Editions Montparnasse

Milestone, Flicker Alley, Oscilloscope, Cinema Guild...they're all here.
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Scharphedin2
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#1 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Jun 04, 2006 10:28 am

I came across this French label, which has quite an extensive collection of RKO titles available. The design of the covers and the concept of having a line of DVDs dedicated to RKO's films remind of the days of Laserdisc, when Image Entertainment would distribute an ongoing series of these films (in fact, with blue and black cover art very much like EM).

In this French series there are such titles (to my knowledge unavailable elsewhere in Europe or R1) as Ford's THE FUGITIVE and WAGONMASTER, Hawks' THE BIG SKY, Nicholas Ray's A WOMAN'S SECRET, Robert Wise's MADEMOISELLE FIFI, Losey's THE BOY WITH GREEN HAIR, Preminger's ANGEL FACE, Renoir's THIS LAND IS MINE, Tourneur's EXPERIMENT PERILOUS and DAYS OF GLORY, and many others.

Have anyone here had the opportunity to see any of the titles in this series?

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HerrSchreck
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#2 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Jun 04, 2006 10:38 am

They're veering towards pretty bad. Relentless analog sourcing edge enhanced to where the image looks viewed undersea. Check out Renoir Beaver Review of Woman On The Beach for typical looking disc, actually one of their best.

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david hare
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#3 Post by david hare » Sun Jun 04, 2006 5:51 pm

I've collected several over the years and they veer from ordinary to bad. They all seem to be taken from tape/analog sources and they're mostly all single layered.
The Big Sky is from an obviously good print but has been edge enhanced/contrast boosted to buggery. I had read Bill Krohn worked on a restored 145 minute version for Ed. Mont but this disc runs only 121 minutes (allowing for PAL it's the old cut 126 minute version.)
Angel Face is one of the better ones.
This Land is Mine is weak and has some edge enhancement.
Among titles you dont mention:
Cukor's now rare Sylvia Scarlett is a disaster - print, transfer everything. Such a shame.
Hawks the Thing is just OK but the restored footage is very dupey and the R1 Warner disc is superior.
Sternberg's Macao is just OK - but my TV print is better, if more overscanned.
Last edited by Anonymous on Sun Jun 04, 2006 9:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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denti alligator
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#4 Post by denti alligator » Sun Jun 04, 2006 5:59 pm

davidhare wrote: Cukor now rare Sylvisa Scalett is a disaster - print, transfer everything. Such a shame.
.
Why rare? Isn't this a Cary Grant picture? Who owns this and why haven't we seen a good DVD transfer?

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david hare
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#5 Post by david hare » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:08 pm

Denti it's still RKO so we rely on Warner R1 for a decent DVD. It had never to my knowledge been released on Home vid, up until this atrocious Editions Mont. a few years ago. I think it's just a "forgotten" title, rather than an orphan (but it's a masterpiece.)

Grant and Hepburn at their best, skating on the edge of sexual indentity politics. Cukor's central theme of life and theatre and performance, the movie that turned Hepburn into "box office poison", and surely one of Cukor's most personal films.

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#6 Post by denti alligator » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:24 pm

It's one of Jonathan Rosenbaum's 100 favorite films, so it made me wonder.

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Scharphedin2
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#7 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:54 pm

This is really a dilemma... Thank you for the warnings. I am not sure that I am as discerning as some of you in terms of image quality. To my eyes the captures in Beaver's review do not look that awful (especially for a '40s film). I would love for all the old classics to come out looking like the day they were first released, but I guess I am also just thankful to be able to see a lot of these films at all. RKO's library of films include so many great "smaller" films, and 8-9 years into the life of the DVD medium, very few of them have seen release.

In fact, I think this is a bit of a missed opportunity on Warner Brothers' part -- it seems to me that many of the studios have a lot of success with creating individually branded series (the Fox Studio Classics and Fox Noir being good examples). Warner's could have made a nice imprint featuring titles from the RKO library.

Again, I thank you for the words of caution, and I will definitely approach this label carefully... :cry:

A final note to Davidhare concerning Hawks' THE BIG SKY. Are you aware that they actually have two separate releases of this film? A bare bones version featuring the 122 min cut, and a Collector's Edition apparently with two versions of the film -- 122 min and 136 min. Is this the one that you own?

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david hare
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#8 Post by david hare » Sun Jun 04, 2006 8:14 pm

GODDAM!! Thanks for tipping me off. I didn't buy the "Collector" version last year thinking it was merely froufrou extras - the 136 minute version indeed must be the Krohn restoration.

Unfortunately the PQ is so edge enhanced I'm very wary of purchasing. (But give me two days next week and I'll end up buying the damn thing. As a sidelight I'll post some caps from Big Sky tonite and you can make up your own mind. One Quite good release was They Live by Night but it's now due in the Noir Box 3 from Warner.

I agree it would be nice if Warner branched into an RKO series line, but Feltenstein often mentions the parlous state of the RKO libary in HTF talks, and they may well not be comfortable releasing titles in such bad shape.

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Scharphedin2
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#9 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Jun 04, 2006 8:37 pm

:D Happy to be able to tip you off for a change... And, in fact, I already ordered the Collector's edition of THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT from Amazon.fr last week... that is how I discovered the Editions Montparnasse site. Unfortunately or fortunately too late to include THE BIG SKY or any of the other titles in my order.

Sad to hear that the RKO titles are in such bad shape... David, I know you are a laserdisc veteran... I have the Nicholas Ray films that were released by Image (LUSTY MEN, BORN TO BE BAD and ON DANGEROUS GROUND and also several other titles from the RKO series), and, yes, they show signs of the films' age, but I definitely think they are watchable. Me being not that technical when it comes to discussions of transfers, would you say that the RKO titles released by Editions Montparnasse generally look worse than the laserdisc releases?

And a final question related to this label... is it possible to remove the French subtitles from the image?

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david hare
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#10 Post by david hare » Sun Jun 04, 2006 9:09 pm

The French subs are all removebale, or more accurately you can select "version originale sans titres" from the menu screen.

My old lasers of Lusty Men, Rancho Notorious, Crack Up, Cornered, While the City Sleeps etc are all extremely watchable. (I should add these discs were starting to show signs of laser rot when I transferred them to DVD-R a few years ago. Most of the Image/RKO lasers were printed by Pioneer USA, I think, whose record for glue based laser-rot was becoming apparent back then.) None of these were released as EM titles to my knowledge so can't compare. The problem - apart from successful transfers like Angel Face and They Live by Night - is the folks at EM seemingly can't keep their fingers off the contrast button in the editing suite, so practically everything comes out with EE etc. This is something that rarely if ever happened with Lasers, allowing for their lower resolution at 400 lines etc.

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david hare
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#11 Post by david hare » Mon Jun 05, 2006 5:15 am

Some caps from the Big Sky as promised:

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

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FilmFanSea
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#12 Post by FilmFanSea » Mon Jun 05, 2006 1:16 pm

davidhare wrote:Some caps from the Big Sky as promised:
Egad. Looks worse than a lot of fifties kinescope recordings. Yecch.

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skuhn8
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#13 Post by skuhn8 » Mon Jun 05, 2006 1:25 pm

so are these guys pretty much the Facets of France? Impressive catalogue with tear-jerking transfers?

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david hare
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#14 Post by david hare » Mon Jun 05, 2006 5:34 pm

As Beaver has said occasionally, the good transfers look OK on a tube, but they show all their defects on a big screen setup. (Inlcudng the ghosting on that last cap.)

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Scharphedin2
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#15 Post by Scharphedin2 » Tue Jun 06, 2006 9:48 am

Thanks for going to the trouble of posting these captures Davidhare. Much appreciated.

Even to my eyes, this DVD does not look very good... unfortunately.

On the other hand, it is a film I really want to see, and there is the added lure of the extended version, so I probably will chance this one after all (the CE edition).

How about WAGONMASTER and THE FUGITIVE? Have you (anyone else for that matter) seen these?

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#16 Post by filmfan » Wed Jun 07, 2006 9:38 am

To me, overall, just having it is a treat...until, of course something else comes along !

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Scharphedin2
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#17 Post by Scharphedin2 » Fri Jul 07, 2006 6:11 pm

As rumor will have it, They Live by Night will be included in the fourth volume of Warner's Film Noir Classic Collections, so, whether the Editions Montparnasse release is a good presentation of the film or not, may be a moot point to many readers of the forum. However, the fact is that it is a truly fine presentation, and DVDBeaver has a nice review of it including screen captures.

Having just finished watching the DVD, I would tend to be even more happy with the quality of the image than Gary, but then for some odd reason I do not seem to be able to see the ghosting and combing, and what not, or, maybe I simply do not know what to look for, or, possibly I am in much greater need of glasses than I am presently aware (this not meant as an attempt to be funny). The print is surprisingly clean and for the most part very crisp -- I noticed one (actually quite major) splice in the course of the film, but other than that the print seemed in mint condition.

The film itself is wonderful. At his best, Nicholas Ray manages to infuse his films with a real sense of life being lived on the screen. Here, in his very first film, this is particularly true in the depiction of the relationship that develops between a young convict on the run (Farley Granger), and the niece (Cathy O'Donnell) of one of his prison buddies -- a shy and tortured white trash urchin, who flowers into a natural beauty as she experiences real love. As the film follows the two youngsters on the road and on the run, by bus and later by automobile, through small towns and to a backwoods retreat, Ray allows the young lovers to breathe and grow in their parts, to the point where I almost felt annoyed when Granger's prison buddies re-enter the story, and kick the film into its final act. Clearly Ray was very much in tune with Granger and O'Donnell, and together they must have shared a strong sense of empathy with these characters to create this level of authenticity, which surely was not the norm for a '40s gangster picture.

As also mentioned by Beaver, the disc includes several extras, foremost of which is a 45 min. documentary about Nicholas Ray (an interesting piece in fact, which I doubt that Warner Brothers will include in their Noir Set). And, finally, the packaging is really nice -- a slip case with a pair of well chosen stills from the film gracing the front, and the housing for the disc itself being a tri-fold cover, also nicely designed with images from the film, and a wallet for a small booklet (in French).
davidhare wrote:Thanks for tipping me off. I didn't buy the "Collector" version [of The Big Sky] last year thinking it was merely froufrou extras - the 136 minute version indeed must be the Krohn restoration.

Unfortunately the PQ is so edge enhanced I'm very wary of purchasing. (But give me two days next week and I'll end up buying the damn thing. As a sidelight I'll post some caps from Big Sky tonite and you can make up your own mind. One Quite good release was They Live by Night but it's now due in the Noir Box 3 from Warner.
Davidhare, did you end up getting the Collector's Edition of The Big Sky? I did... ordered it more than a month ago, and had given up hope of ever receiving it, and then it turned up on my doorstep today.

The sad fact is that the restored version is more what I would call a "reconstituted" cut from best available materials. And these materials certainly were not very good. For my money, the truncated version actually looks acceptable when it is playing (your screen caps above are faithful to the quality of the disc) -- it is not marvelous looking, but as so often, I am just very pleased to be able to see this film, and, as stated, it looks better when it is actually playing.

I did not have a chance to view the entire film either in the short or long version, but there is certainly a section in the long version that is very strongly disfigured. There is a vertical line running down the middle of the picture for what I judge to be the better part of an entire real. Sometimes the line is very marked, at other times it disappears or becomes very faint for a few moments, then reappears. At one point I had the feeling that it was the optical soundtrack that was somehow visible (in the middle of the frame!?), but whatever it is, I am sorry to have to report it, because as I understand it, this would pretty much be the first time, anyone could get to see the original full lengt version of the film.

When I have had a chance to view all of it, I will report back. Meanwhile, if anyone else around here has any information concerning the restoration of this film and/or Editons Montparnasse's release of it, I would be interested to hear...

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Scharphedin2
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#18 Post by Scharphedin2 » Wed Nov 15, 2006 8:10 am

davidhare wrote:I agree it would be nice if Warner branched into an RKO series line, but Feltenstein often mentions the parlous state of the RKO libary in HTF talks, and they may well not be comfortable releasing titles in such bad shape.
I took the plunge on a couple of handfuls of EM's RKO titles (see DVDBeaver's link to a sale at Amazon.fr). So far, I have watched the Jacques Tourneur titles (Experiment Perilous, Days of Glory and Berlin Express), as well as Follow Me Quietly and Renoir's American wartime film This Land Is Mine.

These are all minor films by their respective directors' standards, but I am simply jubilant at being able to see the films at all. This Land Is Mine has a spectacular cast for what I imagine would have been quite a low-budgeted flagwaver -- Maureen O'Hara, George Sanders, Paul Lukas and then Charles Laughton in an interesting turn as romantic hero (or, the closest he would be able to come to that kind of role). The film is of course aimed at rallying the public against the Nazis, yet, there are still traces of Renoir's objective weltanschauung that, to me, contribute so much to the greatness of La Grande Illusion and La Regle du Jeu.

As anyone, who have seen his horror films for Val Lewton, or, his quintessential film noir Out Of the Past, will know, few "Hollywood" directors were stronger at creating atmosphere and foreboding than Tourneur. Experiment Perilous reminded me of Spiral Staircase, and from the very opening of a steamtrain speeding through a stormy night, with the rain flooding the tracks, and lightning steaking the sky in the distance, I was sold. George Brent and Hedy Lamar star in what develops into a gothic thriller with mansions that appear to have leapt from the pages of Jules Verne (as one character comments), hidden staircases, the past revealed through the reading of personal journals, characters strolling through deserted city streets on snowy nights with a shadow hugging the walls in the distance, and so on. In Days of Glory, Gregory Peck is seen in his first starring role as a Soviet resistance fighter, and again Tourneur makes the most of the dimly lit guerilla hideout and foggy marshes that consitute the backdrops for the majority of the film's scenes. With Berlin Express Tourneur achieves the effect by taking the film on location in the post-WWII ruins of Frankfurt. Robert Ryan and Merle Oberon are amongst the small international group of heroes/suspects trying to unravel a murder that happens on the military express train en route from Paris to Berlin.

As far as the quality of the prints, I really am surprised if Warner is holding off on these RKO titles due to the bad quality of the prints. To be sure there is the occasional damage mark, but these are minor and far between. Editions Montparnasse has a reputation for fiddling with the contrasts of the films when transferring to DVD (see David' post above), but maybe the titles that I have viewed so far have been amongst their better efforts, or, maybe I am just not that bothered by these things. In any event, I would not discourage anyone interested from viewing these films in EM's editions. Now, I did also order Sylvia Scarlett and Vivacious Lady (both '30s films as opposed to the others mentioned, which are all from the '40s), and at a quick glance these looked considerably rougher than those mentioned above.

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Scharphedin2
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#19 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sat Feb 03, 2007 6:26 pm

In the past week I viewed the Editions Montparnasse DVDs of another couple of their RKO releases -- John Ford's The Fugitive (Dieu est mort) and Wagonmaster (Le Convoi des braves).

Of the dozen or so EM titles that I have seen, The Fugitive has one of the poorer transfers, and it is a shame, because the cinematography is clearly stunning. The film is one of Ford's more eccentric projects, following a priest (Henry Fonda), who is on the run from the authorities in a South American country in the throes of civil war. I have seen the film compared to The Informer, and I suppose there are similarities between the two films, although I would not stretch the point. It is lesser Ford, but in a restored transfer, it is definitely a film that would have its appeal.

Wagonmaster, on the other hand, is one of the strongest EM discs that I have seen, and although it is still a notch or two below an actual Warner Brothers release in terms of image quality, I would not discourage anyone from experiencing the film in this edition.

The film as such is quintessential Ford, and features a long list of his stock players, several of whom (Ward Bond, Ben Johnson and Harry Carrey Jr.) have an opportunity to shine in the absence of a John Wayne or Henry Fonda. The story concerns a community of Mormons, who engage a pair of horse traders to help guide them across the desert towards Salt Lake City. Needless to say, there are countless adventures en route, and it is all accompanied by great western songs, and there is even one of those typical Ford dancing scenes that I personally find absolutely irresistible. Visually the film is high up amongst Ford's best pictures, and there are long stretches, where there is hardly any dialogue, but only the images set to music of the caravan moving through the forbidding country. All Ford's personal protests aside, the reputation of "poetic director" would appear most justified in this film.

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#20 Post by Forgotten Goldfish » Sat Feb 03, 2007 7:25 pm

Of the other Editions Montparnasse RKO transfers that I've seen, Mademoiselle Fifi (Robert Wise/Val Lewton, 1944) may be worth considering. It's a much, much better transfer than The Big Sky, and quite comparable with (say) Experiment Perilous.

Of course, both the transfer and the film itself have been variously estimated by various reviewers -- compare the following:

DVD Classik

DVD Critiques

But both of those would clearly agree that it's one of the better Montparnasse RKO transfers.

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Mademoiselle Fifi & Youth Runs Wild R2

#21 Post by Hofmeister » Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:21 pm

As they haven't been mentioned yet in this subforum, I'd like to bring up the legitimate European releases of the Val Lewton-produced films by Robert Wise and Mark Robson, Mademoiselle Fifi and Youth Runs Wild. The Wise film is available from France and Spain, the Robson only from Spain.

I own and recommend the French Mademoiselle Fifi released by Editions Montparnasse in their 'Collection RKO'. The transfer is a norm conversion, therefore detail is limited and there is slight ghosting, but for a norm conversion it is excellent (and it runs at the proper speed). The subtitles are of course optional. It's under 10 Euro and I'd like to post links to retail sites but I think this would be frowned upon. It's probably okay to refer you to a price comparison engine: http://dvdpascher.net/.

As mentioned above, Mademoiselle Fifi is also available from Spain where -- like its sibling Youth Runs Wild and many other nice things such as Roughshod -- it's part of a similar RKO line on the Mangafilms label whose transfers (like EM's) can be hit-and-miss. They're generally between 7.50 and 10 Euro each at places like dvdgo.com (which I use) or moviesdistribucion.com (which I haven't tried yet).

I'm just glad that these titles are available in presentable and legitimate form (no bootlegs these), as are Tender Comrade, Born to Be Bad, Mystery in Mexico, Criminal Court, Return to Paradise... there seems to be no telling when Warner Brothers may get around to do these titles in R1 (nor The Fallen Sparrow, They Won't Believe Me!, Second Chance et cetera which are available in Italy through Columbia and Fox, respectively).

Anybody else on this board who regularly indulges in a spot of RKO in the R2 PAL flavour?

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Westwood
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Re: Editions Montparnasse

#22 Post by Westwood » Fri Aug 14, 2009 7:55 pm

Hi guys and gals, I am new to the forum.
For now, I registered to find out if the later movies released by this studio have been of better quality than those reviewed here in the past.
I am a fan of Jane Russell and seeing as most of her movie were for RKO I am at least happy they almost all seem to have been released by this studio. Is there someone here who has purchased them? They are about 10 Euros each, so not that much. "Underwater!" will be released next month. Unfortunately even their website seems to lack spell-checking, or better, people who type the names right, and so, just like amazon.fr lists some movies with Jane Russel (Macao...), EM's website doesn't even show them all if you look for her, and I dont know the French titles of the movies (well, not all of them).

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Ben Cheshire
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Re: Editions Montparnasse

#23 Post by Ben Cheshire » Mon Dec 07, 2009 8:44 am

Do Montparnasse ever add english subs? Their site seems to indicate Je T'aime Je T'aime doesn't have any; I'm looking for more early Resnais in good editions after the obvious ones and I've come to Je T'aime, but unfortunately looks like google translations subs or nothing...

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tenia
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Re: Editions Montparnasse

#24 Post by tenia » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:09 pm

Ben Cheshire wrote:Do Montparnasse ever add english subs? Their site seems to indicate Je T'aime Je T'aime doesn't have any; I'm looking for more early Resnais in good editions after the obvious ones and I've come to Je T'aime, but unfortunately looks like google translations subs or nothing...
I would go for "no English subs" but honestly, I'm not sure. But I don't think DVDs from their RKO collection have any (and they're like 100 of them), so I would say no subs for any Montparnasse DVDs.

But again, not sure.

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Arn777
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Re: Editions Montparnasse

#25 Post by Arn777 » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:47 pm

Je t'aime je t'aime has no subtitles. Most of their DVDs don't, although one of the Jean Rouch box has English subtitles, and Eugene Gree Le Pont des arts also has subs.

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