MoC’s new Blue Angel follows their exemplary practice of not messing with the ingredients. Thus the image quality for the German language (unarguably the superior of the two versions) retains great black levels and to my eyes the enhanced high contrast picture does not suffer from any loss of shadow detail or any other potential problems like banding or compression. Transferred under the additional guiding hand of James White I think it’s an ideal presentation of the existing TransitFilm elements which, it has to be said are far from ideal. This extends to the soundtrack which retains all its crackle and hiss from the original Klangfilm audio. Again I believe MoC took the wise move in not subjecting the audio to extensive EQ and filtering to clean it up.
It should be noted the English language version comes from a far superior element, much closer to a fine grain 35 or an O-neg. Surface damage is less frequent and grain structure is much finer the German version. But the positive has gone through 35mm printing (perhaps push printing?) which renders it much lighter and paler than it should be. There is virtually no true black and contrast is flattened. While some aspects of this are pleasing to the eye I don’t believe they represent an ideal color/tonal balance. In any case I am certain this is how the telecine presented and again MoC didn’t meddle with the black level or gamma. If you want to vary it yourself you can fiddle to your heart’s content with the dials.
The extras are terrific with one major reservation on my part.
Marlene’s screen test is a doozy and looks like real quality here after the existing Youtube clips.
Tag’s essay is another doozy - a 28 minute journey, once again into Sternberg’s quest for indentity - “Who am I” which also takes us en route for a whirlwind tour of the short miracle that was Weimar Berlin, with some of its greatest stage and film personalities: Kurt Gerron, Rosa Valetti (the club’s hostess and a central figure in 20s Berlin), the sublime Hans Albers, Charles Puffy, Roland Varno, and the fabulous Weintraubs Syncopaters, with a couple of cutaway shots to Hollander himself bashing the ivories, and Waxman (the musical arranger) honking a sax. What Tag shows us here is how completely JVS charmed his way into this profoundly inventive and unique miracle of Weimar Berlin and became himself part of this epicentre of talent, making a great masterpiece which is both a superlative Weimar work and completely his own.
I raise this if only to then comment on the regrettable direction taken by Mr Rayns in his commentary track. I was hoping we wouldn’t once again be plunged into a scenario like the aesthetic and formal judgments he makes against Mizoguchi’s direction and acquiesence to producer mandated cuts in his Ugetsu commentary. The way I see it someone who’s paid to do a commentary owes the film a sales job, and if he’s going to raise negatives they have to be contextualized and consistently balanced with the positives. Unfortunately to me Mr Rayns seems to me to take some sort of pleasure in tearing down reputations or at least appearing to tender a superior reading of the material over and above the film itself. Thus it now also happens with Sternberg and in this case he seems to have honed in on a recent JVS Biography by the appalling John Baxter (if ever there was a Highamesque writer Baxter takes the prize.) It seems that Baxter, and by osmosis Mr Rayns have taken the line that Joe had decided in his own mind to follow the supposed lead of his role model, Stroheim, and as it is said here, make himself totally hated by all he met as some sort of personal strategy through his life. Thus his legendary pride and intransigence on some issues and his diffidence on others has been now transported into the realm of what seems to be a psychopathology bordering on terminal narcissism. I don’t buy it. For every actor or writer who dissed Joe – Hecht, Jaffe, William Powell, dozens more sang his praises – Louise Brooks over his resurrection of Georgia Hale into a star, and Georgia, Chaplin, Gene Tierney, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and most recently Maria (then) Sieber, Dietrich’s daughter at 7 whom Joe guided through her tiny role in Scarlet Empress. The Joe they remember, and I remember from meeting him in the flesh in 1968 is another human being from the one Mr Rayns tries to eviscerate. Among other things it surprises me to find I seem to have done more research than Mr Rayns, at least beyond the realm of Mr Baxter’s doodling, and after making my way through numerous tiny but totally unnecessary errors in things like movie titles (calling Claudius “I Claudius”, which is the name of the Graves book, not the movie as partially shot, calling the working title for Devil is a Woman as Capriccio Espagnole, when it was Caprice Espagnole. And crediting, of all things Macao as a personally Sternbergian movie while the briefest of research elsewhere, including Bernard Eisenschitz would have confirmed that 90% of the footage of Hughes final cut is directed by Nick Ray. I am also surprised to hear of some of Eisenstein’s outbursts as reported. If Eisie had called Joe “gay” (not a word in use in 1930 of course) Joe I have no doubt would have been flattered to be so honored by one Major Queen as another. It might have been more helpful to acknowledge Joe’s own comments about Eisie and his endless sketchpads during and after the Mexican debacle and just prior to Joe rescuing the near aborted American Tragedy project.
So apart from one major negative and one which is easily ignored, the package is a marvel, and I hope it does as well as it deserves.
Last edited by david hare on Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:01 am, edited 1 time in total.