Eclipse Series 4: Raymond Bernard

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Matt
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Eclipse Series 4: Raymond Bernard

#1 Post by Matt » Fri Feb 23, 2007 6:24 pm

ECLIPSE SERIES 4: RAYMOND BERNARD

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One of the greatest and least-known directors of all time, Raymond Bernard helped shape French cinema, at the dawn of the sound era, into a truly formidable industry. Typical of films from this period, Bernard's dazzling dramas painted intimate melodrama on epic-scale canvases. These two masterpieces—the wrenching World War I tragedy Wooden Crosses and a mammoth, nearly five-hour Les misérables, widely considered the greatest film adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel—exemplify the formal and narrative brilliance of an unjustly overshadowed cinematic trailblazer.

Wooden Crosses

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Hailed by the New York Times on its Paris release as "one of the great films in motion picture history," Raymond Bernard's Wooden Crosses, France's answer to All Quiet on the Western Front, still stuns with its depiction of the travails of one French regiment during World War I. Using a masterful arsenal of film techniques, from haunting matte paintings to jarring documentary-like camerawork in the film's battle sequences, Bernard created a pacifist work of enormous empathy and chilling despair. No one who has ever seen this technical and emotional powerhouse has been able to forget it.

Les Misérables

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Hailed by film critics around the world as the greatest screen adaptation of Victor Hugo's mammoth nineteenth-century novel, Raymond Bernard's dazzling, nearly five-hour Les misérables is a breathtaking tour de force, unfolding with the depth and detail of its source. Featuring stunning art direction and cinematography and unforgettable performances by the exquisite Harry Baur (who died tragically during World War II), as Jean Valjean, and the legendary Charles Vanel, as Inspector Javert, Les misérables is one of the triumphs of French filmmaking.



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From the 2/24/07 Criterion newsletter:

"And while the first few releases highlight some famous names—Louis Malle and Yasujiro Ozu follow Bergman's lead—we will then bring you the less familiar, offering up three films by Raymond Bernard, an unknown master of 1930s French cinema, whose Les Misérables is considered by many to be the finest screen adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel, and whose Wooden Crosses is one of cinema's strongest antiwar films."

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tryavna
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#2 Post by tryavna » Fri Feb 23, 2007 6:49 pm

Am I a bad person for looking forward to this one more than the previous three? Not to say that I'm not looking forward to more Ozu, Malle, and Bergman, too, but this set is surely going to satisfy the hunger for Bernard that I've had ever since watching The Chess Player.

And I wonder what the third title in this set will be....

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#3 Post by htdm » Fri Feb 23, 2007 6:59 pm

You are definitely neither bad nor alone!
I wonder what the third film will be? I hope it is something other than Les Otages or Tartarin de Tarascon as I just ordered them a couple of weeks ago.

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#4 Post by unclehulot » Fri Feb 23, 2007 8:34 pm

Now we're talkin'! Between this series and the Lionsgate boxed set floodgates opening (hopefully) courtesy of Studio Canal, this could be a golden age for pre-1950 French film on DVD!

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#5 Post by BrightEyes23 » Sat Feb 24, 2007 3:12 am

i feel bad that i'm not familiar with Raymond Bernard's films, but that makes me very excited to pick this up, because these look to be great bargains.

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#6 Post by Andreas » Sat Feb 24, 2007 9:03 am

So the three films in this set is "Les Misérables", "Wooden Crosses" and...?

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#7 Post by peerpee » Sat Feb 24, 2007 10:22 am

I'm guessing Le Miracle des loups?

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#8 Post by sevenarts » Sat Feb 24, 2007 11:07 am

I'm usually hesitant about pre-1950s film, but reading descriptions of The Chess Player has me very interested. Is that a good blind buy to introduce me to Raymond before this set comes out? Is the DVD of that one good?

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#9 Post by tryavna » Sat Feb 24, 2007 5:48 pm

sevenarts wrote:I'm usually hesitant about pre-1950s film, but reading descriptions of The Chess Player has me very interested. Is that a good blind buy to introduce me to Raymond before this set comes out? Is the DVD of that one good?
Yes, the Milestone DVD is well worth picking up. The movie has two brilliant sequences: a battle near the beginning and, towards the end, a fight with a creepy bunch of automatons.

Just be aware that there are some PAL->NTSC conversion issues, as this was one of Kevin Brownlow's Thames restorations. But as I've said before about Milestone, they create some of the least annoying PAL->NTSC conversions out there.

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#10 Post by Tommaso » Sat Feb 24, 2007 6:26 pm

Much seconded. As I said elsewhere, "The Chess Player" really blew my mind, and if the rest of Bernard's work comes close anywhere, this set will be one of the highlights of what seems likely to become a very expensive year of dvd buying. I liked the whole of the movie very much, not just these two sequences (although they are clear highlights). It's very stylish, makes a lot of references to German expressionism, is generally well acted, and is visually stunning throughout. One of my favourite French silents, really.

The PAL/NTSC-problem is there, but it's really negligible compared with what other companies burden us with.

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#11 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Feb 25, 2007 1:54 am

What is more noticeable on the dvd than the preconversion jingling is the analog halo-effects as it's a very old tv restoration (17 yrs old if I recall).
I'm guessing Le Miracle des loups?

sounds right to me.

Very much looking forward to this set.

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#12 Post by Kinsayder » Sun Feb 25, 2007 9:55 am

Andreas wrote:So the three films in this set is "Les Misérables", "Wooden Crosses" and...?
In fact, Bernard's Les Misérables is/are three films, five hours in total. Even if the set only contained that trilogy in a good presentation, it's still the best news I've heard all year. These films are stunning: three of the most remarkable accomplishments from that remarkable era of French cinema, with a great deal of expressionistic influence in the tilty camerawork and the dramatic lighting. The Honegger soundtrack alone is a minor masterpiece.

Of course, Les Croix de bois as well would be wonderful. Less interesting dramatically, but still a devastating movie in its depiction of the terror and violence of war.

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#13 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Feb 25, 2007 10:36 am

Look up-- WOODEN CROSS already mentioned. Look at the number of films in the Malle, Ozu, & Bergman. My guess is there'll be five films if LES is treated as 3 seperate films, so I bet we'll be seeing WOLF as well as the mentioned CROIX.

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#14 Post by Kinsayder » Sun Feb 25, 2007 11:24 am

Le Miracle des loups had a major restoration in 2003, so would be well primed for a DVD edition. I haven't seen it, but it has to be better than the André Hunebelle remake that stank up French cinemas in 1961.

Incidentally, the French DVD of Bernard's Les Otages, mentioned by dmkb, is English-friendly. Even the packaging is bilingual. The film was reconstructed from a censored French edition and a differently-censored Swiss-German one, so some sequences have burnt-in German subs in addition to the optional English ones.

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#15 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Feb 25, 2007 12:40 pm

Kinsayder wrote:Le Miracle des loups had a major restoration in 2003, .
Looks beautiful, great to see Charles Dullin working with him again, a la CHESS PLAYER. Great link Kin.

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#16 Post by Tommaso » Sun Feb 25, 2007 1:08 pm

WOW! These stills look fantastic! Fingers crossed they include that one in the set.

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#17 Post by htdm » Sun Feb 25, 2007 3:30 pm

I wondered why only three Bernard films were announced for this box until reading Kinsayder's comments on the length of Les Miserables. Now I'm more excited about this release! Wasn't a Gremillion box mentioned somewhere?

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#18 Post by Kinsayder » Sun Feb 25, 2007 4:08 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:great to see Charles Dullin working with him again, a la CHESS PLAYER.
Dullin's scenery-chewing performance as Thénardier is one of the many delights of Les Misérables.

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#19 Post by Cinesimilitude » Sun Feb 25, 2007 10:13 pm

Les Miserables is my favorite novel. I can't wait to see this, along with the 20th century fox release of the two other versions. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that leaves only Lelouch's version to be released as far as major adaptations are concerned, no?

I hope to see every screen version of Les Mis' at some point.

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#20 Post by Ashirg » Sun Feb 25, 2007 10:57 pm

Claude Lelouch version is not available with English subtitles.

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#21 Post by Cinesimilitude » Sun Feb 25, 2007 11:02 pm

that's exactly what I meant. It hasn't been tackled for R1 yet, but it's highly acclaimed.

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#22 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Feb 26, 2007 1:09 am

dmkb wrote:! Wasn't a Gremillion box mentioned somewhere?
Yes, with LUMIERE D'ETE & REMORQUES mentioned. I'm sure GUEULE D'AMOUR is a given given it's legend and the pristine state of the elements as well as the Rene Chateau digibeta. What the last 1-3 films would be are anyone's guess, but naturally one hopes for MALDONE (great elements from pre-existing resto), PETITE LISE (decent enough), after that it's anyone's guess. PATTES BLANCHES? MADAME X?

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#23 Post by Forgotten Goldfish » Mon Feb 26, 2007 1:56 am

Another Bernard film recently restored (by Pathé, for the same series as Tartarin) is the 1931 Faubourg Montmartre. Criterion/Eclipse are no doubt working from Pathé's materials for Les Misérables, and might have picked up either Tartarin or Faubourg Montmartre at the same time. Nevertheless, like most people here, I'm hoping Criterion's third film will be Le Miracle des loups. At least we know that Tartarin and Faubourg Montmartre are getting DVD releases of some kind!
SncDthMnky wrote:Les Miserables is my favorite novel... Correct me if I'm wrong, but that leaves only Lelouch's version to be released as far as major adaptations are concerned, no?
Also still to be released on DVD (unless I'm mistaken?) is the 1958 Le Chanois version with Gabin and Blier in the principal roles. I know some people (especially admirers of the book, which it follows pretty closely) who prize it most highly of all. Though in my personal view, searching for a "best" film of Les Mis is like searching for a "best" film of King Lear. Works of this stature have so many nuances that a dozen different films could offer a dozen different, equally valid approaches to them!

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#24 Post by Cinesimilitude » Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:24 am

I've loved every version I've seen so far. I had no Idea Gabin had portrayed Valjean! I saw the Le Chanois directed version but didn't scroll down to check the cast. I would love to see that version as well.

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#25 Post by Kinsayder » Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:53 am

Forgotten Goldfish wrote:Also still to be released on DVD (unless I'm mistaken?) is the 1958 Le Chanois version with Gabin and Blier in the principal roles.
There is a René Chateau 2-DVD edition of the Gabin / Le Chanois version (unsubbed). I also liked the 1982 adaptation with Lino Ventura as Valjean. Also on DVD, also unsubbed.

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