City of Life and Death” is magnificent.  Presented in Mandarin DTS-HD Matster Audio 5.1, let me first preface and say that there are not many Asian films (non-animated) that I have watched and felt were immersive but I have to say that the soundtrack for this film is hauntingly immersive as one can expect from a war film.

From the battle between the Chinese and Japanese, to hear the bullets zipping from all around you, to hear the gunfire, the tanks and mortar rounds going off close by or to a distance, to hear explosions from a distance and to hear the screams whenever a soldier shoots in the air, the realism of fear, sadness, pain and everything brutal that can be heard in a film about the massacre of innocent people is captured on the soundtrack of “City of Life and Death”.

To have a film that can captivate you visually but also via audio, needless to say, I was quite impressed and as Yu Cao did a wonderful job with cinematography, Tong Liu did a magnificent job with the music of the film.

With powerful visuals and powerful audio, needless to say, “City of Life and Death” was certainly an experience.  I heard no problems with the audio, Mandarin was crystal clear, each artillery fire was amazingly clear and once again, this lossless soundtrack is absolutely immersive and enhances your appreciation for the film!

As for subtitles, English subtitles are optional and are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“City of Life and Death” comes with the following special features:

Disc 1:

  • Kino Lorber Trailers
  • Stills – Featuring stills from “City of Life and Death”
Disc 2:
  • Matters of Life and Death – (1:53:56) It’s important to note that the second disc is not a Blu-ray but a DVD.  The documentary or making-of features an interview with director Lu Chuan and the talent. But we learn how much of a challenge it was to create this film but also how the talent felt the power of this film and what they felt at the time of making the film.

EXTRAS:

“City of Life and Death” comes with a slipcase cover.

Heartbreaking, brutal but the most honest portrayal of the atrocities committed  in Nanking for cinema.

For so long, I have waited for a film of this caliber to be made on the “Rape of Nanking”.  Because it would probably answer a lot of questions for many people of why there are continued tensions between China and Japan.  But also to understand how war can make regular people do terrible things.

Back in college, I learned a lot about the Armenian Genocide and Nanking Massacres but while my college due to its large Armenian student population would have memorials for those who were killed, there is not much out there for people to know about what transpired in Nanking in 1937-1938 unless you go out and look for it.

Having studied Asian culture (especially with focus on Japanese culture), it was interesting to see things on brother’s side who is more closer to Chinese culture and him experiencing first hand through his Chinese father-in-law of the long-lasting pain and anger that Chinese have towards Japanese.  It was an intriguing juxtaposition because I recently wrote about how my grandfather fought against the Japanese in World War II but he told me that what happened then was due to war.

So, as I was researching this film, I ran a quote by director Lu Chuan with Filmmaker in which the director said, “Why is there war? I wanted to make a movie about the Nanjing massacre, but then I started to explore the history of massacres, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and learned they happened everywhere. It’s not something that belongs to Japanese people. So I decided to [articulate] this kind of feeling in my movie. I don’t want my son or daughter, younger brother or sister to look at the Japanese [in the] way [we did]. It’s not true. The massacre was in 1937. After 70 years, we have to reconsider it from a different angle. The Japanese troops were criminal — but the biggest criminal was the war itself. It twisted human nature. It pushed normal people to pull the trigger. I was in the army for several years, you know. I know if I was in uniform on the battlefield, I would pull the trigger on strangers if the [military] authorities asked me to.”

And in China, since childhood, people are taught about what happened during their war against Japan and what Japan did to them, it doesn’t help when Japanese nationals continue to say that the genocide was fabricated.  And while the modern younger generation (in Japan) feels no attachment to what transpired in the past, they are not taught about the atrocities committed by their own people and pretty much, it’s part of the history that is hidden from them.  But many young people know that Japan at the time, are responsible for a lot of terrible things due to war, a lot of other countries have also done the same throughout time.

So, war is always ugly and war brings out the worst in humanity.

And what happened to the people of Nanking back in December 1937-January 1938 is shocking, disturbing and you can’t believe how people can be so cruel and barbaric but it happened.  And there is only so much one can do by reading a book, online and seeing the photos.  But for many people, they need the visual and “City of Life and Death” amazingly captures the massacres, the pain, the suffering of people with so much efficacy.  People have to remember, this was a low-budget film featuring hundreds of people, many who have never worked on a film before.  But yet, each role was crucial, each scene must look realistic and for everyone who participated in this film, they did a magnificent job in making the film real for us viewers.

As mentioned earlier, this is the second film where I had to pause and collect my thoughts and just take time and wait a few minutes because the massacre of innocents was making me feel sickened and to the point where I felt like crying because I have never seen humanity become so cruel to innocent people.  I know genocide has happened within my lifetime but what took place in Nanking is shocking.  From the massacre of 300,000 people, from soldiers having contests on how many people they can behead (and this was featured in a major Japanese newspaper publication as two soldiers were having a contest), to the rape of thousands of women and girls who were raped repeatedly until they died.  And there was no respect for these women.  These soldiers did their thing and not shown in this film but you can find photos are what soldiers inserted in women after they killed them.

And what is so unforgettable are the details captured by the cinematography of the film, when thousands are shot to death, people being buried alive, trying to escape but they can’t.  But just looking at the eyes of the characters, the tears, the lifelessness, the fear and in death.

Filmmaker Lu Chuan had encountered many challenges in making of this film.  From those who didn’t want to support it because of its content or that it was a film that a young director could not handle, but he proved them wrong.  He was able to write and direct a film that captured the atrocities and brutality against the Chinese people but also trying to show not exactly sympathy but to show that even the Japanese like the character Kadokawa did things that he did not want to do but because it was war, he was conflicted and starts to eat upon his soul.

The Blu-ray release is absolutely fantastic, from amazing picture quality and an immersive lossless soundtrack to a making-of that is not your average run-of-the mill non-exciting feature but there is a lot included in terms of sharing with the viewer of the challenges and the emotional state of the talent who took part in this film.  Because it was a thought-provoking film that has not been explored in this magnitude and the result is literally epic.

In fact, this film had so much of a profound effect on me that I hope to visit the Memorial Hall of Victims of the Nanjing Massacre in Nanjing.

Overall, “City of Life and Death” is the most visceral war film that I have seen to effectively capture the atrocities and the brutality of the Nanking massacre in cinema.  This is an unforgettable film that resonates within you for a very long time with its realistic and stunning cinematography.

Director Lu Chuan has created a masterpiece!  This Blu-ray release is highly recommended!

Ingrid Bergman in Sweden: DVD Box Set (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Before she became a legendary actress in Hollywood, Ingrid Bergman had done several Swedish films.  And now three of those films are showcased in Kino International’s “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set.  If you are a fan of Bergman or are curious about early Swedish cinema, this box set is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Kino International Corp. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Ingrid Bergman in Sweden: DVD Box Set

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: Intermezzo (1936), A Woman’s Face (1938), June Night (1940)

DURATION: Intermezzo (88 Minutes), A Woman’s Face (96 Minutes), June Night (85 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Full Frame (1:37:1), Swedish with English subtitles

COMPANY: Kino International/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2011

Today, Ingrid Bergman’s name is synonymous with Hollywood’s golden age as a three-time Oscar winner and the star of such classics as Casablanca, Gaslight and Notorious. However, before she became a Hollywood legend, Bergman was the star of a series of Swedish films in the 1930s which are being rediscovered as a vital, if long-overlooked period in her singular career. Contains INTERMEZZO (1936), A WOMAN’S FACE (1938), and JUNE NIGHT (1940).

“She had talent they could not have made up Ingrid Bergman seemed as natural in her early films as she was dazzling – The Boston Globe.

Like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, foreign actresses who would make their debut Hollywood and would be embraced by an International audience, from Sweden, there was Ingrid Bergman.

Winner of three Academy Awards, two Emmy’s, a Tony Award, each for “Best Actress” and considered one of the greatest female actresses of all time in America (ranked #4 in the American Film Institute’s “Greatest Female Star”), there is no doubt that Ingrid Bergman is looked at as a classy, talented actress.

Best known for her roles in “Casablanca” (1942), “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943), “Gaslight” (1944), “The Bell of St. Mary’s” (1945), Hitchock’s “Spellbound” (1945) and “Notorious (1946), “Joan of Arc” (1948) and later in her career for “Anastasia” (1956), years before she began making Hollywood films, there was Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish actress.

Making her cinema debut in 1935 with “Munkbrogreven”, Bergman would not make her Hollywood debut until 1939. But before then, she had made several Swedish films and three of them are included in the Kino International DVD Box Set titled “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” which would contain her films “Intermezzo” (1936), “A Woman’s Face” (1938) and “June Night” (1940).

Please click on the following review for each film:

Intermezzo

A Woman’s Face

June Night

 When it comes to box sets dedicated to a legendary actress, I personally love them and own a good number of them in my cinema collection.  And I’m proud to say that I’m so happy to have watched the films included in Kino International’s “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden”.

I adore Ingrid Bergman’s work and to have a DVD Box set dedicated to her, especially during these times where classic sets dedicated to an actress are rarely being released these days, I’m quite thrilled with this set.

While I would love to see her Swedish film from 1935, I’m still happy to see that “Intermezzo”, “A Woman’s Face” and “June Night” have received a re-release in the U.S. and that the films look much better than the Fox Lorber DVD’s released nearly a decade ago.

But these films do showcase the actress years before she was known for her role in “Casablanca”, “Spellbound”, “Joan of Arc”, to name a few.  And these roles are not exactly pure and innocent as well.

In “Intermezzo”, Bergman plays the delightful role of Anita Hoffman, up-and-coming concert pianist.  But when Sweden’s most popular musician wants her to be his accompanist and both fall in love, the two try to hide their affair from the musician’s loving family.

Meanwhile, in “A Woman’s Face”, Bergman plays the role of Anna Holm, a woman who has a disfigured face and since then, has has hatred towards humanity because she was looked at as a monster.  So, now she runs a blackmailing ring and her next job…to kill a child so one can inherit the family money?  But with a new surgically repaired face and a new life, can this criminal turn over a new leaf in life?

And for the final film “June Night”, Bergman plays a vamp named Kerstin Norback.  A woman who gave up sex to a man she doesn’t love.  When she tries to leave him, he shoots her.  And now her story has become big news in Sweden and as she tries to start a new life, with a new name, she lives with four other women, some who are having relationship problems.  But what happens when her past comes back to haunt her?

For me, to see these three early Bergman Swedish films was fantastic.  I enjoyed these films and sure, some may enjoy the Hollywood remake of “Intermezzo” and “A Woman’s Face” much more than these original Swedish version of the film but for the sake of having these classic films on DVD is a blessing.  Especially since many box sets dedicated to starlets are now becoming more rare and are becoming DVD on demand.  But in this case, these are Swedish films, not American films, so you’re only choice of obtaining them was the older Fox Lorber DVD’s  or ordering from another country.

So, I really do appreciate Kino International for releasing this DVD box set.  As mentioned, two of the films look much better than its original DVD counterpart but there are no special features on these DVD’s.  If anything, it’s a set to pay tribute to one of the world’s greatest actresses of all time.

While these films may not be her greatest work that she has done, I definitely enjoyed the original “Intermezzo” more than the Hollywood remake and while I enjoyed the Hollywood remake ore of “A Woman’s Face”, for me, it was interesting to see Ingrid Bergman play the role of a criminal and also to see a sleigh chase action scene in the film.  And the same can be said for June Night, it’s a film that required Bergman to share the spotlight with other women but in this case, it wasn’t her most glamorous film but a side of Bergman that audiences rarely get to see.

I wish there were special features included, especially an additional documentary on Ingrid Bergman’s career would have been nice.  But to see a box set release of her three earlier Swedish films, it’s hard to complain.

If you are a big fan of Ingrid Bergman or a fan who wants to experience classic Swedish cinema, I definitely recommend the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set.


June Night (as part of the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A story about women and their relationships and Ingrid Bergman playing a vamp character trying to start a new life.  While the screenplay does have its issues, it was quite interesting to watch an early film showcasing women, their careers and problematic love.  Overall, a worthy inclusion  for Kino’s “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Kino International Corp. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: June Night (Juninatten)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1940

DURATION: 85 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Full Frame (1:37:1), Swedish with English subtitles

COMPANY: Kino International/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2011

Directed by Per Lindberg

Based on the novel by Tora Nordsrom-Bonnier

Written by Ragnar Hylten-Cavallius

Music by Gunnar Johansson, Jules Sylvain

Cinematography by Ake Dahlqvist

Starring:

Ingrid Bergman as Kerstin Norbac/Sara Nordana

Marianne Lofgren as Asa

Lill-Tollie Zellman as Jane Jacobs

Marianne Aminoff as Nickan Dahlin

Olof Widgren as Stefan von Bremen

Gunnar Sjoberg as Nils Asklund

Gabriel Alw as Professor Tillberg

Olof Winnerstrand as Count

Sigurd Wallen as Editor J:son-Eld

Hasse Ekman as Willy Wilson

Maritta Marke as Miss Vanja

Gudrun Bost as Mrs. Nilsson

John Botvid as Gurkan

Carl Strom as Doctor Berggren

Karin Swanstrom as Mrs. Cronsioo

Today, Ingrid Bergman’s name is synonymous with Hollywood’s golden age as a three-time Oscar winner and the star of such classics as Casablanca, Gaslight and Notorious. However, before she became a Hollywood legend, Bergman was the star of a series of Swedish films in the 1930s which are being rediscovered as a vital, if long-overlooked period in her singular career. Contains INTERMEZZO (1936), A WOMAN’S FACE (1938), and JUNE NIGHT (1940).

“She had talent they could not have made up Ingrid Bergman seemed as natural in her early films as she was dazzling – The Boston Globe.

Like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, foreign actresses who would make their debut Hollywood and would be embraced by an International audience, from Sweden, there was Ingrid Bergman.

Winner of three Academy Awards, two Emmy’s, a Tony Award, each for “Best Actress” and considered one of the greatest female actresses of all time in America (ranked #4 in the American Film Institute’s “Greatest Female Star”), there is no doubt that Ingrid Bergman is looked at as a classy, talented actress.

Best known for her roles in “Casablanca” (1942), “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943), “Gaslight” (1944), “The Bell of St. Mary’s” (1945), Hitchock’s “Spellbound” (1945) and “Notorious (1946), “Joan of Arc” (1948) and later in her career for “Anastasia” (1956), years before she began making Hollywood films, there was Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish actress.

Making her cinema debut in 1935 with “Munkbrogreven”, Bergman would not make her Hollywood debut until 1939. But before then, she had made several Swedish films and three of them are included in the Kino International DVD Box Set titled “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” which would contain her films “Intermezzo” (1936), “A Woman’s Face” (1938) and “June Night” (1940).

For her Swedish film “En kvinnas ansikte” (A Woman’s Face), the film would be the second Bergman film that would receive a Hollywood remake (this time starring Joan Crawford) in 1941 and the film would also feature another collaboration with Swedish actor and filmmaker Gustaf Molander.

For the third and final DVD in the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” Box Set, “Juninatten” (June Night) is a film that begins with Kerstin Norbac (played by Ingrid Bergman) leaving her sailor boyfriend Nils (played by Gunnar Sjoberg).  Nils feels as if she had treated him like  plaything and can up and leave, so he shoots her.

While saved by her doctor, unfortunately Kerstin’s shooting has become the “news interest” of the week and everyone awaits for her to talk about why she was shot at Nils court hearing.

Nils tells the judge that he was in love with Kerstin but her leaving him made the situation so desperate, that he intended to kill himself but instead shot her instead.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Cronsioo who raised Kerstin talked about how she was a young woman who had to many men going after her and always flirting with them and now got herself into a big mess with the sailor, the attempted murderer.

But despite the shooting, Kerstin still feels bad about him for some reason and asks the court to let him leave free, but if they do convict him, to please be lenient.

Not long after, she collapses due to her wound.

So, while Nils is convicted of her crime, her doctor who feels bad for her, wants her to start a new life, away from the media and that he has found a job for her in a new city working at a pharmacy.  Because she needs a new name, she dcides to go by the name of Sara Nordana.  But while she’s at the new city, she must visit his friend/a doctor to followup on the treatment of her wound.

So, as Sara moves to a new area and goes to visit the doctor, she is befriended by the kind nurse Asa (played by Marianne Lofgren) who tells her that she can live with her.  Meanwhile, Asa just began a romantic fling with the younger doctor, Stefan von Bremen at the hospital.

Sara moves into the new place to begin her new life and meets her other new roommates Jane Jacobs (played by Lill-Tollie Zellman) and Nickan Dahlin (played by Marianne Aminoff).

But as Sara tries to live her new life in peace, unfortunately, the love life of her roommates are not going exactly well.  For Asa, her boyfriend Stefan becomes so curious about Sara that he keeps wanting to meet with her.  And because of that curiosity, Asa worries that she may lose him.

The same can be said about Nickan.  She works at the Daily News (that were very preoccupied with Kerstin’s case) and the guy she really likes, journalist Willy Wilson is obsessed with the Kerstin Norbac story, so much that he can’t even have a proper relationship with her.  So, she hates Kerstin Norbac with a passion, not knowing that Sara is actually Kerstin.

Meanwhile, for Sara, she notices a blonde man following her at times.  She is not sure who he is but she is becoming interested in him.  Not knowing that the man is Asa’s boyfriend, Dr. Stefan von Bremen.

So, as Sara tries to start her new life at a new city, what will happen when her ex-boyfriend Nils (the man who shot her) comes looking for her, as does Nickan’s boyfriend, Willy.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“June Night” is presented in black and white (1:37:1) in Swedish with English subtitles.

First, let me just say how thrilled I am to see Ingrid Bergman’s earlier works being released on DVD in America. And knowing that a lot of the films from the silent years to the 30’s, chances of seeing print damage for these older films is common. The question is of how the original print has fared as they have been kept in the Svensk Film Vaults for quite a long time.

Black levels were nice and deep, whites and grays were also well-contrast. You can actually see the detail of the makeup of Bergman’s face quite well.  Definitely an improvement over the old Fox Lorber DVD.

As for the audio, the Swedish dialogue is clear and understandable, I detected no hissing or pops during my viewing of this film and the English subtitles were very easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features in any of the DVD’s for the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD box set.

EXTRAS:

There is a info. sheet included with the DVD Box set explaining Ingrid Bergman’s career.

 

For the third film presented in the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set, once again, we have a film where Ingrid Bergman plays a not-so-nice character, a character who has faced difficulties but is now trying to move on with a new life.

In this case, a woman who had a not so good childhood and found a man who she found interesting and repaid his kindness with sex.  She didn’t love him but when she does try to leave him, he shoots her.  So, now this woman, tries to live a new life, with a new name in a different city.

“June Night” is more like a 1940 version of “Sex and the City”, of course, using standards at the time but showcasing women and their problems with love.  While Bergman’s character Kerstin/Sara is a bit more stoic and silent but yet caring (as she doesn’t want anyone knowing about her past), not to say that it’s her most undesirable role, but it’s a role in which the storyline must share with other women.  Asa, the caring nurse who finds herself in love with the young doctor and Nickan, the young telephone operator who works at the Daily News who wants to be closer with journalist Willy Wilson.

The problem with the film is that these two women have not had any major dates with these men but yet they are looking at one date as a sign that marriage will come very soon.

For Asa, she wants to love Stefan but she knows deep in her heart that he is preoccupied with work or being a single man who pretty much is more interested in sexual relationship.  The same can be said of Willy Wilson, the journalist who takes Nickan for a date, but immediately she wants him to confess his love and wants to move in with him.  He’s just more interested in having a one-night stand with her.

And because of their problems with men, these women try to talk about their problems with one another.

While it’s pretty interesting to see a 1940’s film tackle a female-driven storyline about their career and problems with men, it’s hard to take seriously when these women expect so much out of a man during the first date.  Especially when these men are more interested in having sex.

While this is a Bergman film, unlike the previous two films “Intermezzo” and “A Woman’s Face”, her role is of a genuine vamp and while later on, her character is a bit subdued, obviously it’s more of a decision to give the other women in the film their own character-driven plot.

And unfortunately, the screenplay is neither effective because the way things end is not exactly abrupt but leaning more towards ridiculous.  In fact, one scene that I wonder if people back then ever questioned it but it involves Kirsten’s first doctor, the one who saves her life.  Bare in mind, this is one of the best surgeons who pulled of a major life-saving heart surgery but during his scenes where his hand is shown, his hand is shaking a lot.  I’m surprised the director or cinematographer didn’t focus on a different shot that hides the intense shaking.  Granted, I know the issue probably wasn’t as noticeable back then as it does now, but I found those scenes to be interesting.

Granted, I will say that it was quite interesting to see the moral dilemma in Swedish cinema where in the U.S., American cinema was more conservative due to the Hays code.  So, it’s rather interesting to watch Bergman play a vamp.

Overall, “June Night” is an OK film.  I loved how the film incorporated the love lives of other women that lived with Sara but at the same time, I disliked how it tried to make certain situations a bit abrupt.  The ending was not exactly well-written but I know that the director/writer was focusing on the “love at first sight”, life can chance and decisions can be made so quickly and abruptly.

While we know these situations do happen in the real world, when we see it in “June Night”, the screenplay especially the final 15 minutes seemed rushed.

But within the context of showcasing the various roles that Ingrid Bergman played in Sweden cinema before her career took off, then “June Night” is worthy of being included in Kino’s “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set.

 NOTE: Review is for the film, not the overall DVD Box Set.


A Woman’s Face (as part of the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

While “Intermezzo” featured Bergman as a musician who has an affair with a married man, in “A Womans’ Face”, Bergman takes on her biggest challenge earlier in her career as a criminal and leader of a blackmail ring, but also a woman who had a disfigured face and has been given a new chance in life after plastic surgery.  While this Swedish film did inspire a loosely-based film adaptation in Hollywood, the original Swedish version is still enjoyable and a joy to see Ingrid Bergman playing a different, more challenging role.  A worthy inclusion to Kino’s “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Kino International Corp. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: A Woman’s Face (En kvinnas ansikte)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1938

DURATION: 96 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Full Frame (1:37:1), Swedish with English subtitles

COMPANY: Kino International/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2011

Directed by Gustaf Molander

Based on the Play “Il etait une fois” by Francis de croisset

Written by Gosta Stevens

Music by Eric Benston

Cinematography by Ake Dahlqvist

Edited by Oscar Rosander

Art Direction by Ame Akermark

Starring:

Ingrid Bergman as Anna Holm/Anna Paulsson

Tore Svennberg as Magnus Barring

Anders Henrikson as Dr. Wegert

Georg Rydeberg as Torsten Barring

Gunnar Sjoberg as Harald Berg

Hilda Borgstrom as Emma

Karin Kavil as Mrs. Wegert

Erik “Bullen” Berglund as Nyman

Sigurd Wallen as Miller

Gosta Cederlund as the Count

Goran Bernhard as Lars-Erik Barring

Bror Bugler as Georg Mark

Today, Ingrid Bergman’s name is synonymous with Hollywood’s golden age as a three-time Oscar winner and the star of such classics as Casablanca, Gaslight and Notorious. However, before she became a Hollywood legend, Bergman was the star of a series of Swedish films in the 1930s which are being rediscovered as a vital, if long-overlooked period in her singular career. Contains INTERMEZZO (1936), A WOMAN’S FACE (1938), and JUNE NIGHT (1940).

“She had talent they could not have made up Ingrid Bergman seemed as natural in her early films as she was dazzling – The Boston Globe.

Like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, foreign actresses who would make their debut Hollywood and would be embraced by an International audience, from Sweden, there was Ingrid Bergman.

Winner of three Academy Awards, two Emmy’s, a Tony Award, each for “Best Actress” and considered one of the greatest female actresses of all time in America (ranked #4 in the American Film Institute’s “Greatest Female Star”), there is no doubt that Ingrid Bergman is looked at as a classy, talented actress.

Best known for her roles in “Casablanca” (1942), “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943), “Gaslight” (1944), “The Bell of St. Mary’s” (1945), Hitchock’s “Spellbound” (1945) and “Notorious (1946), “Joan of Arc” (1948) and later in her career for “Anastasia” (1956), years before she began making Hollywood films, there was Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish actress.

Making her cinema debut in 1935 with “Munkbrogreven”, Bergman would not make her Hollywood debut until 1939. But before then, she had made several Swedish films and three of them are included in the Kino International DVD Box Set titled “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” which would contain her films “Intermezzo” (1936), “A Woman’s Face” (1938) and “June Night” (1940).

For her Swedish film “En kvinnas ansikte” (A Woman’s Face), the film would be the second Bergman film that would receive a Hollywood remake (this time starring Joan Crawford) in 1941 and the film would also feature another collaboration with Swedish actor and filmmaker Gustaf Molander.

“A Woman’s Face” revolves around Anna Holm (played by Ingrid Bergman), a young woman who’s face was disfigured in a fire during her childhood.  Since that day, she has grown up with hatred towards the world and runs a blackmail ring  who try to extort money from the rich.

One of those people she is trying to extort money from is Mrs. Wegert (played by Karin Kavli), the wife of plastic surgeon/physician Dr. Wegert (played by Anders Henrikson) but also a woman having an affair with another man.

Anna’s group has three letters that she had written to her lover and tries to extort 10,000 crowns from her.

On the day, Anna is trying to receive payment for the letters, Mrs. Wegert is unable to come up with any money but only jewelry worth 5,000 crowns.  As Mrs. Wegert tries to look for more money, Anna finds a book of how Dr. Wegert has repaired the faces of men wounded during the war.  When Dr. Wegert comes home early, Anna is surprised and tries to escape through a window but instead falls and breaks her ankle.

Dr. Wegert sees Anna and is about to contact the police but sees that she’s injured and also sees her disfigured face.  Mrs. Wegert, afraid that Anna may reveal her secret, tells her husband not to contact the police in which he doesn’t.  While questioning Anna about why she chose to have this bad life, she tells him about her face and how can she work in society with everyone looks at her as a monster.

Feeling bad for her, Dr. Wegert puts her up in his clinic and also surgically repairs her face.  She becomes a beautiful woman.  And Dr. Wegert tells her that she can begin a new life and move forward.  Meanwhile, Anna who is happy about the results of her surgery, decides to give Mrs. Weger the letters back and end the extortion.

But there is one major job her blackmail ring have planned on and that is to help Torsten Barring, a man who wants to inherit the fortune of The Count (played by Gosta Cederlund).  The problem is, the inheritance is being planned for his grandson and so, Torsten goes to Anna and her group to make sure he gets the inheritance.  For the job, the blackmail rings gets 75,000 crowns + 25% of the inheritance that Torsten will make.  All that is needed is a beautiful woman to become the governess.

And because Anna has just received surgery, she decides that she will be the one who will become the governess and go by the name Anna Paulsson.

As Anna leaves for the job to live at the Barring chateau and be with the grandson, she meets the man who she thinks is the grandson, Harald Berg (played by Gunnar Sjoberg).  But when she arrives to meet with the Barring clan and meet the grandson, Lars-Erik (played by Goran Bernhard), she is shocked that he is a very young boy, not a man.

And through the process of living with the family, Lars-Erik and Anna form a strong bond which eventually wins the affection of Harald.  But unfortunately, Torsten is not so thrilled because she is not doing the job that he expects of her.  She tells him that she must kill the young boy in order for him to get the inheritance.

Will Anna, the woman who once looked at the world with ugliness but now given a new chance of life, kill the child for money?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“A Woman’s Face” is presented in black and white (1:37:1) in Swedish with English subtitles.

First, let me just say how thrilled I am to see Ingrid Bergman’s earlier works being released on DVD in America. And knowing that a lot of the films from the silent years to the 30’s, chances of seeing print damage for these older films is common. The question is of how the original print has fared as they have been kept in the Svensk Film Vaults for quite a long time.

I believe this is the first time “A Woman’s Face” was released on DVD, as the Joan Crawford version is what most people have seen.  In fact, most people first saw the Bergman version on TCM back in 2002, so with that being said, compared to “Intermezzo” which had some darkening and a little shaking, “A Woman’s Face” is much cleaner and looks very good on DVD.  Black levels were nice and deep, whites and grays were also well-contrast.  You can actually see the detail of the makeup of Bergman’s face quite well.

As for the audio, the Swedish dialogue is clear and understandable, I detected no hissing or pops during my viewing of this film and the English subtitles were very easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features in any of the DVD’s for the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD box set.

EXTRAS:

There is a info. sheet included with the DVD Box set explaining Ingrid Bergman’s career.

 

A challenging role for Ingrid Bergman, another Swedish film earlier in her career, “A Woman’s Face” features Bergman in the role of a criminal.

Sickened by the world because they look at her as a monster due to her face being burned in a house fire, what happens when this criminal gets her face surgically repaired and a new chance at life?

It’s important to note that this version of “A Woman’s Face” is much different than the Hollywood remake starring Joan Crawford.  As the Hollywood version would feature a court case, murder, etc., “A Woman’s Face” is much less dramatic in the fact that the character Anna is not fighting for her life.

In the Hollywood version, it is very dramatic and the court battle as Anna tries to prove her innocence was a big part of the film.

This is not the case of the Swedish version of the film.  Anna is a woman who has a new life, a new face and as mentioned, she did look at the world with such ugliness but now spending time with a wealthy family and taking care of a boy who looks at her with nothing but love and meeting others who care for her, it gives her emotions that she is not to used to.

But what happens when everything is going so good but yet you are still involved in something that is deceptive and criminal, can a person like Anna really change?

While I do enjoy the Hollywood version a bit more because it’s more of a drama and a thriller, “A Woman’s Face” is less subdued. Court cases in 1930’s film were quite banal at the time, very expected in American cinema and was the norm of Hollywood films.  But there is one element where the Hollywood version shines from its Swedish counterpart and that is, its shows Anna as a criminal who behaves that she has what it takes to kill a child.  That is where Joan Crawford shines as an actress.

Ingrid Bergman, still early in her career, in the beginning, she is able to show that she can play a criminal, but the 180 of turning into this new woman and then suddenly losing that criminal drive, it’s believable but for the movie’s sake, it doesn’t help much, because part of you still wants to see her capable of doing bad but then showing that she does have a conscience.

But that is what makes the difference between a Swedish and an American film.  The climax of the two films, he Swedish film features a horse chase, the American version uses murder and I found the Hollywood version, because of those circumstances, to be much more interesting. But I will say, there is not many films where you are going to find a sleigh chase in the ice for its climax action scene, so that was quite intriguing to see in this film.

But despite the Hollywood version trying to spice things up for a Western audience, by no means is the Swedish film, “A Woman’s Face”, is a bad film.  In fact, those who watched both films, many appreciate the non-Hollywood style of “A Woman’s Face”.  No court scene, no murder.  But a straightforward film of a woman who was once in the dark but has now been given a chance to be in the light.  Which side will she choose?

While it may be a bit difficult to see Ingrid Bergman playing a criminal, Ingrid Bergman did a good job (as well as the makeup crew who devised the prosthetic or makeup design) and while not necessarily a Hollywood-style happy ending, it was an appropriate ending for this film.

Overall, “A Woman’s Face” is a delightful drama film and a worthy inclusion to the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set.

 NOTE: Review is for the film, not the overall DVD Box Set.

 


Intermezzo (as part of the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

An early Ingrid Bergman Swedish film from 1936 that would eventually be remade in Hollywood a few years later and would make Bergman a superstar around the world.  But as a fan of Bergman, I feel that the original film is classier, its characters much more realistic and also features a wonderful performance by its star talent!  Granted, it’s subjective to a viewer if you enjoy the 1936 Swedish film or the 1939 American film, but the fact that Bergman’s earlier Swedish films is being released in America is fantastic!  And “Intermezzo” is a wonderful inclusion to Kino’s “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box Set!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Kino International Corp. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: Intermezzo

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1936

DURATION: 88 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Full Frame (1:37:1), Swedish with English subtitles

COMPANY: Kino International/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2011

Directed by Gustaf Molander

Written by Gosta Stevens and Gustaf Molander

Cinematography by Ake Dahlqvist

Starring:

Gosta Ekman as Professor Holger Brandt

Inga Tidblad as Margit Brandt

Ingrid Bergman as Anita Hoffman

Erik “Bullen” Berglund as Impresario Charles Moller

Hugo Bjorne as Thomas Stenborg

Hasse Ekman as Ake Brandt

Britt Hagman as Ann-Marie Brandt

Today, Ingrid Bergman’s name is synonymous with Hollywood’s golden age as a three-time Oscar winner and the star of such classics as Casablanca, Gaslight and Notorious. However, before she became a Hollywood legend, Bergman was the star of a series of Swedish films in the 1930s which are being rediscovered as a vital, if long-overlooked period in her singular career. Contains INTERMEZZO (1936), A WOMAN’S FACE (1938), and JUNE NIGHT (1940).

“She had talent they could not have made up Ingrid Bergman seemed as natural in her early films as she was dazzling – The Boston Globe.

Like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, foreign actresses who would make their debut Hollywood and would be embraced by an International audience, from Sweden, there was Ingrid Bergman.

Winner of three Academy Awards, two Emmy’s, a Tony Award, each for “Best Actress” and considered one of the greatest female actresses of all time in America (ranked #4 in the American Film Institute’s “Greatest Female Star”), there is no doubt that Ingrid Bergman is looked at as a classy, talented actress.

Best known for her roles in “Casablanca” (1942), “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1943), “Gaslight” (1944), “The Bell of St. Mary’s” (1945), Hitchock’s “Spellbound” (1945) and “Notorious (1946), “Joan of Arc” (1948) and later in her career for “Anastasia” (1956), years before she began making Hollywood films, there was Ingrid Bergman, the Swedish actress.

Making her cinema debut in 1935 with “Munkbrogreven”, Bergman would not make her Hollywood debut until 1939.  But before then, she had made several Swedish films and three of them are included in the Kino International DVD Box Set titled “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” which would contain her films “Intermezzo” (1936), “A Woman’s Face” (1938) and “June Night” (1940).

For her Swedish film “Intermezzo”, this romantic drama would be the actresses entry to Hollywood as renown Hollywood producer David O. Selznick (who would be responsible for bringing her to America, despite her lack of speaking English) would remake “Intermezzo” and release the 1939 film “Intermezzo: A Love Story” which would receive rave reviews from film critics but most of all, noted for her work ethic.

As for the original film, “Intermezzo” was known for its two stars Gosta Ekman (best known for his role in F.W. Murnau’s silent film “Faust”) and Shakespeare and Strindberg theatrical actress Inga Tidblad, but a role that would showcase Bergman in an important role.

“Intermezzo” (which means a short composition that fits between two main movements of a larger musical work or a play) is a film that begins with the Thomas Stenborg (played by Hugo Bjorne) who has decided to call it an end of his touring events and focus on developing up-and-coming pianist Anita Hoffman (played by Ingrid Bergman).

Anita is a down-to-Earth musician who loves teach kids how to play piano and really never thought about making it big, despite people who compliment her on her piano playing.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to the Brandt family which consists of popular Swedish violinist Professor Holger Brandt (played by Gosta Ekman) who is not on tour and staying home with his family which include his wife Margit (played by Inga Tidblad), his older son Ake (played by Hasse Ekman) and his daughter Ann-Marie (played by Britt Hagman).

For Holger, he hopes to find an piano accompanist that will help him enjoy music and come up with more creative music that he can play to audience throughout the world.  But for now, he is happy to be there for his family, especially his daughter Ann-Marie.

Ann-Marie is a girl who is a bit mature for her age but she loves being around her father, listening to him play his violin, having him listen to her play the piano but most of all, she is daddy’s little girl.  And she loves playing a record by her father, in which her favorite part of a song is her father’s intermezzo which she listened to all the time when her father was away.

As Ann-Marie has a piano lesson with her teacher Anita Hoffman, Holger’s wife Margit enjoys the time with her husband but worries that his workaholic life and his constant touring will hurt their marriage, or he may not find her attractive anymore.  If anything, Margit loves her husband with all her heart, and not matter what problems they may have in their life, she will love him forever.

As Ann-Marie remembers that she has a birthday party coming, she asks her mother if Anita can attend.  Sure enough, Anita attends and during the party, we see Ann-Marie playing the piano along with her father.  Afterward, as the family and their friends enjoy a good time, but when Anita starts playing the piano, her beautiful piano playing catches the attention of Holger and he begins playing the violin as she continues to play the piano.

This is the piano accompanist that he has been looking for…Anita Hoffman.  And as Holger tries to convince her of how she can succeed as a music artist, especially working under him, he shows her that her dreams of seeing the world and playing music to a large audience can come true.

And sure enough, Anita Hoffman agrees.

But as we go forward into the future, we learn that Holger and Anita are not just musical partners, but they have become lovers and have been keeping their romantic meetings a secret.

And now the lying and hiding has taken its toll on Anita and she feels that the both of them should end their romantic fling.

But for Holger, it is too late.  He has fallen in love with Anita, as she has fallen in love with him.

And despite having a loving family, Holger decides to tell his wife the truth and leaves the family for Anita.  And the two would go on to become a powerful and popular music duo but also a couple who loves each other.

But over the course of time, Holger can be seen missing his daughter Anne-Marie a lot and is literally torn by his guilt for leaving behind his family and Anita can sense his pain.  She also knows that people recognize her talent, but the longer she stays as an accompanist, her career will not go anywhere.

So, Anita must make the decision… Choose love or her career?   And Holger must decide if he should continue the path that he put himself in through his decision to stay with Anita or can he return to the loving family he left behind?

Both Anita and Holger must decide, is their love forever…or if their romance is just an “intermezzo”.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Intermezzo” is presented in black and white (1:37:1) in Swedish with English subtitles.

First, let me just say how thrilled I am to see Ingrid Bergman’s earlier works being released on DVD in America.  And knowing that a lot of the films from the silent years to the 30’s, chances of seeing print damage for these older films is common.  The question is of how the original print has fared as they have been kept in the Svensk Film Vaults for quite a long time.

“Intermezzo” was released on DVD by Fox Lorber long over a decade ago, but the DVD quality for this newer release is much better than the original.

For “Intermezzo”, for the most part, picture quality is good.  No major print damage in terms of warping but there are a few instances where the image tends to shake a bit (early in the beginning) and also some issues with periodic darkening.  But this is pretty much in the beginning of the film and very brief.  The majority of the film is watchable and in good condition.

In fact, I was quite amazed at times to see how good things looked. Black levels were nice and deep, whites and grays were also well-contrast.

As for the audio, the Swedish dialogue is clear and understandable, I detected no hissing or pops during my viewing of this film and the English subtitles were very easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features in any of the DVD’s for the “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD box set.

EXTRAS:

There is a info. sheet included with the DVD Box set explaining Ingrid Bergman’s career.

For Ingrid Bergman fans, especially those who are familiar with her Hollywood film “Intermezzo: A Love Story”, to have “Intermezzo” included with the DVD Box Set of “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” is a real treat!

And granted, while she is known for her Hollywood debut for the remake of her Swedish film, for me, it was great to see her paired with Gosta Ekman.

The film for the most part is a love drama that I found to be quite wonderful and charming.  The music for the film was delightful and the focus on the music playing for the film will definitely catch the attention of those who enjoy classical music.  But the film has a lot of energy thanks to the music playing of the characters but also seeing the sweet young daughter Ann-Marie telling her father of what she is doing wrong but also being mature, while also being daddy’s little girl.

While Bergman’s character of Anita Hoffman would probably be seen as a very negative character during the 1930’s and would be seen as a vile homewrecker, the screenplay is an interesting juxtaposition to David Lean’s 1945 film “Brief Encounter”.  Two strangers in love but in “Brief Encounter”, we know that their love is strong but both characters have their own family.  But also interesting is how affairs and moral dilemma of its characters are showcased in both films in the ’30s and ’40s in cinema.

For “Intermezzo”, you hate to see a loving family destroyed by an affair, especially as Holger’s wife Margit forgives him because she loves him.  But it’s Holger’s “all or nothing” decisions that makes him leave his family forever to start a new life with Anita.  And as love can be strong and powerful, when it comes to their age, Holger is 25-years-older than Anita and he is starting to tire from the concerts and starts to miss the life he once lived, the family he loves.

And you can sense with Anita that she knows his pain but she also knows that to heal his pain, she would have to make the choice of leaving.  But can she?

Ingrid Bergman does a wonderful job of playing  Anita Hoffman, the aspiring concert pianist but also lover for Holger.  It’s quite obvious that Anita has not had many relationships and the gleam in her eye is primarily when it relates to music, seeing the world and performing.  Whereas, the gleam in her eyes, was what Holger once had when he was younger, he’s already an accomplished, popular musician in Sweden but for a man of his age, you want to settle down and obviously, age and his guilt become the antagonist for this couple.

But there is no doubt that the actress does show her star talent in this film and it helps the film that you have star talents such as Gosta Ekman and Inga Tidblad also giving a wonderful performance for the film.  Interesting to note, actor Hasse Ekman (who is real-life son of Gosta Ekman) who plays Holger’s older son Ake, would later become the a renown Swedish filmmaker before Ingmar Bergman and would later star in three of Ingmar Bergman’s films.

Overall, “Intermezzo” is an enjoyable Swedish love story with a wonderful performance by its talents. Granted, the traditional thinking of a wife staying with her man, despite his affair is probably old-fashioned for modern Western viewers but for those who can put themselves in the shoes of an audience at that time, and watching a loving family destroyed by an affair, you can only wonder how audiences reacted back then.  Especially with the ending that involves Holger’s daughter.  Granted, nothing surprising by today’s films but back then, I can only guess that this was a heartbreaking scene that shocked audiences back in 1936.

But watching it today, “Intermezzo” Is definitely a Bergman film that showcases her talent before she came to Hollywood.

Is it better than her Hollywood remake?  That’s subjective but for me, I enjoyed the original “Intermezzo” much more.  And if you are a Bergman fan, “Intermezzo” is a wonderful inclusion to Kino’s “Ingrid Bergman in Sweden” DVD Box set.

 NOTE: Review is for the film, not the overall DVD Box Set.


A Summer in La Goulette (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A film that showcases sexual freedom, multicultural differences but also a time of pace set before the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967, “A Summer in La Goulette” is an entertaining, sensual film from director Ferid Boughedir.

Images courtesy of © 1996 Marsa Films – Cinares PRoduction – Lamy Films – RTBF – La Sept Cinema. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: A Summer in La Goulette (Un été à La Goulette)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1996

DURATION: 89 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Tunisia/French/Belgium, Anamorphic (1:66:1), Arabic and French with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino International/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2011

Directed by Ferid Boughedir

Written by Ferid Boughedir, Nouri Bouzid

Executive Producer: Hassinie Souti

Associate Producer: Georges Goldenstern, Benoit Lamy, Jacqueline Pierreux

Music by Jean-Marie Senia

Cinematography by Robert Alazraki

Edited by Andree Davanture, Catherine Poitevin, Isabelle Devinck

Casting by Hanane Ben Mahmoud

Production Design by Claude Bennys

Costume Design by Naama Mejri

Starring:

Sonia Mankai as Meriem

Ava Cohen-Jonathan as Tina

Sarah Pariente as Gigi

Mustapha Adouani as Youssef

Guy Nataf as Jojo

Ivo Salerno as Giuseppe

Gamil Ratib as Hadj Beji

A Summer in La Goulette is “an enchanting, insanely erotic comedy” (Eye Weekly) shot on the sun-dappled seaside of Tunisia by director Férid Boughedir (Halfouine).

Three teenage girlfriends live in an apartment complex near Goulette beach in 1967, and during the summer they make a pact to lose their virginity. Meriem (Sonia Mankaï) attracts the eye of her family’s aging landlord, while a persistent group of nervous teen boys flirt their way into the girls’ arms. When news of their increasingly bold behavior reaches their respective families (one is Jewish, another Muslim, and the third Catholic), fingers are pointed in every direction for their socially and religiously embarrassing activities.

A Summer in La Goulette is a coming-of-age tale based on Boughedir’s own childhood memories, a “quietly affecting” (Time Out Film Guide) tale of sexual awakening and multi-cultural misunderstanding. Shot in the warm amber glows of nostalgia, it beautifully captures the end of innocence.

Filmmaker Ferid Boughedh’s 1996 film “A Summer in La Goulette” is a film that no doubt captured the attention of viewers, especially those who lived during the era before Arab-Israeli War.

A time when Tunisia was a location where Arabs, Jews and Catholics were all living in peace, no war.  Sure, each have their religious differences but Boughedh’s film shows us that once upon a time, everyone lived in peace.  He remembers dear to his heart, summertime in La Goulette before the war in 1967.

“A Summer in La Goulette” was nominated for a Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and now arrives on DVD in the U.S. courtesy of Kino International.

“A Summer in La Goulette” is a film that focuses on three families that live in an apartment complex.  Three families with three teenage daughters: Meriem (played by Sonia Mankai), a Muslim, and her friends Tina (played by Ava Cohen-Jonathan), Jewish and Gigi (played by Sarah Pariente), Catholic, who are now becoming more interested in sex and also wanting to lose their virginity.  But also, there are a group of teenage guys who are just as interested in losing their virginity as well.

Meanwhile, for the young ladies, their fathers Youssef (played by Mustapha Adouani), Jojo (played by Guy Nataf) and Giuseppe (played by Ivo Salerno) are friends and most often at times, like to rib each other on their religions and sometimes their debates can get heated, but yet they still enjoy the fact that there is no war and there is peace.

But one thing that is a common problem at the apartment complex is that some are having problems paying their rent.  And for Hadj Beji (played by Gamil Ratib), he has not been too kind to the tenants.  But one day as the older Hadj visits Youseff’s family and goes to the bathroom, he hears the shower running and sees Meriem showering.  Immediately, Hadj becomes smitten with her.

During a party, Meriem starts to notice that Hadj is constantly staring at her.  While at the party, her friends hook up with the their male friends and they all go to a backroom for a makeout session in hopes to lose their virginity.  But they are caught by their parents.

Immediately, each father starts to point the finger on each of their daughter’s friends, blaming their religious upbringing for corrupting their own daughter and now the father’s stop talking to each other and their daughters get into big trouble.

Meriem still feeling highly sexual knows that the landlord Hadj has been eyeing her and she tries to use her sexuality to tease him, meanwhile the other girls are not so lucky as one father wants to have his daughter “checked” to see if she is still a virgin.

But no matter how things look for the three young women, they are still determined to lose their virginity.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“The Summer in La Goulette” is presented in Anamorphic (1:66:1) and presented in Arabic and French with English subtitles.

The picture quality is good as a lot of the film is shot outdoors.  Cinematography by Robert Alazraki does showcase the beauty of the scenery and the local area.  I didn’t see any major artifacts or blemishes in the print.  But there is good lighting in the film, also scenes capturing the more sensual moments featuring Merriam.  As for audio, dialogue is clear and subtitles are easy to read.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features in this DVD release of “A Summer in La Goulette”.

In many ways, a synopsis of “A Summer in La Goulette” probably does not give the film too much credit as it sounds like any banal ’80s teen film of young men and women wanting to lose their virginity.

But for Ferid Boughedir’s “A Summer in La Goulette”, one thing that I have noticed is that its efficacy lies within the fact that it’s not an American film.  Because of the political and religious differences of the characters and the fact that the storyline does take place right before the Arab and Israeli conflict of 1967, the film can be seen as a slice of life and possibly a little non-discrete with its tone towards the war and showing how Arabs, Muslims and Catholics can be friends with each other as it was seen in the film and perhaps a great memory of the life that Boughedir experienced as a young man.

As I looked on the Internet to see what took place in Tunisia in 1967, I’ve learned that in the area, Tunisia once had a significant Jewish population but it was severely cut down to hundreds through the wars that the country had experienced.  The Catholics left first, the Jews followed and although the film was released back in theaters in 1996, seeing the Tunisian revolution take place in 2011, to see the protest of the social and political issues that have taken place in Tunisia, and then watching a film like “A Summer in La Goulette”, is no surprise that people  have warmed up to this film because it does show the country during a time when peace ruled the land, Muslims, Catholics and Jews could be friends, neighbors and more.

As for the DVD, it’s a barebone release, no special features at all.  It would have been great to revisit the filmmaker or some of the talent and reflect on the film.

So, yes… “A Summer in La Goulette” does have those titillating moments, those upbeat teenage sexual urges that many of us in the West have seen so many times in ’80s and ’90s American films but because the film does incorporate deeper issues, it showcases a time of an enjoyable and free-spirited time in the Tunis seaside and possibly a nostalgic film for those who have lived in the region at the time.

A film that showcases sexual freedom, multicultural differences but also a time of pace set before the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967, “A Summer in La Goulette” is an entertaining, sensual film from director Ferid Boughedir.


Next Page »

Bottom