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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


The Blue Angel (2-Disc Ultimate Edition) (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Blue Angel” is a classic film that is compelling, enjoyable and a highlight of Weimar cinema.  And with this classic film on Blu-ray, for fans of older classic cinema, “The Blue Angel (2-Disc Ultimate Edition)” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2013 Kino Lorber, Inc. 1930 UFA. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Blue Angel (2-Disc Ultimate Edition)

FILM RELEASE: 1930

DURATION: 107 Minutes (German)/ 104 Minutes (English)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:18:1 Aspect Ratio, Black and White, 2.0 Monoraul

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber Incorporated

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: December 17, 2013

Directed by Josef von Sternberg

Based on the novel “Professor Unrat” by Heinrich Mann

Written by Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmoller, Robert Liebmann

Producer: Erich Pommer

Cinematography by Gunther Rittau

Edited by Walter Klee, Sam Winston

Art Direction by Otto Hunte

Costume Design by Tihamer Varady

Starring:

Emil Jannings as Prof. Immanuel Rath

Marlene Dietrich as Lola Lola

Kurt Gerron as Kiepert the Magician

Rosa Valetti as Guste, the Magician’s Wife

Hans Alberts as Mazeppa, the STorngman

Reinhold Bernt as The Clown

Eduard von Winterstein as the Director of School

Hans Roth as The Caretaker of the Secondary School

Rolf Muller as Pupil Angst

Roland Varno as Pupil Lohmann

Carl Balhaus as Pupil Ertzum

Robert Klein-Lork as Pupil Goldstaub

The crowning achievement of the Weimar cinema, The Blue Angel is an exquisite parable of one man’s fall from respectability. This exclusive two-disc set from Kino Classics includes both the newly-restored German version and the English version, both in high definition.

Emil Jannings (The Last Laugh, Faust, Othello), the quintessential German expressionist actor, stars as Professor Rath, the sexually-repressed instructor of a boys’ prep school. After learning of the pupils’ infatuation with French postcards depicting a local nightclub songstress, he decides to personally investigate the source of such indecency. But as soon as he enters the shadowy Blue Angel nightclub and steals one glimpse of the smoldering Lola-Lola (Marlene Dietrich), commanding the stage in top hat, stockings, and bare thighs, Rath’s self-righteous piety is crushed. He finds himself fatefully seduced by the throaty voice of the vulgar siren, singing ”Falling In Love Again”. Consumed by desire and tormented by his rigid propriety, Professor Rath allows himself to be dragged down a path of personal degradation. Lola’s unrestrained sexuality was a revelation to turn-of-the-decade moviegoers, thrusting Dietrich to the forefront of the sultry international leading ladies, such as Greta Garbo, who were challenging the limits of screen sexuality.

For director Josef von Sternberg, he would be known for silent films such as “Underworld”, “The Last Command” and “The Docks of New York”, but for this Austrian-American film director, like many filmmakers who worked in the silent era, his career would be in question with the coming of the talkies.

It was when he was invited to make a film in Germany that his life would change forever.  In 1929, Sternberg would create a film known as “Der blaue Engel” (The Blue Angel) and he would later have a muse who would become one of the greatest actresses of all time… Marlene Dietrich.  A film that is loosely based on Heinrich Mann’s 1905 novel, “Professor Unrat” (Professor Garbage).

As von Sternberg would return to America, Dietrich would follow as she would have a U.S. contract with Paramount Pictures and as Greta Garbo was the Swedish sensation, Dietrich would be the German sensation and together, she and von Sternberg would work on films such as “Morocco”, “Dishonored”, “Shanghai Express”, “Blonde Venus”, “The Scarlett Empress” and “The Devil is a Woman”.

But before she would excel in the later films with von Sternberg, it was her very first film with him “The Blue Angel” that would make her a movie star and a singer.  Interesting enough, while a German version was filmed, von Sternberg also created an English version simultaneously but the latter would require re-filming of certain scenes much later.

While the English-language version had been released in the U.S. courtesy of Kino Video in its regular format and also included in the “Glamour Girls” DVD set, the German version was only available via “The Blue Angel: Special Two Disc Set”.

In Dec. 2013, Kino will be releasing “The Blue Angel (2 Disc Ultimate Edition)” which will include both the original German-language version with optional English subtitles, newly restored in HD from archival 35 mm elements by the Friedrich-Wilhel-Murnau-Stiftung and the English-language version, on Blu-ray for the first time.

It is important to note that while “The Blue Angel” is known to many as a Marlene Dietrich film but even Dietrich herself was known to remind people that she was on the bottom of the list at the time and not top-billed because the actress was not known at the time.

The film’s star was Emil Jannings, the popular silent star who was in the 1922 film “Othello” and F.W. Murnau’s “The Last Laugh”, “Herr Tartuff” and in “Faust”.   The actor would be the first person to receive an Oscar which he won in 1929 for “The Way of All Flesh” (1927) and the 1928 film “The Last Command” (the only year when multiple awards were issued).

But it was Marlene Dietrich would win people with her performance as Lola and would cement her career as a lead actress.

“The Blue Angel” revolves around Prof. Immanuel Rath (played by Emil Jannings), a professor at a local college in Germany.  He is very strict and his wily students are known to make fun of him quite often.  But it is when he catches the students with photographs from the beautiful Lola that angers him.  Why would his students be wasting their time at a cabaret?

When he goes to the cabaret one night to catch his students in the act, he runs into Lola Lola (played by Marlene Dietrich).  Accidentally entering her changing room, some of the students are hiding and watching Lola Lola’s interaction with the professor, as they see him as a sexually repressed man.  The next thing you know, the Prof. is calmed around the cabaret singer. As Lola Lola is changing, she throws her undies out in which one of the students grab it and put it inside the Rath’s front pocket.

When Rath returns home, wiping off his sweat, he accidentally wipes uses her undies.  Feeling ashamed that he may taken her undergarment back home with him, he returns back to the cabaret.

But when people that work with Lola, especially Kiepert the magician (played by Kurt Gerron) feel that an esteemed professor has come to the Blue Angel, they give him the red carpet in hopes that they can attract other well-known people to their club.

As for Rath, he has fallen in love with Lola Lola and no matter how badly the students tease him and make fun of him, he does not care.  The students become such a distraction at the school that a fellow colleague tries to tell him that a person of his stature should not be with a woman like Lola but it is too late.  Rath is in love, he wants to marry Lola and he could care less what anyone else thinks.

And sure enough, Lola and Rath get married…but then we start to see the Prof. Rath’s life crumble professionally and personally and see how people including Lola react around him.  How a man’s morality is lured to the life of immorality and is led to ruin and ridicule.

VIDEO:

“The Blue Angel (2-Disc Ultimate Edition)” on Blu-ray features a newly restored in HD from archival 35 mm elements by the Friedrich-Wilhel-Murnau-Stiftung.

Before I go into the picture quality, it’s important for those not familiar with Kino Blu-ray releases is that these films are presented as they were direct from the film source.  There is no clean up of the film and they are presented in 1080p HD (1:19:1) black and white.

With that being said, considering “The Blue Angel” is a film that is over 80-years-old, I was pretty surprised to see this 1930 film in good condition.  Considering that many 1910-1930 nitrate films did not survive, many early talkie films did not survive and those that did survive, some look better than others (such as Kino’s release of “The General”) and others that are not crystal clear but don’t have massive damage.  In the case of “The Blue Angel”, you are going to see occasional fickering, you are going to see dust, speckles and vertical lines, but for any classic fan especially for earlier films, one must realize that you get what you get and if it’s complete, as a cinema fan of these older films, you’re fortunate that they don’t look any worse.

For “The Blue Angel”, the film on Blu-ray features rich blacks while whites and grays are well-contrast.  The film maintains its grain but also I noticed much more clarity in the film when it comes to clothing, backgrounds and even closeups.  So compared to the DVD release, I do notice differences in picture quality when it comes to clarity and better detail with no blurring.  I did notice that with the English version, it is a tad bit brighter than the German version.

Once again, considering this film’s age at over 90-years-old, the film looks very good for its age!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for the lossless audio if “The Blue Angel”,  audio is clear and heard no major warbling or hiss for both films.  Audio is presented in LPCM German and English 2.0.  It’s important to mention that both soundtracks are clear with no major notice of any hiss or crackle for both German and English versions. But there are differences between both versions as the English version is not as clear, has that tinnish sound of an early ’30s film and unlike the German version, I had to crank up the volume a little bit.

I do prefer the sound of the German version but for those wondering, about the English dub, the English version features a redub by Marlene Dietrich, as both films were shot simultaneously, as opposed to having different actors dubbing the main characters.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Blue Angel (2-Disc Ultimate Edition)” comes with the following special features:

  • Scene Comparison – (3:18) Screen comparisons of a single scene between the German and the English version of the film and their differences and similarities.
  • Screen Test – (3:38) A screen test made of Marlene Dietrich in the Babelsberger Studios back in Oct. 1929.
  • Marlene Interview – (1:25) A 1971 interview with Marlene Dietrich in Stockholm in regards to “The Blue Angel”.
  • Marlene Performances– (3:30) Featuring Marlene Dietrich performing “Falling in Love Again” (3:26) from a concert back in 1963 in Stockholm and a performance of “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” (3:30) and “Lola” (2:14) recorded in London in 1972 as part of her “I Wish You Love” performance.
  • Trailers – Two theatrical trailers for “The Blue Angel”.  One from the ’30s (3:42) and the other from the ’60s (2:59).
  • Photo Gallery – Featuring still photographs and production stills for “The Blue Angel”.

EXTRAS:

“The Blue Angel (2-Disc Ultimate Edition)” comes with a slipcase and comes with two Blu-ray discs (in one case) which features the film in German with optional English subtitles and the other disc featuring the film in English.

“The Blue Angel” is an important film in cinema as it is among the most discussed films when it comes to movies created in the Weimar period.  It was also an film as it required to be shot in German and in English.

And like many German films of the era, there is an air of darkness, moral descent and while it may seem as the film contains the banality of what has been done in German films, rarely do these films showcase a beautiful woman, a woman who is literally not wearing much (which definitely sent conservatives up in a tizzy) and as it was a von Sternberg film, its the unknown actress who has won the hearts of many viewers worldwide.

That actress is Marlene Dietrich who didn’t stick around to find out how the film would do in the box office as she packed up and left to America to embark on a career which she would be signed by Paramount and would headline many more films after “The Blue Angel”.

But this film was made possible because of actor Emil Jannings who personally requested producer Erich Pommer to hire Josef von Sternberg to direct the film, the first film for Jannings that would include sound.

First, the performance by Emil Jannings is wonderful.  As Dr. Immanuel Rath, he is your professor that is always strict and one who will not put up with anyone’s guff.  He is an intellectual and he is proud of his role as a professor at the local college.  And as someone would think that Jannings is a man who is so strict and possibly sexually repressed, he is a man afterall and that is where is naivety gets the best of him.

For an intelligent man, he has made a bad/desperate decision to go after a woman who probably has been around the block many times and a woman who literally offers nothing to him intellectually but perhaps only sexually.  If not sexually, just a woman who appears to accept him for how he is and a man who has dropped his guard for the sake of companionship.

As a viewer, you can sympathize with his decision.  Many of the young men can only dream of being with Lola, but now this man is with the beautiful Lola.

And it is Marelene Dietrich who is able to take the role of Lola Lola and give us a sense of intense sexuality and domination.  From the moment Dr. Rath proposes to Lola and you hear this devious laugh, it is like the snake who has convinced Eden to take a bite of the apple, but in this case, it is Dr. Rath who chose to go the path of Lola, despite being warned and now she will take him on this journey to moral descent and over the years, we see this distinguished professor go from a strict intellectual to a ridiculous clown.  No money, no respect and even lost any sympathy from Lola and those around him.

And this is where Josef von Sternberg is able to capture with efficacy, the destruction of a man, all decency stripped and you can only watch and realized that this man, blinded by his love of wanting to be loved, wanting to find a beautiful companion, has literally thrown everything in his life that is decent, away.

While the collaboration between Sternberg and Dietrich would lead to bigger things and better films, “The Blue Angel” is special for the fact that it introduced Dietrich to the world, it was an early German and English talkie but it is a film that was able to capture German filmmaking but with a filmmaker from America.

The film has long been debated by historians whether or not “The Blue Angel” is a German film or an American film based on von Sternberg’s imagination of what Germany was or what he grew up with versus achieving accuracy as depicted in the 1905 novel.  I personally look at the film of integrating the best of both worlds, Weimar and Hollywood cinema balancing each other out and the result is something special.

“The Blue Angel” does have cinematic important and while loosely based on the more darker “Professor Unrat” novel by Heinrich Mann, the film was a big success in the box office and most of all, Paramount knew that having both von Sternberg and Dietrich together will continually bring home box office gold!

And the fact that you do get both films on Blu-ray is awesome!  For anyone who really wants to experience this film, those extra 10-12 minutes in the German version, do make a difference as the sexuality of the character of Lola plays an important part of this film.  She is a vixen, she is erotic but it’s only scene in the German version of the film, not the English version.  There are other noticeable changes to make things much more accessible for international viewers but part of what makes “The Blue Angel” such a fantastic film is the performance and everything that is included in the German version.  I can’t emphasize enough about how the German version of “The Blue Angel” is the version to be seen, unless the viewer has a disdain towards reading English subtitles, then the English version will suffice.

And to answer the big question for those who own the previous DVD release of “The Blue Angel”, is the Blu-ray worth owning.  My answer to that is if you want the film in HD, then yes!  To watch the film on Blu-ray may not be a huge difference from the DVD release but the better contrast does make the Blu-ray worth owning.

And if you own only the English version, my answer is yes, get the Blu-ray, so you can watch the original German version.

With that being said, I also recommend those who were planning to upgrade their DVD copies of “The Blue Angel” to Blu-ray, to let you know that you may not want to get rid of your two-disc DVD version of “The Blue Angel” as the Blu-ray does not include the audio commentary by film historian Werner Sudendorf.

Overall, “The Blue Angel” is a classic film that is compelling, enjoyable and a highlight of Weimar cinema.  And with this classic film on Blu-ray, for fans of older classic cinema, “The Blue Angel (2-Disc Ultimate Edition)” is highly 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!

The Blue Angel: Special Two Disc Set (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

May 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“The Blue Angel” is the film that would launch Marlene Dietrich’s career.  It is the film that brought Dietrich and filmmaker Josef von Sternberg together and both would go on to make several hit films with each other.  But for this classic talkie, the fact that you get the original German version plus the English dubbed version (which was shot simultaneously and featured Dietrich speaking English) of the film is fantastic!  Over 80-years-old, “The Blue Angel” is a highly recommended classic!

Images courtesy of ©2001 Kino Intl. Inc. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Blue Angel: Special Two Disc Set (Der Blaue Angel)

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1930

DURATION: 104 Minutes (German Version), 94 Minutes (English Version)

DVD INFORMATION: B & W, Full Frame (1:19:1), Dolby Digital 2.0, German with English Subtitles and English Version

COMPANY: Kino Video

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2001

Directed by Josef von Sternberg

Based on nobel “Professor Unrat” by Heinrich Mann

Written by Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmoller, Robert Liebmann

Producer: Erich Pommer

Cinematography by Gunther Rittau

Edited by Walter Klee, Sam Winston

Art Direction by Otto Hunte

Costume Design by Tihamer Varady

Starring:

Emil Jannings as Prof. Immanuel Rath

Marlene Dietrich as Lola Lola

Kurt Gerron as Kiepert the Magician

Rosa Valetti as Guste, the Magician’s Wife

Hans Alberts as Mazeppa, the STorngman

Reinhold Bernt as The Clown

Eduard von Winterstein as the Director of School

Hans Roth as The Caretaker of the Secondary School

Rolf Muller as Pupil Angst

Roland Varno as Pupil Lohmann

Carl Balhaus as Pupil Ertzum

Robert Klein-Lork as Pupil Goldstaub

The crowning achievement of the Weimar cinema, The Blue Angel is an exquisite parable of one man’s fall from respectability, presented in the newly-restored German version.

Emil Jannings (The Last Laugh, Faust, Othello), the quintessential German expressionist actor, stars as Professor Rath, the sexually-repressed instructor of a boys’ prep school. After learning of the pupils’ infatuation with French postcards depicting a local nightclub songstress, he decides to personally investigate the source of such indecency. But as soon as he enters the shadowy Blue Angel nightclub and steals one glimpse of the smoldering Lola-Lola (Marlene Dietrich), commanding the stage in top hat, stockings, and bare thighs, Rath’s self-righteous piety is crushed. He finds himself fatefully seduced by the throaty voice of the vulgar siren, singing “Falling In Love Again.” Consumed by desire and tormented by his rigid propriety, Professor Rath allows himself to be dragged down a path of personal degradation.

Lola’s unrestrained sexuality was a revelation to turn-of-the-decade moviegoers, thrusting Dietrich to the forefront of the sultry international leading ladies, such as Greta Garbo, who were challenging the limits of screen sexuality.

For director Josef von Sternberg, he would be known for silent films such as “Underworld”, “The Last Command” and “The Docks of New York”, but for this Austrian-American film director, like many filmmakers who worked in the silent era, his career would be in question with the coming of the talkies.

It was when he was invited to make a film in Germany that his life would change forever.  In 1929, Sternberg would create a film known as “Der blaue Engel” (The Blue Angel) and he would later have a muse who would become one of the greatest actresses of all time… Marlene Dietrich.  A film that is loosely based on Heinrich Mann’s 1905 novel, “Professor Unrat” (Professor Garbage).

As von Sternberg would return to America, Dietrich would follow as she would have a U.S. contract with Paramount Pictures and as Greta Garbo was the Swedish sensation, Dietrich would be the German sensation and together, she and von Sternberg would work on films such as “Morocco”, “Dishonored”, “Shanghai Express”, “Blonde Venus”, “The Scarlett Empress” and “The Devil is a Woman”.

But before she would excel in the later films with von Sternberg, it was her very first film with him “The Blue Angel” that would make her a movie star and a singer.  Interesting enough, while a German version was filmed, von Sternberg also created an English version simultaneously but the latter would require refilming of certain scenes much later.

While the English-language version has been released in the U.S. courtesy of Kino Video in its regular format and also included in the “Glamour Girls” DVD set, the German version is available only in “The Blue Angel: Special Two Disc Set”.

It is important to note that while “The Blue Angel” is known to many as a Marlene Dietrich film but even Dietrich herself was known to remind people that she was on the bottom of the list at the time and not top-billed because the actress was not known at the time.

The film’s star was Emil Jannings, the popular silent star who was in the 1922 film “Othello” and F.W. Murnau’s “The Last Laugh”, “Herr Tartuff” and in “Faust”.   The actor would be the first person to receive an Oscar which he won in 1929 for “The Way of All Flesh” (1927) and the 1928 film “The Last Command” (the only year when multiple awards were issued).

But it was Marlene Dietrich would win people with her performance as Lola and would cement her career as a lead actress.

“The Blue Angel” revolves around Prof. Immanuel Rath (played by Emil Jannings), a professor at a local college in Germany.  He is very strict and his wily students are known to make fun of him quite often.  But it is when he catches the students with photographs from the beautiful Lola that angers him.  Why would his students be wasting their time at a cabaret?

When he goes to the cabaret one night to catch his students in the act, he runs into Lola Lola (played by Marlene Dietrich).  Accidentally entering her changing room, some of the students are hiding and watching Lola Lola’s interaction with the professor, as they see him as a sexually repressed man.  The next thing you know, the Prof. is calmed around the cabaret singer. As Lola Lola is changing, she throws her undies out in which one of the students grab it and put it inside the Rath’s front pocket.

When Rath returns home, wiping off his sweat, he accidentally wipes uses her undies.  Feeling ashamed that he may taken her undergarment back home with him, he returns back to the cabaret.

But when people that work with Lola, especially Kiepert the magician (played by Kurt Gerron) feel that an esteemed professor has come to the Blue Angel, they give him the red carpet in hopes that they can attract other well-known people to their club.

As for Rath, he has fallen in love with Lola Lola and no matter how badly the students tease him and make fun of him, he does not care.  The students become such a distraction at the school that a fellow colleague tries to tell him that a person of his stature should not be with a woman like Lola but it is too late.  Rath is in love, he wants to marry Lola and he could care less what anyone else thinks.

And sure enough, Lola and Rath get married…but then we start to see the Prof. Rath’s life crumble professionally and personally and see how people including Lola react around him.  How a man’s morality is lured to the life of immorality and is led to ruin and ridicule.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

Before I review this DVD for its PQ and AQ, I want to remind everyone that this is an older DVD released back in 2001.

With that being said, considering “The Blue Angel” is a film that is over 80-years-old, I was pretty surprised to see this 1930 film in good condition.  Considering that many 1920’s nitrate films did not survive, many early talkie films did not survive and because of their bad audio, not many paid attention to those movies at all.  But in the case of “The Blue Angel”, sure you have dust and speckles, sure you have lines and occasional flickering but the fact that the complete film is intact and still manages to look quite good for a 2001 DVD is impressive.

Granted, if Kino Lorber was to release this film today, with a better remastering, especially on Blu-ray, I don’t think anyone will complain.  The film looks very good on DVD and I can think of any newer remastering with a higher bitrate to be a positive.

As for the audio, audio is clear and heard no major warbling or hiss for both films.  Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and once again, if this film was released with a lossless soundtrack on Blu-ray, I would be impressed.  But for now, the soundtrack on both DVD’s are good.  It’s important to mention that although both soundtracks are clear for both version of the films and the good news is that the English version features a redub by Dietrich, as both films were shot simultaneously, as opposed to having different actors dubbing the main characters.

But as mentioned, I hope that Kino Lorber will release this title on Blu-ray, especially since it is one of the few early talkies that is complete and in very good condition.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Blue Angel: Special Two Disc Set” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Werner Sudendorf – The audio commentary features Werner Sudendorf talking about the differences between the English and German versions of the film, the music and various shots and what happened to some of the talent and crew after the movie.  Please note, there is long stretches of silence.
  • Scene Comparison – (3:18) Screen comparisons of a single scene between the German and the English version of the film and their differences and similarities.
  • Screen Test – (3:38) A screen test made of Marlene Dietrich in the Babelsberger Studios back in Oct. 1929.
  • Marlene Interview – (1:25) A 1971 interview with Marlene Dietrich in Stockholm in regards to “The Blue Angel”.
  • Marlene Performances– (3:30) Featuring Marlene Dietrich performing “Falling in Love Again” (3:26) from a concert back in 1963 in Stockholm and a performance of “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” (3:30) and “Lola” (2:14) recorded in London in 1972 as part of her “I Wish You Love” performance.
  • Trailers – Two theatrical trailers for “The Blue Angel”.  One from the ’30s (3:42) and the other from the ’60s (2:59).
  • Photo Gallery – Featuring still photographs and production stills for “The Blue Angel”.
  • The Chronicles – A chronicle of the film being made through April 1929 through December 1930.  Includes a few photos.
  • Facts & Dates – Text based production dates and credits.
  • Cast & Crew – Featuring images of the cast and crew which you can view via using your remote to go through various images.

“The Blue Angel” is a fantastic pre-code film in which filmmaker Josef von Sternberg combines German Expressionism but also utilizing Western sensibility in his film.

And like many German films of the era, there is an air of darkness, moral descent and while it may seem as the film contains the banality of what has been done in German films, rarely do these films showcase a beautiful woman, a woman who is literally not wearing much (which definitely sent conservatives up in a tizzy) and as it was a von Sternberg film, its the unknown actress who has won the hearts of many viewers worldwide.

That actress is Marlene Dietrich who didn’t stick around to find out how the film would do in the box office.  She packed up and left to America to embark on a career which she would be signed by Paramount and would headline many more films after “The Blue Angel”.

First, the performance by Emil Jannings is wonderful.  As Dr. Immanuel Rath, he is your professor that is always strict and one who will not put up with anyone’s guff.  He is an intellectual and he is proud of his role as a professor at the local college.  And as someone would think that Jannings is a man who is so strict and possibly sexually repressed, he is a man afterall and that is where is naivety gets the best of him.

For an intelligent man, he has made a bad/desperate decision to go after a woman who probably has been around the block many times and a woman who literally offers nothing to him intellectually but perhaps only sexually.  If not sexually, just a woman who appears to accept him for how he is and a man who has dropped his guard for the sake of companionship.

As a viewer, you can sympathize with his decision.  Many of the young men can only dream of being with Lola, but now this man is with the beautiful Lola.

And it is Marelene Dietrich who is able to take the role of Lola Lola and give us a sense of intense sexuality and domination.  From the moment Dr. Rath proposes to Lola and you hear this devious laugh, it is like the snake who has convinced Eden to take a bite of the apple, but in this case, it is Dr. Rath who chose to go the path of Lola, despite being warned and now she will take him on this journey to moral descent and over the years, we see this distinguished professor go from a strict intellectual to a ridiculous clown.  No money, no respect and even lost any sympathy from Lola and those around him.

And this is where Josef von Sternberg is able to capture with efficacy, the destruction of a man, all decency stripped and you can only watch and realized that this man, blinded by his love of wanting to be loved, wanting to find a beautiful companion, has literally thrown everything in his life that is decent, away.

While the collaboration between Sternberg and Dietrich would lead to bigger things and better films, “The Blue Angel” is special for the fact that it introduced Dietrich to the world, it was an early German and English talkie but it is a film that was able to capture German filmmaking but with a filmmaker from America.  “The Blue Angel” does have cinematic important and while loosely based on the more darker “Professor Unrat” novel by Heinrich Mann, the film was a big success in the box office and most of all, Paramount knew that having both von Sternberg and Dietrich together will continually bring home box office gold!

And the fact that you do get both films on one DVD is awesome!  It’s one thing for Kino to push the English version of the film in its “Glamour Girls” DVD Box Set but for anyone who really wants to experience this film, those extra 10-12 minutes in the German version, do make a difference and you get the best of both worlds with having both German and English versions.  Also, you get a release with audio commentary and special features!

I can’t emphasize that if anyone wants to see “The Blue Angel”, the version to buy is this special two disc set.   And until this release gets mentioned for a Blu-ray release, make no doubt about it, this is the definitive version of “The Blue Angel” to own.

Highly recommended!


happily ever after (Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

October 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“happily ever after” is a fantastic film featuring strong performances from Yvan Attal and Charlotte Gainsbourg and the other talent in this film. The writing and cinematography (especially the music) are well-done. And I know the film goes against the trend of a romantic comedy and deals with the concept of marriage and the difficulties, but not every romance ends in a fairy tale, nor does every couple live happily ever after.

Images courtesy of © 2005 Kino International Corp. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: happily ever after

FILM RELEASE: 2004

DURATION: 105 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 2:35:1 letterboxed, French with optional English subtitles

COMPANY: Pathe!/Kino Video

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2005

Written and Directed by Yvan Attal

Produced by Claude Berri

Executive Produced by Salim Fassi Fihri, Pierre Grunstein, Nathalie Rheims

Music by Brad Mehldau

Cinematography by Remy Chevrin

Edited by Jennifer Auge

Casting by Noureddine Aberdine, Antoinette Boulat, Laurent Soulet

Production Design by Katia Wyszkop

Art Direction by Alexandra Lassen

Set Decoration by Sandrine Mauvezin

Costume Design by Jacqueline Bouchard

Starring:

Johnny Depp as L’inconnu

Charlotte Gainsbourg as Gabrielle

Sebastien Vidal as Thibault

Yvan Attal as Vincent

Chloe Combret as Chloe

Christiane Oui-Oui as La femme de chambre

Alain Cohen as Fred

Carolina Gynning as Zoe

Alain Chabat as Georges

Ben Attal as Joseph

Emmanuelle Seigner as Nathalie

Kitu Gidwani as Mme Gibson

Sujay Sood as M. Gibson

Ruben Marx as Antoine

Writer-director Yvan Attal (My Wife is an Actress) takes a “funny, observant, evanescent approach to the mysteries of human desire” (Jami Bernard, NY DAILY NEWS) in Happily Ever After, a bittersweet comedy about the battle of the married sexes. Starring Attal and real-life amour Charlotte Gainsbourg (21 Grams), Happily Ever After uncovers a web of marital deceit and sexual combustion connecting a handful of Parisian friends, spouses and lovers.

Though to all appearances happily married parents, Vincent and Gabrielle (Attal and Gainsbourg) both harbor secret doubts about their monogamy. Despairing of the cynicism of his hen-pecked married co-worker George (Alain Chabat), and envious of the joie de vivre of his swinging single friend Fred (Alain Cohen), Vincent weighs the risks involved in both keeping himself satisfied and his marriage intact. Sensitive but independent Gabrielle, in turn, feels helpless over her partner’s increasing evasiveness and is drawn in to her own burgeoning fantasy life. But when she makes a surprising and powerful connection with a handsome stranger in a record store (“Yes… that’s Johnny Depp!” – Paul Sherman, Boston Herald), Gabrielle stops speculating about Vincent’s loyalty and begins to consider an affair of her own.

Happily Ever After‘s able cast features Emmanuelle Seigner (Bitter Moon) and memorable cameos by Anouk Aimée (A Man and a Woman) and director Claude Berri. Balancing realistic characters with bravura widescreen camerawork, and enlivened by a playful and smart pop soundtrack, Happily Ever After gives exuberant new life to the age old dilemmas surrounding love, marriage, and fidelity.

A sexually-charged film that is humorous, witty, slick and cool!

In 2004, actor Yvan Attal (“Rush Hour 3”, “Munich”, “The Interpreter”) had tremendous success with writing and directing his first film “Ma femme est une actrice” (2001, My Wife Is an Actress) and in 2004, he reunited with his real-life partner Charlotte Gainsbourg (“Antichrist”, “21 Grams”, “The Tree”) for his second film which he wrote and directed titled “Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants” (US Title: happily ever after) which would feature a cameo appearance by Johnny Depp and would star Sebastien Vidal, Chloe Combret, Alain Cohen, Caroline Gynning, Alain Chabat, Ben Attal and Emmanuelle Seigner.

The film revolves around a man named Vincent (played by Yvan Attal) and his wife Gabrielle (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg).  The two are very much in love, married but somewhere after having kids and starting a family, the relationship has never been the same.

So, the film showcases how Vincent and his two male friends view marriage.  Fred (played by Alain Cohen) is a bachelor who is near 50 and just loves having women available for sexual encounters, while Georges (played by Alain Chabat) is married to a beautiful blonde named Nathalie (played by Emmanuelle Seigner) and has a child.  But Georges is not enjoying his marriage as his wife is always screaming down his neck and he doesn’t know how to cope with it and wonders if his problems are because he went for a beautiful woman instead of other women that had a chance to be with at the time.

But as for Vincent, he looks like a man who is dedicated to his wife Gabrielle and his son.  He and his wife give passionate kisses, he is there to play with his son but the truth is, Vincent is also having an affair with another woman.  Meanwhile, his wife Gabrielle has a sense that Vincent is having an affair and she dreams of them being separated.

One day at a music store, while listening to Radiohead’s “Creep”, a man (played by Johnny Depp) listens to the music alongside with her and there appears to be a slight attraction between them and for the first time, Gabrielle finds herself being interested in the man.  Can this feeling mean that she’s wanting out of her marriage?

VIDEO:

“happily ever after” is presented in 2:35:1, letterboxed.  Unfortunately back in the early 2000’s, Kino Video wasn’t known for their picture quality for their releases.  Back then, even their trailers had burned in subtitles didn’t look good at all and so people did voice their dissatisfaction back then.  As for the film, picture quality is good but it does look a bit faded but it’s important to note that quality-wise, Kino Video has stepped things up since 2005 and hopefully they consider this film for Blu-ray release.  But as far this DVD goes, PQ is fine but not great.

AUDIO:

“happily ever after” is presented in Dolby Digital French with optional English subtitles.  Dialogue is clear as with the music but it’s pretty much a front and center channel driven soundtrack.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“happily ever after” comes with the following special features:

  • An interview with writer-director Yvan Attal – (11:57) Yvan Attal talks about how he got the idea for the film, how it’s like to work with his partner Charlotte Gainsbourg and how the concept of the film changed overtime.  Also, how he convinced Johnny Depp to have a cameo in the film and discussing the ending of the film as well as how Charlotte contributed to the film outside of acting.
  • deleted scene – Yvan Attal comments – (3:00) A deleted scene from the film that would have changed the film in someways.  A pivotal scene in which Yvan Attal explains why he cut it out. I’m glad he did.
  • trailer – (1:59) The original KINO theatrical trailer with burned-in subtitles.
  • stills gallery – Using your remote, you can cycle through various stills from the film.

For me, “happily ever after” was a purchase I made after I enjoyed Yvan Attal and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s performance in the film “My Wife is an Actress” but I have to admit that one of the biggest joys of watching this film was when I was on YouTube and searching for Radiohead’s “Creep” music video and I saw this video:

I just felt this video was just amazing and found out that it was from a scene from “happily ever after” and definitely inspired me to watch the film.

And I have to say that I enjoyed “happily ever after” and it’s probably more in the context of being married and talking with other married men and questioning marriage of “does this happen to you?” and changes that happen in marriage, especially after children and those who have more than one children.

And decisions that people make and what Yvan Attal was able to write is what he saw happening in life around him. The concept of “Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants” came to him when he was taking his son to school and noticing that many of the parents were single. “happily ever after” dissects the modern marriage, those who want the fairytale of happily ever after and those who don’t understand what “happily ever after” is.

Going even deeper, the film in some ways explores the male perspective of marriage. Running a household, keeping your partner happy but also examining one’s own weakness of being happy through sexual gratification or an emotional disconnect between husband and wife after one has children. I hear this all the time from friends and the fact is that many people feel that way. Some are able to accept life as is, while others can’t and they look for that gratification elsewhere.

But where I feel Attal was very smart is by showing the female perspective through Gabrielle. Knowing that she loves her husband and family but also sensing that her husband is probably out with another woman and that is why he is hardly home and wanting to be with his friends. It tears her apart because she wants to keep the marriage strong. But when she goes to the music store, is touched by the lyrics of “Creep” by Radiohead and sees another man, she feels this attraction which she can’t explain.

“happily ever after” is an enjoyable film, humorous, witty and a film that makes you laugh and smile. But at the same time, the film’s title is not meant to re-enforce the concept of marriage. The film is to show that for many couples, it doesn’t matter if you are in France, USA, UK, etc., in today’s society, “happily ever after”…the fairy tale of a long and happy marriage with the person you love is disintegrating. These are what the men are thinking in this film. In fact, there is a fourth couple which features a husband and wife that truly love each other and for the character Georges, he doesn’t understand how anyone can be happy in a marriage.

Meanwhile, Vince is a man who wants to have the fairy tale marriage that is “happily ever after” but at the same time, he finds himself wanting to have fun with another woman and tries to see if he can have both but doesn’t know how this is emotionally hurting both women who love him.

But if there is one scene that did catch my attention and it was one of the smartest scenes without any dialogue and doesn’t feature the main characters is a scene that features an older couple eating dinner and throughout the dinner, not one word is said. It’s a powerful scene which I’m sure many couples can relate to.

As for the DVD, as mentioned, older KINO video DVD’s were not known for its quality but I hold hope that this wonderful film will receive HD treatment and will be considered for Blu-ray. I would love to see this film in HD.

Overall, “happily ever after” is a fantastic film featuring strong performances from Yvan Attal and Charlotte Gainsbourg and the other talent in this film. The writing and cinematography (especially the music) are well-done. And I know the film goes against the trend of a romantic comedy and deals with the concept of marriage and the difficulties, but not every romance ends in a fairy tale, nor does every couple live happily ever after.

Definitely a film worth recommending! As for the DVD, not the greatest but let’s hope the new KINO considers this film on Blu-ray.


Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A film from 1951 that stands out for its magical storyline but also for its wonderful performance by Ava Gardner and James Mason.  A surprising release on Blu-ray and a significant improvement compared to the original DVD release from KINO.  Definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Kino International Corp. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

FILM RELEASE: 1951

DURATION: 123 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1920x1080p)

COMPANY: Kino International

RATED: N/A

Release Date: August 3, 2010

Written and Directed by Albert Lewin

Produced by Joe Kaufmann, Albert Lewin, John Woolf

Music by Alan Rawsthorne

Cinematograpy by Jack Cardiff

Edited by Ralph Kemplen

Production Design by John Bryan

Costume Design by Beatrice Dawson

Starring:

James Mason as Hendrik van der Zee

Ava Gardner as Pandora Reynolds

Nigel Patrick as Stephen Cameron

Sheila Sim as Janet

Harold Warrender as Geoffrey Fielding

Mario Cabre as Juan Montalvo

Marius Goring as Reggie Demarest

In this timeless romantic fantasy from director Albert Lewin, Ava Gardner stars as a nightclub singer vacationing in Spain, with whom all men fall hopelessly in love. But Pandora, never having known true love, is indifferent to her suitors’ affections. Until, one evening, she swims out to a mysterious yacht and meets its captain (James Mason). Mastered in HD from the 35mm negative of the 2009 restoration, this Kino edition preserves Jack Cardiff’s (The Red Shoes) vivid Technicolor cinematography with breathtaking clarity.

Ava Gardner is absolute ravishing as the character of Pandora, the object of men’s desires and a woman who is searching for the meaning of her own life, until she meets a man named Hendrik, a man who may be the answer that she has been looking for.

To describe the 1951 film “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” may be a little difficult.  It’s definitely a dramatic film, a love story but with a twist of fantasy mixed into it.   The film was definitely uncharacteristic for a film released during its time.  But by saying that, I don’t want to dismiss this film as fantasy kitsch, nor do I want to portray Ava Gardner as the ultimate sex kitten and that is why this film should be watched.  “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” is much more than that.  It’s a magical film in which characters encounter fate, destiny, tragedy and focuses on a unique love shared by two individuals.

“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” is written and directed by Albert Lewin (“The Picture of Dorian Gray”, “Saadia”, “The Living Idol”) and stars James Mason (“Heaven Can Wait”, “Lolita”, “A Star is Born”, “Georgy Girl”, “The Verdict”), Ava Gardner (“Mogambo”, “The Night of the Iguana”, “On the Beach”), Nigel Patrick (“The League of Gentleman”, “Raintree Country”, “Breaking the Sound Barrier”) and Harold Warrender (“Ivanhoe”, “Conspirator”, “Time Bomb”).

The film takes place in the 1930’s and fisherman have found two dead in the sea off Spain.  Quickly, Geoffrey Fielding (played by Harold Warrender), his niece Janet (played by Sheila Sim) and Stephen Cameron (played by Nigel Patrick) check to see the two bodies and they confirm that both dead are people they knew.  Geoffrey finds a book that was found alongside the bodies.

When Geoffrey returns back home, he tells us the story of “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman”.

Pandora Reynolds (played by Ava Gardner) is a beautiful woman that many have wanted to be with, to marry but for Pandora, despite her beauty and a woman who looks as if she has everything, the fact is that she is unhappy.  She is unable to love anyone but herself and she is known for making demands on men to show their love for her.  One man who wants to marry her gets a rejection by Pandora and immediately, he kills himself.

But Pandora doesn’t feel any sadness at all.  That is until she meets Stephen, a professional racer who has loved her and she asks, would he sacrifice his own race car to prove and show his love for her.  Stephen shows that he would push his car over the cliff and into the ocean if Pandora would marry him and she agrees.  When Stephen does what she says, she is bound by her promise to marry him but not immediately.  She will marry him on September 3rd which is more than a month away.

Their friend and anthropologist Geoffrey comes to pick them up and while driving, Pandora feels a connection to a ship in the sea.   As the three stop around the area of the beach, Pandora for some reason takes off all her clothes and starts swimming to the ship.

When she goes to check inside, she meets the stoic Dutch captain named Hendrick van der Zee (played by James Mason).  Hendrick is different than most men, that he is not taken to her immediately like most men.  Instead of looking at her, he is more interested in his painting.  When Pandora sees the painting, she is shocked… it is a painting that looks exactly like her.  Hendrick tells her that the painting is of a woman named Pandora.  As the two talk, she finds herself interested, curious and possibly attracted to the stranger.  And while both Stephen and Jeffrey come to pick her up on a boat, she asks Hendrick to join them for dinner the following day.

We then learn that Hendrick is very familiar with antiques, even moreso than Geoffrey.  And because he is Dutch, Geoffrey hopes that he can translate a story about the Flying Dutchman to English.  Hendrick is hesitant to see the book but then reads it.  He tells the story about the accursed Flying Dutchman, a man from the 16th century who killed a woman named Pandora, a woman he had loved and was to join her in death but was unable to.  He is punished but when he is sent to prison, the prison door is open, the guards are all asleep and he escapes back to his ship with his crewmates.

The Flying Dutchman contemplates killing himself but can’t.  Perhaps all that has happened was a dream and when he awakes, he will realize it was all a dream.  So, the Flying Dutchman sleeps and then awakens to find out that the knife he he had dropped earlier is on the ground and to his shock and awe, there is no crew on his ship.  Everything is being done on its own.

We then learn that that Flying Dutchman is condemned to sail the seas for eternity and he must find a woman who loves him enough to die for him.  As every seven years, he is allowed to go on shore for six months to find the woman who will fall in love with him and die with him.

Geoffrey is shocked because Hendrick has since stood up and is reading the book as if he has memorized every line, every word perfectly and Geoffrey realizes that Hendrick is in fact the Flying Dutchman and he has been alive for centuries.  And not only has he come back, for the first time in his centuries of being alive, he has found Pandora once again.

But with Pandora planning to get married, will Pandora fall in love with him and die with him or will Hendrick’s guilt prevent him from getting close to Pandora?

VIDEO:

“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” is presented in 1080p (1920 x 1080p).  It’s important to note that this film is 60-years-old and prior to watching this Blu-ray release, I have had the movie on DVD from KINO courtesy of their “Glamour Girls” DVD box set.

The original picture quality of this film was very dark and even murky, showing its age.  The Blu-ray release is a major step forward in the restoration of this film.  The 2009 Technicolor restoration not only shows us how the film was meant to be seen, but no longer are the scenes that were too dark an issue.  You can actually see the detail indoors. May it be the detail of the wood or the tiles, the skin uplclose to even seeing outdoor details, especially during a scene with Stephen and Pandora riding in the race car.  Before, the scene was so dark that you couldn’t see much detail but now on Blu-ray, you can see the detail on the road, where the car is driving to and for the indoor scenes, you can see everything quite nicely.

May it be detail of the home, the vehicles or the clothing, the detail can be seen in HD quite nicely.

With that being said, the film is not perfect.   You will see color fluctuations at times and slight flicker.   You can see normal skin tones star to turn greenish and back (for a very short while).  Also, where many niche companies tend to want to remove and limit any dust or scratches that can be seen on the Blu-ray, you can see them clearly in HD.

But by no means do I expect a smaller company like KINO to spend over a million dollars or more for restoration like the major film companies have done with their timeless classics.  If anything, what KINO managed to do in bringing this classic to Blu-ray and showing us how much better it looks from its DVD counterpart is quite amazing and  if you loved the film, you’re going to love it on Blu-ray.  This is probably the best this film will ever look in a video release.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” is presented in an uncompressed Linear PCM 2.0.  Dialogue is clear and understandable and through the restoration feature on the special features, you can see how the restoration of the film really brought out the audio for the film.  From the dialogue to the music of Alan Rawsthorne, audio-wise, the film sounds good for a 60-year-old film.

There is one caveat and that is there is no subtitles.  There is some dialogue spoken in a foreign language and I wish those were subtitled but I guess it was non-essential as the subtitles were not part of the original part of the film but for those who are not able to hear, the lack of subtitles is actually disappointing as English subtitles are typically a standard in any release.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” comes with the following special features:

  • Alternate Opening Titles– (2:28) Prints for the UK market varied slightly from the American release.  Instead of the prologue about the Flying Dutchman, the UK version featured a quote by Omar Khayyam.
  • “El Torero de Cordoba” – (17:28) – A 1947 documentary about the career of Manuel Rodriguez Manolege, the Spanish bullfighter who was the inspiration for the character Montalvo.  Presented with burned-in English subtitles.
  • Comparison of Restoration – (5:49) A featurette that shows how much the 2009 Kino restoration looks versus its original 35mm (unrestored) Technicolor print.
  • Theatrical Trailers – Featuring the US Release trailer, US Release (abridged and B&W) trailer and the UK 2010 re-release trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” comes with a slipcase.

“Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” was a film that I never expected to be released on Blu-ray from KINO.  As there are so many other films in the company’s catalog that can easily be considered for release on HD.  But I’m happy we did get a release because this film is quite magical and definitely unique when compared to many films released at its time.

Ava Gardner is just beautiful and ravishing in her her role as Pandora Reynolds and even in reality, the actress was the object of desire for many of Hollywood’s top actors as she was married and had relationships with Mickey Rooney, Howard Hughes, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.

While Gardner brought the beauty and believability to the character of Pandora, James Mason was very convincing as the Flying Dutchman, Hendrick van der Zee.  A professional performance that you would expect from a well-revered thespian, even a Shakespearean actor, Mason does a fantastic job in his role.

But the biggest surprise was the story.  I was expected some type of vampish movie of men just going crazy over a woman that they can’t have which was quite cliche during that time and in cinema decades earlier.  But what I didn’t expect is the twist of Hendrick as being the actual Flying Dutchman and is an accursed man who wants to finally die in peace but needs a woman willing to die for him.  As macabre as it may sound, the way the film was written and how Pandora is always searching a meaning to her life and finds a connection with Hendrick made this love story about fate and destiny and overall, a story that I truly enjoyed.

So, I’m grateful to see such a film being released on Blu-ray as it truly is a film that stands out compared to other early ’50s films.  And I hope KINO continues with releasing more classics on Blu-ray!

Overall, “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” is a film worth watching and for those who owned it on DVD previously, this Blu-ray version is a significant improvement in picture quality and audio quality that you will definitely want this release.  No more darkness, no more murkiness, not to say that this Blu-ray release is perfect but it is the definitive version to own of the film at this time.  Definitely recommended!

Long Pants (as part of “Harry Langdon…the forgotten clown”) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A fun, dark and crazy comedy collaboration between filmmaker Frank Capra and Harry Langdon!  “Long Pants” is one of the three films included in “Harry Langdon…the forgotten clown”.  All three films are considered as Langdon’s best and this DVD is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 1927 First National Pictures, Inc.  renewed. 1955 Warner Brothers, Inc. Music.  2000 Kino International Corp. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Long Pants (as part of “Harry Langdon…the forgotten clown”)

YEAR OF FILM: 1927

DURATION: 58 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color Tinted

RATED: Not Rated

COMPANY: Milestone Film & Video/Image Entertainment

Released Dated: 1999

Directed by Frank Capra

Adaptation by Robert Eddy

Written by Tay Garnett

Story by Arthur Ripley

Executive Producer: Harry Langdon

Cinematography: Glenn Kershner, Elgin Lessley

Edited by Harry Langdon

Music by Donald Sosin

Starring:

Harry Langdon as Harry Shelby

Gladys Brockwell as his Mother

Alan Rosce as his Father

Priscilla Bonner as his Bride

Alma Bennett as his Downfall

Bety Francisco as his Finish

The era of slapstick comedy produced a legacy of imaginative and inventive films, though none, however, are quite as peculiar as Long Pants, Frank Capra and Harry Langdon’s fable of a growing boy’s clumsy entry into adulthood. An awkward manchild of stunted maturity unlike any character since — with the possible exception of Pee-Wee Herman — Langdon’s protagonists repeatedly dramatize the hilarious collision of boyhood innocence with the accelerated pace and perilous temptations of the Modern Age.

When a sheepish young man yearning for romance is given his first pair of grown-up trousers, he springs into adulthood and is immediately smitten by the wrong woman, a hard-boiled drug-smuggler (Alma Bennett). When the “snow” queen is jailed, Harry abandons his more sincere small-town sweetheart — after a feeble attempt to murder her — and comes to the brazen woman’s rescue. Thus ensues one of filmdom’s most side-splitting flights from justice, as Harry ushers his fugitive moll (who is nailed inside an enormous wooden crate) through a series of riotous scrapes with the police, an alligator, and a bevy of pitfalls thrown in the path of the idealist by the fast-paced modern world.

Frank Capra and Harry Langdon, the filmmaker and the star who would have an impressive collaboration with films such as “The Strong Man” and “Long Pants”.    But unfortunately, their collaboration never lasted all that long and both parted ways, Capra became a multi-award winning filmmaker and Langdon has been called “the forgotten clown”.

Where Charley Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd are known for their comedic films, many believe that Harry Langdon should be mention in the same breath as the big three silent film comedy stars.

The discussion of where Harry Langdon should be revered or whether his career was anything without Frank Capra will always be debated but the truth is that there are many films of Harry Langdon that people have not seen and within the last decade, there have been a few DVD’s showcasing Langdon’s films.

In 2000, Kino Video has released three of Langdon’s popular silent comedy films  “The Strong Man”, “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” and “Long Pants” on one DVD titled “Harry Langdon…the forgotten clown”.

In the 1927 film “Long Pants” directed by Frank Capra (their second and last collaboration), Harry Langdon shows off his vaudeville and knack for physical comedy as the character Harry Shelby.

Harry is a young man who has been kept on knee pants by his strict mother.  His mother sees it as a way to keep him out of trouble but for Harry, all he does is stay home, read books and one days dreams of dating and being with a woman.

On his birthday, his father feels its time that Harry wears pants and sure enough, Harry is happy.

Now he can go out and have some fun and when he goes out of the house, he sees a car that just had flat.  The car belongs to a beautiful thief named Bebe Blair (played by Alma Bennett).  Bebe’s boyfriend and partner in crime is away and Bebe misses him.  She receives a letter that he will one day marry her and she is so happy.

Meanwhile, Harry sees the beautiful woman and falls for her immediately.  He tries to impress her by riding his bike and doing tricks around her.  And the flirtatious Bebe decides to kiss him a few times.  Immediately, Bebe feels that he is in love, but when his mother starts yelling for him, Harry must leave her.

When Harry goes back to the location, he finds the letter from Bebe’s boyfriend written to her, but the gullible Harry thinks that the letter is written to him by Bebe and now Harry thinks he will be getting married and tells his parents about it.

But his parents think that Harry means that he is going to marry his good friend Priscilla (played by Priscilla Bonner) and now his parents are happy.

Fast forward and its the day of Harry’s wedding with Priscilla.  Harry’s a bit bummed that his beloved Bebe has never showed up and that he maybe marrying a woman that he’s not in love with.  But things change rather quickly when Harry’s father brings in newspaper which shows Bebe having been locked up and that Bebe claims innocence.  And now, Harry wants to save Bebe and find a way to help her escape from jail.

VIDEO:

“Long Pants” is presented in 1:33:1 and color-tinted.  For a film that is 83-years-old, I’m quite surprised of how clean the print is (compared to many films that I have seen of this age which exhibit major blurring or nitrate warping).  The film does of course has its share of dust and scratches and has a few missing frames but for the most part, “Long Pants” looks very good for its age.

AUDIO & INTERTITLES:

“Long Pants” features music by well-known silent film pianist Donald Sosin.   There are a few intertitles throughout the film but the storyline is self-explanatory.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features included in the “Harry Langdon…the forgotten clown” DVD.

Recently, I started to have interest in Harry Langdon.  There are so many things I have read in support or against this comedian but I figured that I have watched a good number of silent comedians especially films featuring Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd, why not give a chance to Langdon, Chase and Griffith.

So, the first film that I watched starring Langdon was “Long Pants” and for me, it was a pretty cool experience to catch a Langdon film but also a film that would feature an early work of filmmaker Frank Capra (“Long Pants” was his third film).

“Long Pants” is a film that no doubt shows the comedic genius of Langdon and in some ways, he is able to show viewers his physical comedy but unlike Chaplin, you kind of have to laugh because Langdon as many viewers have called his facial features as cherubic or a baby-face.  Definitely a feature that stands out compared to other silent comedy greats and I can see why some people have called Harry Langdon an early predecessor of Pee-wee Herman.

“Long Pants” is an interesting film as we see the comedian trying to flirt and winover the beautiful Bebe Blair.  But as much as this is a silent comedy, it is also a dark comedy.  As Harry is to marry his friend Priscilla, on his wedding day, he is thinking of a variety of ways to kill her.  He even goes out and tries to take her out to the woods and is coming up with ways to shoot at her.  Granted, these scenes are more of Langdon showing off his physical comedy which was well-done and also hilarious to watch, but yet, I have to admit that I had a hard time rooting for Harry as Priscilla is a loving and kind girlfriend.

Granted, like most silent films featuring a guy seduced by a vamp, Harry does a good job of playing the man who will do what he can for his new love and that is by helping her escape.   Also, the film features good performances by actress Gladys Brockwell (who plays Harry’s mother) and also Alma Bennett who plays Bebe Blair.

“Long Pants” is a very enjoyable silent comedy and for the most part, a wonderful collaboration between Frank Capra and Harry Langdon.  I did feel there was one scene that was incredibly long and should have been shortened.  In this scene, Harry thinks that a cop is sitting on a crate (where Bebe is hiding inside of) but instead of several minutes of physical comedy, this scene goes on for nearly ten minutes.  This is probably the only scene where I felt a bit nitpicky that the physical comedy could have been shortened but I assume that the goal was trying to get this film near 60 minutes and thus they had to draw out this scene longer than it should have been.

But overall, “Long Pants” was an entertaining silent comedy and I look forward to watching the remaining two films “The Strong Man” and “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” on this DVD.

NOTE: The rating below is for the film and not the complete DVD.

A Fool There Was (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

July 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“A Fool There Was” is a film that showcased one of America’s earliest and popular sex symbol Theda Bara, a film which would feature the first female “vampire” and a successful film that gave William Fox the opportunity to create the Fox Film Corporation.  If you are a silent film fan, because of the rarity of Theda Bara films, this 1915 silent film is definitely recommended to have in your silent film collection but if you are a casual silent film fan, “A Fool There Was” is an average silent film at best.

Images courtesy of © 2002 Kino Video. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: A Fool There Was

YEAR OF FILM: 1915

DURATION: 67 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color Tinted

RATED: Not Rated

COMPANY: Kino Video

Released Dated: 2002

Based on the poem “The Vampire” by Rudyard Kipling

Based on the Play by Porter Emerson Browne

Directed by Frank Powell

Scenario by Frank Powell

Produced by William Fox

Costume Design by George “Neje” Hopkins

Starring:

Theda Bara as The Vampire (Vamp)

Edward Jose as John Schuler, the Husband (The Fool)

Runa Hodges and The Child

Mabel Frenyear as Kate Schuyler (Fool’s Wife)

Clifford Bruce as Tom (The Friend)

May Allison as The Wife’s Sister

Victor Benoit as Reginal Parmalee (Victim)

Frank Powell as The Doctor

Minna Gale as The Doctor’s Fiancee

Widely regarded as the screen’s first true sex symbol — a leading actress whose charm was built not upon quaint innocence but carnal desire — Theda Bara revolutionized the adolescent art of cinematic sensuality. One of the very few Bara films that exist today, A Fool There Was catapulted the actress to stardom in 1915 and introduced the term “vamp” (both as a noun and as a verb) to the American pop culture vocabulary.

Bara plays the “Vampire,” a cunning woman who uses her irresistible charms to seduce and abandon a series of influential men. When one lover commits suicide on the deck of a luxury liner, she merely turns her gaze to another passenger, John Schuyler (Edward José), and leads him down a path to moral degradation and public scorn. Schuyler’s wife (Mabel Frenyear) never gives up hope for her husband’s redemption but has severely underestimated the hypnotic power the Vampire has upon her victims.

One of the most remarkable aspects of A Fool There Was is its uncompromising ending. Rather than offering a syrupy resolution of eleventh-hour moral enlightenment, the film allows its characters to follow their downward trajectories toward less edifying fates.

Theda Bara, the first onscreen sex symbol and the woman who defined the word “Vamp” in early cinema.

“A Fool There Was”, the 1915 silent film launched Theda Bara’s career and made enough money for William Fox to create the Fox Film Corporation and a film that would popularize the slang term “vamp” as a sexually driven female predator who preys on a man.

“A Fool There Was” is a film that is based on a play by Porter Emerson Brown, in which the play was based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem titled “The Vampire”.  The poem was read to the audience before the screening and the intertitles are literally Kipling’s poem.  Because the film pays tribute to the poem, the main character played by Theda Bara is known as “The Vampire” and thus the film is cited as the first female “Vampire” movie.

Needless to say, with Theda Bara’s role as “The Vampire” captured the viewer’s attention, many started to pay attention to her name as rumors ran rampant that the Theda’s name was a play on the word “death” and her last name is “Arab” backwards (the truth is that “Theda” is short for Theodosia and Bara is a shortened name for a relative’s family name “Barranger”).  But Bara would use the popularity of the film and the rumors to further stoke the mysterious side of her as her earlier photos would feature the sexy actress taking photos with a skeleton.

Unfortunately, because FOX lost nearly 90% of their silent films due to a nitrate fire, many of Theda Bara’s films are lost but fortunately KINO VIDEO released “A Fool There Was” on DVD and giving silent film fans a chance to see Hollywood’s first sex symbols in camera.

“A Fool There Was” is a film about a woman (played by Theda Bara) who uses wealthy men and manipulates them to get what she wants and literally sucks them dry (hence the name “The Vampire”).  Having corrupted many men and leaving them with nothing or using them until she feels the need to move on to her next prey, she targets Wall Street lawyer John Schuyler (played by Edward Jose).

Schuyler has everything going for him.  A good family, a loving wife and daughter, a great job and home and he was recently appointed by the President of the United States as a special envoy to settle claims with Great Britain.

Although with a wealthy man, the Vampire has decided that she needs a new prey and leaves her current man to go after a more wealthy man in power.

While Schuyler is unable to bring his family along with him, he takes off on the big ship “the Gigantic” and from that moment, The Vampire has her sights targeted on her prey and sure enough, using her sexual charm, she captures his attention.

Fast forward two months later and the two are now a couple.  Schuyler’s family does not know the true reason why he hasn’t return back home but when family friends visiting Italy spot Schuyler together with the Vamp, they realize that the man that many looked up to is having an affair.  To make things worse, the paparazzi has reported the affair in a newspaper and Mrs. Schuyler learns for her friends that the newspaper gossip was true.

While Mrs. Schuyler and a family friend do what they can to get close to Schuyler and bring him home, we start to see the change in the lawyer as the man that was full of energy has changed to a man whose hair has turned white, has been ostracized by his friends and his colleagues, lost his job, turned him to an alcoholic and for the most part, the Vampire is succeeding in sucking him dry.

But Mrs. Schuyler and a family friend are determined in saving Mr. Schuyler…but will it be too late?

VIDEO:

“A Fool There Was” is color tinted and presented in 1:33:1.  Amazingly, for a 95-year-old film, “A Fool There Was” looks very good on DVD.  I was expecting some major damage to the original negative but interestingly, aside from occasional scratches and dust, the film looks very good for its age.  Granted, it’s not super clear with a high amount of detail but compared to many other silents I have seen, the fact that there is no major nitrate warping or degradation.

AUDIO & INTERTITLES:

“A Fool There Was” features a piano score by Phil Carli which is a very well-done score that was appropriate for this silent film.

Intertitles were easy to read (Note: These were not the original intertitles from 1915 but utilizing a much easier to read intertitles which were probably based on the original version with the dust and scratches added afterward).  It is important to note that the intertitles are from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Vampire” and there are no dialogue-based intertitles.  So, one will not be reading as much throughout this film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“A Fool There Was” comes with the following special features:

  • Complete Text of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Vampire” – The complete text presentation of Kipling’s “The Vampire” which the film is based on and read before the film was screened.
  • Excerpt from Terry Ramsaye’s “A Million and One Nights” – An excerpt of the popularity of Theda Bara and how she was hired as the lead actress for the film and the popularity that ensued right after and what people thought her name was about.
  • 1915 Review – A review for “A Fool There Was”.
  • Photo Gallery – Featuring a few of the surviving photos of actress Theda Bara.

EXTRAS:

An insert with the chapter listings and a Fox Film Corporation image (on the insert) of Theda Bara lying with a skeleton is included.

When “A Fool There Was” was screened in theaters, people were read the original poetry of “The Vampire” and knew immediately that if the film followed the poem closely, one was prepared for a film that may not have a happy ending.

The film was straight-forward to tell a story of a vamp and how she has hurt many men in the process by leaving them, taking their money and in some cases, leading these men to self-destruction.  This is a woman who is literally amoral and all she cares about is dominating the man, getting her way with him, having him do what she says and even if it destroy his career or his life (making them an alcoholic), she could care less.  If she gets bored, she can move on to another man (leaving them in a bad state) and destroy the next man she comes in contact with.

Because this is during the time when filmmakers were trying to find ways to tell a feature-length story, you’re going to have some unusual pacing issues.  But for “A Fool There Was”, the pacing wasn’t bad at all.  If anything, what I found quite interesting is how they utilized Schuyler’s young daughter as a way to make the film lighthearted (during her scenes) and happy, while the storyline is literally about a vamp destroying the man.

The storytelling is quite simplistic and were common for silent films during this period in time but the story is easy to follow and understand.  But with that beings said, you’re not going to see how far the vamp goes to seduce a man, there are no sexual scenes aside from a couple kissing and there is no “Fatal Attraction” style of storyline where you will see Mrs. Schuyler doing all she can to save her marriage away from the Vampire. Granted, that would have made a fantastic storyline but if anything, what viewers get is a direct adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Vampire” for a feature length silent film.

But “A Fool There Was” is an important film for silent film fans.  From what it did for Theda Bara and William Fox’s career but the fact that there are not many Theda Bara films that have survived, this 1915 film is probably one of the earliest full-length silent films that looks good on DVD and its contribution to American pop culture by popularizing the slang word “Vamp” for that era and the film is the first depiction of a female vampire in film.

The DVD from Kino Video is worth it if you are a hardcore silent film fan but storywise, it’s not the greatest nor is it the worst.  It’s just an average film at best.  The fact that this surviving Theda Bara film looks good on DVD and we are provided with a few text-based special features is a plus.  Personally, the fact that there aren’t many Theda Bara films available, I’m just happy that Kino Video did release this on DVD for silent film fans and we can say that we have a Theda Bara film in our silent film collection.

Overall, “A Fool There Was” is a film that showcased one of America’s earliest and popular sex symbol Theda Bara, a film which would feature the first female “vampire” and a successful film that gave William Fox the opportunity to create the Fox Film Corporation.  If you are a silent film fan, because of the rarity of Theda Bara films, this 1915 silent film is definitely recommended to have in your silent film collection but if you are a casual silent film fan, “A Fool There Was” is an average silent film at best.

PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN Available for pre-order! from KINO

July 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

In this timeless romantic fantasy from director Albert Lewin, Ava Gardner stars as a nightclub singer vacationing in Spain, with whom all men fall hopelessly in love. But Pandora, never having known true love, is indifferent to her suitors’ affections. Until, one evening, she swims out to a mysterious yacht and meets its captain (James Mason). Mastered in HD from the 35mm negative of the 2009 restoration, this Kino edition preserves Jack Cardiff’s (The Red Shoes) vivid Technicolor cinematography with breathtaking clarity.

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (restoration comparisons)

La Ronde (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A sexually charged film from director Roger Vadim featuring an all-star cast but as the film has its share of enjoyable, fun and racy moments, it also has its share of boorish moments as well.  But fortunately talents such as Anna Karina, Jane Fonda and Jean-Claude Brialy help make this film much more enjoyable.

Images courtesy of © 2005 Kino International Corp. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: La Ronde

DURATION: 110 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Letterboxed (2:35:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 TV’s, Color, French with optional English subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Video

Released Dated: 2005

Directed by Roger Vadim

Written by Arthur Schnitzler (play) and adaptation by Jean Anouilh

Produced by Raymond Hakim and Robert Hakim

Music by Michel Magne

Cinematography by Henri Decae

Edited by Victoria Mercanton

Production Design by Francis de Lamothe

Costume Design by Marc Doelnitz

Starring:

Jean-Claude Brialy as Alfred

Francine Berge as Maximilienne de Poussy

Marie Dubois as La Fille

Jane Fonda as Sophie

Claude Giraud as Georges

Anna Karina as Rose

Bernard Noel as L’Auteur

Maurice Ronet as Henri

Jean Sorel as Le Comte

Catherine Spaak as La midinette

Denise Benoit as Yvette Guilbert

Adapted by Tony winning playwright Jean Anouilh (Becket), Roger Vadim’s La Ronde deftly transplants Arthur Schnitzler’s famous amorous cycle from 19th Century Vienna to a lavishly re-created widescreen Art Nouveau Paris. Vadim’s cast includes Jean Luc Godard muse Anna Karina and The Phantom of Liberty’s Jean Claude Brialy. But for the central role of Sophie, the man who shepherded Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve to the screen (and the altar) set his sites on an American starlet — 27 year old Jane Fonda. Leery of Vadim’s Svengali reputation, but impressed with Anouilh’s literate script, Fonda agreed to appear in La Ronde. Before shooting even began, director and star became lovers and when the romantic film went before the cameras, life and art intermingled freely. “I discovered,” Fonda later recalled of the shoot, “tremendous sexual excitement in having (Vadim) place me in positions he wanted.”

Fonda and Vadim’s auspicious pre-Barbarella collaboration yielded a charming, smart and decorous sex farce. From a delightful credit sequence by Bond film title artist Maurice Binder to the bed-hopping close of the romantic roundelay, La Ronde is as sweet as it is erotic. But re-titled (as Circle of Love), dubbed into English, and advertised with a Times Square billboard of Fonda reclining in the nude, American critics of the time failed to judge La Ronde on its own merits. Now, newly subtitled and returned to its original “insouciant, elegant, witty” (Variety) widescreen glory, Kino presents Roger Vadim’s La Ronde for the first time on in the US on DVD.

Often when it comes to remakes, one tends to compare the original even if the remake is much different.  For example, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) is much different from the 1971 version of “Wilie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” as is “Alice and Wonderland” (2010) compared to the Disney 1951 animated film and the original Lewis Carrol novel.

So, the question is how to approach a remake of “La Ronde”, a 1964 film that is a similar but much different from the Max Ophüls 1950 film.  Afterall, many film critics at the time recognized the directorial talents of Ophüls and although not everything he touched was gold, films such as “Lola Montes” (1955), “Madame de…” (1953), “Le Plaisir” (1952) and “La Ronde” (1950) received favorable review of the critics.

Meanwhile, director Roger Vadim was beginning to become known more for his sexual conquests than his work as a French journalist, author, screenwriter and actor.  Married to Brigitte Bardot, relationship and had a child with Catherine Deneuve and in 1964, cast the beautiful Jane Fonda who would then quickly become his lover and eventually his wife (and the two would go on to work on their most popular film together “Barbarella”).

I enjoyed the original Max Ophüls film but since I’m not a reviewer of the era nor am I the type to say that I enjoyed every Ophüls film, it’s easier for me to step back and look at this film subjectively for what it is and not compare it to the original.

If anything, my interest in the film is seeing Jane Fonda in another French film, to see Anna Karina in a different role much different from her roles directed by then-husband Jean-Luc Godard and to see how all the talent in this film such as Jean-Claude Brialy, Catherine Spaak, Francine Berge, Maurice Ronet, Claude Giraud, Marie Dubois, Bernard Noel, Kean Sorel and Francoise Dorleac would eventually fit into this sexually inspired film.

The film which was known as “Circle of Love” when released in the US was not really appreciated by the critics but in 1966 the film did receive a Golden Globe nomination for “Best Foreign Film”.

“La Ronde” is a film about sexual exploits and adultery told in short story (or episodic) format.   The film would start off with an individual literally hooking up with a partner, the next story would then feature the partner as we see their sexual exploits with another, and then the episode features on the person they were with and eventually the film would come full circle as one of the characters hooks up with the first main character of the film.

“La Ronde” takes place in France during it’s early teens and begins with a prostitute, La fille (played by Marie Dubois).  The woman is waiting for a soldier who she knows his name as Georges.  She then runs into another guy named Georges (played by Claude Giraud), a French soldier but also a playboy.  Upon meeting, it doesn’t take too long for the two to go find an abandoned place to have sex.

Of course, Georges wants no emotional connection and leaves La fille because he knows he must get back to his base.  The second story begins with Georges going to a dance and using his playboy ways to flirt with one of the women there.  But when the woman’s friend Rose (played by Anna Karina) shows up, immediately George sets his conquest on the innocent Rose.

And once again, it doesn’t take long for Georges to get what he wants as he immediately has sex with Rose.  As Rose is hoping to have this emotional connection with Georges, after having sexing with her, he shows no interest and immediately leaves Rose to go and try to get closer to her friend.

This begins a new storyline focusing on Rose as she is a maid for a professor.  She has her eyes set on her boss’s son Alfred (played by Jean-Claude Brialy) who is sexually attracted to her.  As Rose wants a man to have an emotional connection with, Alfred seems like a good man but once Alfred manages to have sex with her, similar to Georges, he wants no relationship and tells her that it is best if the two kept their sexual encounter a secret.

This then opens a new storyline for Alfred who is having an affair with a married woman named Sophie (played by Jane Fonda).  Sophie has come to his home to tell him that she wants to end her relationship because she is married and she has a child.  But Alfred is quick to use his skills with women and eventually gets Sophie in bed and both have sex.

This begins a new storyline focusing on Sophie who is married to Henri (played by Maurice Ronet).  We get to see how Henri is so conservative and treats Sophie like a housewife and shows no sexual passion towards her because he respects her as a woman/wife.  Sophie tries to get him to talk about his naughty past experiences with women.  And this opens up a new storyline featuring Henri which shows him anything but conservative but having sexual relations with a young woman named La Midinette (played by Catherine Spaak).

The film continues to show us more characters as they engage in sexual activity with other partners and then coming full circle as the final character encounters the first character introduced in the film.

VIDEO:

“La Ronde” is featured in letterboxed (2:35:1) and is enhanced for 16×9 TV’s.  For the most part, the film looks good for a 46-year-old film.  By saying that, it is important to note that the film is not perfect.  You see dust, scratches and negative damage a few times throughout the film.  By no means does it hamper your viewing experience nor is it seen many times throughout the film.  But the film does have its share of some dirt, speckles and negative warping.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“La Ronde” is presented in French with optional English subtitles.  Dialogue is understandable and didn’t know any significant pops, clicks or any audio problems.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“La Ronde” comes with the following special features:

  • “And Vadim Created the Woman” – (7:42) An interview with director Roger Vadim and actress Jane Fonda from 1966.
  • Roger Vadim Filmography – Just a basic screen with a list of selected Roger Vadim films.
  • Stills Gallery – Using your remote, viewers can cycle through still photos from “La Ronde”.

“La Ronde” is a film that aims at beauty and mischief.  For one thing, the sexual theme of each of the stories presented in the film is similar to other films such “Paris J’etaime” and “Heroes in Love” where each story is going to be subjective to the viewer.

For one, I enjoyed the the first five segments.  For any Jean-Luc Godard fan, to see Anna Karina in a more sexual role than other films I have seen of her from the ’60s, so that was quite intriguing as well as seeing Jean-Claude Brialy’s character romancing Karina’s Rose, a different situation several years earlier when the two were in the 1961 film “Une femme est une femme” (A Woman is a Woman).

Then to see Jane Fonda in this role as a sex kitten pre-Barbarella was quite interesting.  And just to think that before she accepted the role for Sophie, she was leery in taking the role because of director Roger Vadim’s reputation but went ahead and did it because of Anouilh’s script.  But once they started shooting the film, Vadim almost like a character of “La Ronde” was able to capture the attention of Fonda and the two became lovers and eventually husband and wife.  And to add to the believability of Fonda’s character as Sophie, the actress said, “I discovered tremendous sexual excitement in having (Vadim) place me in positions he wanted.”

But “La Ronde” has its moments of humor and sexual intrigue along with beautiful cinematography but there are times when the dialogue tend to get overpowering and so dry that the attention and the enjoyability of the film that was built up at the beginning started to wane as the humor started to shift to more dialogue.  In fact, towards the end, the film seemed to become a bit verbose and I admit look at the clock in wondering if the film was going to end soon.

Where the original film earned its reputation for its racy depiction of sexual immorality during a conservative time especially in early 1950’s America when pureness and the nuclear family was being promoted.  Ophul’s “La Ronde” definitely was a sexually, provocative film that those who wanted to see something daring eventually got it with that film.  By 1964, America was a much different country and as much as Vadim’s film fit within the context of sexual freedom, I felt that the more engaging and daring characters were used during the first half of the film and by the second half, the film wasn’t as fun.

For those who are wondering if there is any nudity in the film, there is no nudity and there is no passionate love making on the bed.  If anything, the characters are behind a bush or closed doors but the viewers know what has taken place. Vadim and cinematographer Henri Decaë start using techniques during the lovemaking such as focusing on statuses or areas around the room in an artistic (some may find it dizzying) kind of way.

If anything, the film is about the perceptions of sex between the men and the women.  The women who want more from the relationship outside of sex and the men who only want sex and who sound like they are there emotionally for the women until the sex is done and then they bolt.

So, in many ways, it’s not really a happy film.  In fact, the women who seem to love the sex seem quite unhappy as what they desire seems more like an unattainable dream for them.

Overall, “La Ronde” has its good moments and also its fair share of boorish moments but if you have an interest towards the director Roger Vadim’s works  especially an interest in any of the talents featured in the film, you may find yourself enjoying it a bit more.  Otherwise, the film manages to be mostly average at best.

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