276 The River

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Martha
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276 The River

#1 Post by Martha » Mon Nov 29, 2004 7:48 pm

The River

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This entrancing first color feature from Jean Renoir—shot entirely on location in India—is a visual tour de force. Based on the novel by Rumer Godden, the film eloquently contrasts the growing pains of three young women with the immutability of the holy Bengal River, around which their daily lives unfold. Enriched by Renoir's subtle understanding of and appreciation for India and its people, The River gracefully explores the fragile connections between transitory emotions and steadfast creation.

SPECIAL FEATURES

• High-definition digital transfer from the 2004 Film Foundation restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Archival introduction to the film by director Jean Renoir
Around the River, a 60-minute 2008 documentary by Arnaud Mandagaran about the making of the film
• Interview from 2004 with Martin Scorsese
• Audio interview from 2000 with producer Ken McEldowney
• New visual essay by film writer Paul Ryan, featuring rare behind-the-scenes stills
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by film scholar Ian Christie and original production notes by Renoir

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Dylan
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#2 Post by Dylan » Mon Nov 29, 2004 8:10 pm

The more I read about this film, the more beautiful it is sounding. Check out the entry written on this film at Strictly Film School

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Steven H
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#3 Post by Steven H » Mon Nov 29, 2004 8:21 pm

It's amazing and my favorite Renoir. I can't wait to see what Criterion will do with it.

The film has come under critisism about it's depiction of the english family (and the colonialism values it represents), but it seems obvious to me that the film is more about the life cycle (and big picture philosophical/spiritual ideas) than politics. Though an argument can be raised that Renoir wasn't trying to make a point through a few scenes and characters (scenes being the dinner table scene towards the end where the dialogue indicates to me that Renoir was trying to expose the hypocrisies of their beliefs, and characters as the only white males in the film are suffering from maladies). I think the film is rich for discussion.

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#4 Post by Tribe » Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:14 pm

How does this rate vis a vis the Renoir Stage & Spectacle films?

John

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Steven H
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#5 Post by Steven H » Mon Nov 29, 2004 9:23 pm

Completely different animal. It has almost no relation to the theater (relative to most of Renoir's work), and instead a rich cinematic style envelopes the film. The River is his Bresson to "Stage and Spectacle"'s Ophuls.

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ellipsis7
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#6 Post by ellipsis7 » Thu Dec 02, 2004 4:26 pm

Check out this from the November issue of SIGHT AND SOUND from the bfi...

RUMER GODDEN: AN INDIAN AFFAIR for BBC Bookmark was made by Sharon Maguire, director of BRIDGET JONES' DIARY... Was apparently nominated for an International Emmy. Presumably touches also on Michael Powell's BLACK NARCISSUS, also from a Rumer Godden story, but shot in England, rather than on location in India...

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#7 Post by Cinephrenic » Wed Feb 16, 2005 4:32 pm

Interestingly, Martin Scorsese was involved in the restoration of this.

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#8 Post by oldsheperd » Fri Feb 18, 2005 2:01 pm

Back's up at DVDempire. The cover is much darker. I like it.

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#9 Post by Ted Todorov » Sat Feb 19, 2005 10:46 am

Our local street date breaking champs, Kim's Video (on St. Marks Pl.) already has this and My Own Private Idaho -- thus they are guaranteed not to be late...

Ted

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Miguel
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#10 Post by Miguel » Tue Feb 22, 2005 3:20 pm

Lengthy review is now up at DVD Talk.
As much a reflection of its location as a total reinvention of it, Jean Renoir’s brilliant, evocative film The River takes us to an India that only exists in the mind of its creator. Certainly, the famed director is drawing directly from the memories and the words of author Rumer Godden (who not only wrote the novel from which the movie was based, but co-authored the screenplay as well), and by filming completely on location, along the Bengal countryside, he is using all the local color to his distinct advantage. But Renoir was naturally a painter at heart, and for this, his first film in Technicolor, the canvas he creates is both artificial and awe-inspiring. While it may not be completely faithful to the culture or the customs of the Indian people, there is no doubt about its cinematic facets. The River is a sumptuous visual feast, yet another example (following Grand Illusion, The Rules of the Game and The Lowers Depths) of Renoir’s amazing ability at using his camera as a paintbrush.

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#11 Post by mogwai » Fri Feb 25, 2005 3:29 am

Review is up at DvdBeaver

The transfer looks absolutely incredible.

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Napier
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#12 Post by Napier » Fri Feb 25, 2005 10:11 am

Just watched the The River last night.And let me tell you if you weren't lucky enough to get an advanced copy,this fucking film is BEAUTIFUL!!A great transfer from Criterion!A great documentary.Whole heartedly reccomended!

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Napier
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#13 Post by Napier » Tue Mar 01, 2005 11:35 am

I watched The River 3 times this weekend!This film is absolutely beautiful.The first time was ok!But the 2nd and 3rd viewing just really blew me away!I can't reccomend this DVD enough.This IMHO is one of the best Criterion's.I am overjoyed they made this available on DVD.If I had a choice of Grand Illusion,The Rules of the Game,or the Stage and Spectacle Trilogy,I would definitely watch The River!This one nudged The Killer from my 5 favorite Criterion's to number 6!THAT GOOD!!

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#14 Post by jorencain » Wed Mar 02, 2005 9:34 pm

Napier wrote:I watched The River 3 times this weekend!This film is absolutely beautiful.The first time was ok!But the 2nd and 3rd viewing just really blew me away!I can't reccomend this DVD enough.This IMHO is one of the best Criterion's.I am overjoyed they made this available on DVD.If I had a choice of Grand Illusion,The Rules of the Game,or the Stage and Spectacle Trilogy,I would definitely watch The River!This one nudged The Killer from my 5 favorite Criterion's to number 6!THAT GOOD!!
I second that. It really is a beautiful movie (and the restoration is amazing). For me, it's also the best Renoir in the Criterion Collection. He has so much empathy for all of the characters, and there is something in the film for everyone to relate to. When Captain John falls and then stumbles away...damn, what a heartbreaking scene (I love the line in the film about yesterday's hero just becoming a man with one leg). The extras are fantastic also. Definitely recommended if you haven't seen it yet.

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#15 Post by david hare » Thu Mar 03, 2005 11:34 pm

While the overall quality of the restoration is very, very fine, does anyone else have issues with the level of color saturation? I have never been lucky enough to view one of the old dye-transfer prints but I do gather from those who have that the color was eye-popping (in the realm of a Minelli musical or indeed Black Narcissus.) I am finding it a little ironic after Ian Christie mentions the story of Claude Renoir painting the lawn (of the family house) more green, that the green in the image here, like the other primaries seems frankly muted to me. I get the impression the problem - if you want to call it that- is in the printing. Obviously the new internegative has been expertly restored but the print is screaming out for something much more akin to the saturated dye-transfer process.
Anyone?? Should add I consider this one of Renoir's five or six greatest masterpieces, and I agree it is the best Criterion Renoir so far.

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Steven H
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#16 Post by Steven H » Thu Mar 03, 2005 11:49 pm

I'm not sure about the grass, but there are a few shots that were literally stunning for me on this DVD. I've always felt Picnic in the Grass to be his other color masterpiece (although quite different from this). I wonder what the chances of that getting restored and released on DVD are? ...it's a bit silly (in a way that I love, but still).

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#17 Post by david hare » Fri Mar 04, 2005 1:08 am

There is a very attractive Studio Canal DEJEUNER SUR L'HERBE from France but no English subs. Renoir shot this in EastmanColor, of course again largely outdoors. Fortunately European Eastman always looked much richer than American Eastman in the period so it is quite lush (and the disc looks much more saturated than THE RIVER.) I recommend the DVD if you don't need the subs. As for THE RIVER I agree the PQ is superb for grain texture contrast and so on, it is only the level of saturation. It all looks too "polite", the color doesn't leap out at you,.as it should at the very beginning with the color dyes in the sand. (And I am watching this on a Hidef upscaling player to Hidef Monitor through HDMI which I assure you renders the deepest possible color from a DVD. )

Edit: I forgot to add while on Renoir and color. There was a staggering Techni dye transfer print of FRENCH CANCAN doing the rounds in Sydney for close on twenty years, alas the rights ultimately expired and the print was burnt (as they all were) while the rest of us conducted a wake for its passing. I am not exaggerating when I say the color in these prints jumped out of the screen. The ultra fine grain, the profound saturation of each primary and all the permutations. They were almost 3 dimensional in intensity. CANCAN - in this form - was my all time fave Renoir Color. Of course it is a studio shot movie (with the massive lighting etc) but people who knew THE RIVER from its 35mm screenings talked in the same awestruck tones. I felt so disappointed with the STAGE AND SPECTACLE box when it finally arrived. The supppliers of the prints did not do Criterion any favors. Clearly they have worked very hard to bring CANCAN up to scratch and it's probably as close as anyone will get now. As for GOLDEN COACH, the less said. AND ELENA is perhaps my least favorite Renoir anyway.

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ellipsis7
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#18 Post by ellipsis7 » Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:05 am

Three strip technicolour tended to produce this enhanced saturation... THe only place where it is currently used is China, where all the old lab technology was exported... I interviewed Jack Cardiff a few years back and asked him about 3 strip, of which he was a master... He explained the alignment of a prism was key, but said it in fact was devilishly difficult to work with and was as much an art as a skill... Much of it lost now...

Colour is an interesting subject - do colour prints and negatives 'fade' over the decades (Scorsese suspected so)... How does our colour memory work? I recently saw 2046 on a huge screen - really luminescent visceral colour and texture... The Mei-Ah DVD image is crisp, sharp, clean and faithful, but does not quite match up to that initial emotional as well as intellectual impression... It's hard to say... THE RIVER restoration was done by top dogs like the BFI, and has Scorsese's imprimatur, so it can't be far wrong...

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#19 Post by david hare » Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:17 am

I am aware of the Beijing lab facility (a central book ref. is Richard Haines "Technicolor Movies". However I am aware that a dye-transfer printing lab was re-established in Hollywood in the last few years. Indeed according to Vittorio Storaro he and Coppola had the first release prints of APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX printed in dye-transfer. Ditto (of all things) PEARL HARBOR, and Robert Harris had REAR WINDOW printed in the process for theatrical screenings of his restoration (which I am not totally happy with, having seen it in this form.) There are several other titles also. So the printing process is again available in the USA and is selectively used.

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ellipsis7
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#20 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Mar 09, 2005 7:29 am

On my kit the CC transfer of THE RIVER is sublime, a really vivid visceral technicolour image, clear and crisp, of a marvellous film... Some of their (and Renoir's) best work...

And just to add the Rumer Godden documentary is really good... A remarkable and unexpected story in itself that informs her books THE RIVER and BLACK NARCISSUS, and sometimes appears even more evocative and emotionally charged...

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#21 Post by kschell » Thu Mar 10, 2005 1:06 pm

What a marvelous film. Since it's the first time I've seen it, I can't say whether the colors are 'better' or not than other pressing / prints, however it looked fine to me.

Two questions.. 1) What about the music? Anybody have thoughts on this?

and 2) Are the attitudes expressed towards Indians colonialist?

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Steven H
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#22 Post by Steven H » Sun Mar 20, 2005 8:05 pm

Since there are no words from Bazin included in the Criterion DVD, I thought I would post a few here (from "Jean Renoir"). I would highly recommend this book to those without. It's cheap and there are countless insights, both timeless and of their time. If posting this constitutes a copyright issue, then I will waste no time deleting it. These do contain spoilers (all italics his).

about the politics...
Andre Bazin wrote:There is othing anti-aristocratic in the novel by Rumer Godden on which The River is based. Furthermore, in the film Renoir explicitly takes the point of view of Harriet. The events are thus filtered through the memories and sensibilities of an English adolsescent with a lively but still naive mind, scarecely aware of social problems. She sees India, like her garden, her friends, and her parents, from the viewpoint of a stable family life which takes for granted the social and economic stabilities on which it's based. Thus Renoir's point of view as it is expressed by her is exclusively moral. To reproach him for not using this fleeting love story as a vehicle to describe the misery of India or to attack colonialism is to reproach him for not treating an entirely different subject. I have it from Renoir imself that before he found a producer with resources in India he had considered for some time making the film in Hollywood. If this had happened we would have lost much, but nothing of the essential theme of the film, which is the discovery of love by three adolescents.

However, I am not being altogether sincere in pleading Renoir's case this way. I think that his fidelity to his central theme made for a vision of English society in India which though not at all false, ay be a little superficial, overly optimistic, and implicitly imperial.

But then Renoir never hesititated to take liberties with historical facts in hisFrench films either. As a matter of fact, the choice of point of view would seem to argue for a certain partisanship, not (as only an absurdly narrow-minded critic of The River contend) on behalf of colonialism, but rather on behalf of morals over sociology. The latter were not seperable in The Rules of the Game. They are in The River. Made in Hollywood with simulated Indian decor, the film would have had a completely different tonality. What the geographic and human realism adds, however, is not a social dimension, but a religious and mystical meaning. The probem of the confrontation of the Occident and the Orient is not posed in terms of economics or politics, or even history, but exclusively in terms of religious spirituality. India figures only as a setting, but more as a moral than as a geographical setting. Its silent presence, to which the protagonists pay only half-conscious attention, acts on their inds as a magnetic field influences the needle of a compass.
about Bogey's friend...
Andre Bazin wrote:There is at least one character who incarnates the mystical temptation of the Orient, and this is Bogey. Remember his games with his little native friend, as mysterious and taciturn as a bronze statue? He is the only witness to Bogey's death, and he is the only one at the burial who does not grieve, because he alone understands the vanity of the tears and the ignorance which the Westerners' love conceals: ignorance of the profound secret to which "the Unknown" has initiated Bogey for eternity.
about the Cinematography...
Andre Bazin wrote:Renoir's mastery of his material in this film, his power to mold it in the shape of his vision, may surpass even that of The Rules of the Game. Certainly it is not inferior to it. yet this time Renoir's achievement rests on techniques considerably different from those he used until 1939. For the fluid camera, the lateral reframings of the deep-focus shots, Renoir here substitutes a pictorial stability in which th scenes are framed only once. There is not a ingle pan or dolly shot in the entire film. Renoir used his lens like a telescope, moving in and out on reality, revealing and conealing things according to the instincts of his shrewd, mischevious sensibility. here he seems interested only in showing things precisely as they are. Even when he falls back on traditional montage, using many shots, as in the scene of the siesta, there is no hint of expressionistic symolism. He uses it only as a narrative convention, and it does not for a second destroy the concrete reality of the moment.

Furthermore, the classicism of the editing in The River is perhaps more apparent than real. It is in no way a return to the traditional forms which The Rules of the Game destroyed and supplanted, but rather an extension of the same revolution begun in the earlier film. For the decorative or expressionist frame of the traditional shot, for the artificiality of discontinuous montage, Renoir has substituted the mask and the living continuity of reframing. By this he brought to the cinema at once more realism and more expression. He allowed it to mean more by showing more.

But in this negation of cinematographic canons, in this destruction of the shot as the basic unit of screen narrative and the screen itself as the unit of space, there remained an implicit acknowledgement of the "cinema" as a means of expression. Even as a mask, the screen remained a screen. Even in reversing its function Renoir had not destroyed it. This final step remained to be taken. In The River the screen no longer exists; there is nothing but reality. Not pictorial, not theatrical, not anti-expressionist, the screen simply dissapears in favor of what it reveals.

Anonymous

#23 Post by Anonymous » Sun Mar 27, 2005 5:45 pm

I just finished watching The River, and the film and the transfer were both amazing, however, I couldn't help noticing that throughout the film, the colors would change ever so slightly, so that the sky would flicker between different shades of blue, etc... Is this a problem with the disc or is it inherent in how the movie was filmed? Has anyone else seen this?

On another note, at certain parts in the film, especially towards the end (an example would be the scene at the dining table where the mother breaks down crying) there was an audible hiss in the background that was a bit loud and consistent. Is that also normal, I don't seem to hear anyone mentioning these video and audio problems on their reviews so I was just wondering if anyone else is experiencing them.

Thanks

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FilmFanSea
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#24 Post by FilmFanSea » Mon Mar 28, 2005 3:08 am

ran222 wrote:I just finished watching The River, and the film and the transfer were both amazing, however, I couldn't help noticing that throughout the film, the colors would change ever so slightly, so that the sky would flicker between different shades of blue, etc... Is this a problem with the disc or is it inherent in how the movie was filmed? Has anyone else seen this?
Yes, this is called chroma breathing. Jon Mulvaney explained it this way when I asked about the same problem with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp:
The shifting color you notice on COLONEL BLIMP is called "chroma
breathing". Chroma breathing is a shifting of density within the
individual strips in three-strip Technicolor. Consequently, the film
appears to change hue slightly at times. This appears in the original
film element and could not be corrected.
It is distracting, but it's not a problem with the transfer (which is drop-dead gorgeous).

Film restoration expert Robert Harris commented on this phenomenon in response to my post here:
Certainly not a fault of the transfer.

One normally finds this YCM "breathing" in Technicolor dupes or sep masters.

Col. Blimp is a good case in point, but it can be seen beautifully in the Five Star Ultra edition of The Sound of Music. Simply look at a neutral area in a dupe and watch the colors shift kaleidoscopically.

RAH

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#25 Post by david hare » Mon Mar 28, 2005 11:55 pm

As FilmFanSea has well explained the ocassional variation in color density within shots (which is more noticeable in the exterior "location" material than in the highly lit interiors)I would add that the variations in level and "hiss" on the soundtrack are, I believe due to the use of direct magnetic recording for the all the scenes with dialogue. These are virtually "wild tracks" and it was because of this technical limitation that Renoir restricted the camera movements in the whole film to only a very few (for instance panning in on Rada when she begins her "Krishna dance) in which the scenes were shot with pre-recorded music. Of course this "limitation" also gives rise to Renoir devising a virtually new, "post-montage" static shot style and the similarly discontiguous sountrack, alternating between "live" dialogue, voice over and pre-recorded music also gives rise to an seemingly new auditory style for Renoir.

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