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A few words about...™ Monsieur Verdoux -- in Blu-ray

Criterion A Few Words About

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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted March 22 2013 - 07:35 AM

If you appreciate dark humor, Charles Chaplin’s 1947 Monsieur Verdoux, may be the film for you.  It's an odd film, as it's both incredibly dark, as well as equally funny. 

 

Shot in black & white, and photographed by the great Rollie Totheroh, who shot virtually every Chaplin production, going back to 1915, Criterion’s new Blu-ray is a feast for the eyes.

 

Beautiful gray scale and shadow detail, with requisite resolution and grain, the imagery is almost all there.  Almost.

 

While the Blu-ray is supposedly based upon a new 2k digital restoration, and derived from the original camera negative, my eyes are telling me a different story.

 

The film needs additional work.  There are continuous positive scratches, mostly on the far right side of the frame, but also elsewhere -- and some of them cutting through the emulsion.  I’m also not seeing anything that appears to be from a camera original, but rather from a fine grain master.  Not certain what occurred here, but the restoration was not the work of Criterion.

 

If I'm correct, a far higher quality harvest could have been attained by either returning to the actual camera negative, or to a new untainted fine grain.  The proper thing would have been a 4k scan of the OCN, as a proper archival element would have been produced.  As it appears, the Chaplin family does not have one.

 

Great film, from one of the greatest (and in his feature work) least prolific of filmmakers.

 

Image - 3

 

Audio - 4

 

Highly Recommended, in spite of image problems.

 

RAH


"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 10 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted March 26 2013 - 02:27 PM

As with all the Chaplin titles, MK2 commissions their own mastering work prior to licensing them, then the licensee can make further tweaks if they desire, which Criterion does, but they are obviously at the mercy to what MK2 has provided them.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#3 of 10 OFFLINE   Moe Dickstein

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Posted March 26 2013 - 05:06 PM

and at this point in time, I wonder how long ago those MK2 HD scans were done...

Edited by Moe Dickstein, March 26 2013 - 05:52 PM.

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#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted March 26 2013 - 05:44 PM

and at this point in time, I wonder how long ago those M2K HD scans were done...


Have no idea. But MK2's work has been historically poor. Wonder how they might handle important or quality films?

A pity, really.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#5 of 10 OFFLINE   Moe Dickstein

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Posted March 26 2013 - 05:53 PM

Well at least it's better than other files they've been given lately (Children of Paradise...)
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#6 of 10 OFFLINE   Reed Grele

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Posted March 26 2013 - 06:08 PM

Does anyone know if this is the same transfer released on Blu-ray in Sweden by Soul Media Nov 30, 2011?



#7 of 10 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted March 27 2013 - 03:12 PM

Does anyone know if this is the same transfer released on Blu-ray in Sweden by Soul Media Nov 30, 2011?

 

Probably based on the same MK2 HD source, but Criterion always does additional work of their own that would not be on any other release.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted March 27 2013 - 04:00 PM

From what I remember of the liner notes, Modern Times and The Great Dictator were both 2K transfers from fine-grain positives (plus some duplicate negative for TGD). The Gold Rush '42 is HD (1080p?) from a duplicate negative; The Gold Rush '25 is 2K from the reconstruction duplicate negative.

 

I've thought the Criterion releases have been fairly solid, even with oddities like the obnoxious jump cut in Modern Times' opening credits (why didn't they use the 35mm element used for the laserdisc?) and the digitally re-created main titles for Dictator.

 

Verdoux is a film I should give another chance, but I really didn't care for it when I saw it several years ago on TCM. I actually like A King in New York, which doesn't seem to have many fans.


Edited by Patrick McCart, March 27 2013 - 04:01 PM.


#9 of 10 OFFLINE   Moe Dickstein

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Posted March 27 2013 - 04:14 PM

I've thought the Criterion releases have been fairly solid, even with oddities like the obnoxious jump cut in Modern Times' opening credits (why didn't they use the 35mm element used for the laserdisc?) and the digitally re-created main titles for Dictator.
 
Verdoux is a film I should give another chance, but I really didn't care for it when I saw it several years ago on TCM. I actually like A King in New York, which doesn't seem to have many fans.


As RAH said, it seems Criterion is limited in elements to what MK2 gives them, and they and the family seem to want that version out there. I assume the jump cut is where the credits are altered.

I like what I've seen of King, and so hope to see that and Limelight released before too long.
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#10 of 10 OFFLINE   EddieLarkin

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Posted November 26 2013 - 04:07 PM

I just got done with this, and was transfixed from beginning to end. I held off on this viewing for a while because I have less interest in Chaplin's sound films in general, but that'll teach me, because I found myself laughing at Monsieur Verdoux far more than I do any of his silents.

 

When Chaplin is preparing the poison in Martha Raye's bathroom, and he leaves the bottle unattended momentarily, and the film quickly cuts to the maid in her room, letting us know she will feature in this scene in some important way, well, all which is about to transpire becomes obvious, and I found myself having to pause to prepare myself.

 

I wasn't disappointed.







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