ECLIPSE SERIES 4: RAYMOND BERNARD
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 masterpiecesâ€”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 novelâ€”exemplify the formal and narrative brilliance of an unjustly overshadowed cinematic trailblazer.Wooden Crosses
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
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.
From the 2/24/07 Criterion newsletter:
"And while the first few releases highlight some famous namesâ€”Louis Malle and Yasujiro Ozu follow Bergman's leadâ€”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."