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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • German PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary from 2008 featuring Agnieszka Holland
  • New interviews with Agnieszka Holland and actor Marco Hofschneider
  • New video essay by film scholar Annette Insdorf
  • An essay by critic Amy Taubin

Europa Europa

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Agnieszka Holland
1990 | 112 Minutes | Licensor: Les Films du Losange

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #985
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: July 9, 2019
Review Date: June 27, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

As World War II splits Europe, sixteen-year-old German Jew Salomon (Marco Hofschneider) is separated from his family after fleeing with them to Poland, and finds himself reluctantly assuming various ideological identities in order to hide the deadly secret of his Jewishness. He is bounced from a Soviet orphanage, where he plays a dutiful Stalinist, to the Russian front, where he hides in plain sight as an interpreter for the German army, and back to his home country, where he takes on his most dangerous role: a member of the Hitler Youth. Based on the real-life experiences of Salomon Perel, Agnieszka Holland’s wartime tour de force Europa Europa is a breathless survival story told with the verve of a comic adventure, an ironic refutation of the Nazi idea of racial purity, and a complex portrait of a young man caught up in shifting historical calamities and struggling to stay alive.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Agnieszka Holland’s Europa Europa on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this dual-layer disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. The presentation comes from a 2016 2K restoration, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

I was looking forward to this title, excited to see how it would turn out on Blu-ray, but only a few seconds in, during the opening credits my heart was already sinking because I knew what was coming: it has a yellow tint to it that becomes immediately obvious during the yellow-tinted opening credits (which can be compared with the white digital subtitles that appear with them), and then once we jump to the film all the joy that comes with that is right there on screen. Everything takes a much warmer hue, skin tones can look a bit jaundiced, blues come off cyan, and the black levels are gray and mushy, wiping out detail in the darker shots. But hey, yellows look super yellow! As do whites. It’s sad when the praise you have to offer is to say that it’s not as bad as Death in Venice, The Tree of Wooden Clogs, or The Color of Pomegranates (or even the Italian Olympics films in Criterion’s Olympics box set), but it’s still pretty obvious and I couldn’t stop noticing it. As I’ve said with those films it’s possible this is how the film is supposed to look, but I still have a hard time buying that and the reason for that is just how dreadful the blacks are. That alone cements it for me.

And like other presentations inflicted with this it’s maddening because every other aspect of the presentation is rock solid! The restoration work has been so incredibly thorough, removing just about every last blemish. The image is also sharp and highly detailed (when “blacks” aren’t crushing them out), and film grain looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s encoded so well, it looks so much like a film, but this all ends up being offset by that yellow tint. It’s ridiculous.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film features a monaural soundtrack presented in lossless 1.0 PCM. The track is clean, with no severe background noise or damage, dialogue sounding clear with the louder sound effects (including a handful of short, more action-oriented moments) showing remarkable range. The music can sound a little hollow but I’m pretty sure it’s always sounded that way. It’s a monaural presentation but a surprisingly dynamic one.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The Criterion Collection starts things off with an audio commentary featuring director Agnieszka Holland, which appears to have been recorded for Arrow’s 2008 UK DVD edition (and I confess I had no idea they had released the film). I’m a bit conflicted on this track because Holland talks about why the film was important for her, bringing up her own family’s history and contextualizing events recreated in the film. She shares stories about the production on top of that. It’s all well and good, but I found it a rather dry track and I’ll be fully honest: I zoned out in places.

Much better are two new interviews recorded exclusively for this edition featuring Holland and actor Marco Hofschneider, running 15-minutes and 21-minutes respectively. Holland touches on things covered in the commentary but talks more about her parents and their experiences during the war, while also addressing the criticisms that were brought against the film, specifically from Shoah director Claude Lanzmann. Hofschneider’s contribution is especially entertaining, though. The story behind his casting is particularly unique: his older brother was originally considered for the role but by the time the film entered production he had become too old and the part was given to the younger Hofschneider, Marco, who didn’t even audition for the role (his older brother was obviously upset but he did get the role of the older brother in the film). And here Hofschneider talks enthusiastically about filming and working with Holland, and of all of the films since he still considers it his favourite experience and best film.

Criterion then throws on a couple of more features. I can give-or-take Annette Insdorf’s 13-minute visual essay On “Europa Europa,” where she first talks about the film’s use of water at key moments to represent “fluidity” and “shifting identities” (I’ll buy that) before getting to other bits of symbolism and the two key individuals behind the film: director Holland and Solomon Perel, whose autobiography is the basis for the film. But the real gem to this release is the new 21-minute interview with Perel, recorded for this release in Tel Aviv. Perel covers the actual events and what led him to finally writing his story after hiding it for 40 years, along with how the film came about. But the most valuable details here pertain to what happened after the story ends, with Perel catching up with many of his former Nazi buddies, including Leni (Judy Delpy’s character in the film), who was a staunch anti-Semite during the. Just wonderful they were able to get this.

Amy Taubin then provides a new essay for the film in the included insert, writing about the film’s themes and its director, as well as her other work and reactions to them.

I admit the commentary is a mixed bag and I was indifferent to Insdorf’s offering, but I was still generally satisfied with the remaining supplements, particularly the Perel and Hofschneider interviews.

7/10

CLOSING

A disappointing edition for me. The supplements are fine, though the commentary didn’t do much for me, and the presentation is at least filmic. But the yellow tint harms the presentation, especially in the blacks.


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Purchase From:
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