DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Casque d'Or - The Criterion Collection (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Jan 21, 2005.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Casque d'Or
    The Criterion Collection





    Studio: Criterion Collection
    Year: 1952
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 98 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: French (English dubs)
    Subtitles: English
    MSRP: $39.95
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase





    The Feature:
    Set in France at the turn of the century, Georges (played by Serge Reggiani) seems like a straightforward and hardworking gentleman who plies his trade as a carpenter. However, he was recently released after having served a five-year prison term. At a local dance, he is introduced to a beautiful young and manipulative woman named Marie (played by Simone Signoret). Their attraction is instant as the two lock on while Marie dances with her controlling and terribly abusive boyfriend Roland (played by William Sabatier). He is an insecure man who displays incredible bouts of jealousy when Georges shows Marie even the slightest amount of attention. Georges eventually asks Marie to dance, which causes Roland to go into a jealous rage. Trying to remain calm and cool, Roland invites Georges back to their table but knowingly pulls back on Georges’ chair, causing him to fall down in front of his companions, in an attempt to humiliate him. Underestimating Georges’ fortitude, Georges gets up and belts Roland with an uppercut, knocking him to the ground.

    Regardless of Georges’ feelings toward Marie, he is delving into dangerous territory. Roland and all of his companions are members of a French crime syndicate known as Apaches. These members are loyal amongst each other and make their living sharing the proceeds of ill-gotten gains through organized crime. Felix Leca (played by Claude Dauphin) is the leader of the gang and is approached by Roland who asks for his help in dealing with problems he is having with Marie. He agrees, but moments after their initial encounter, he too shows feelings for the irresistibly beautiful young woman. Knowing Marie isn't interested in his advances, Felix eventually goads Georges into fighting with Roland in a back alley scrap. Georges proves his determination and agrees to fight resulting in the death of Roland.

    With Roland no longer in the picture, Marie is free to be with Georges, the man for which she has true feelings for. However, after the death of Roland, both Marie and Georges find themselves on the run from the sûreté. They leave town but their freedom is short lived when Georges runs into Felix and learns that his friend Raymond (played by Raymond Bussières) has been framed for Roland's death.

    Knowing Georges would be unable to allow his old pal to take the rap, Felix skillfully plans and frames Raymond using Roland’s personal belongings that were collected during the night of the violent fight with Georges. His plan works and Georges turns himself in to the police but they are unwilling to release Raymond knowing he was an accessory to the murder, at least to some degree. Marie shows up on the scene while the pair is being transported to jail and aids them in an escape. What happens next is a combination of events that culminates in a shocking conclusion for everyone involved.

    Jacques Becker does a magnificent job at highlighting the magnetism between Signoret and Reggiani. From the moment Signoret lays eyes on Georges, there is no question as to which direction the path of love will take. Typical of Becker films (Touchez Pas Au Grisbi – 1954 and Le Trou - 1960) there is a sense of doom early on in the film, a sense of tragedy that neither of these characters are likely to overcome, as much as want them to. He quite handily captures the distinction of the period with gorgeous and lush black and white imagery.

    While all of the performances are quite good, Simone Signoret brings with her an enormous and charismatic screen presence (whose beauty is captured perfectly on the cover art for the disc). Claude Dauphin the aging boss of the crime syndicate also turns in a brilliant performance as the cool-headed, extremely cunning leader who is more than willing to betray his own men to satisfy his own personal gratification.

    The Feature: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    Shown in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, Casque d'Or is a vision of beauty. This is a near perfect transfer which results in a beautiful velvety smooth image.

    Black levels are exceptionally deep, while whites are contrasted nicely always appearing bold and clean. The level of grayscale is also equally impressive displaying a broad range. The levels of shadow detail and contrast were also displayed impressively.

    Image detail also appeared to be just as impressive. Most of the facial close-ups looked terrific. Even the majority of wide and longer shots appeared to be satisfactorily sharp. As we would expect many of the close-ups highlighting the beauty of Signoret were shot soft and appear in that manner.

    There is a slight amount of fine film-grain that appears throughout the course of the film resulting in a gorgeous film-like image with a nice amount of depth and dimension.

    There are traces of dirt and dust, but they are slight. Same thing can be said for vertical scratches. Again, these are quite minute. The overall image appeared to be rock solid and virtually free of any jitter or shimmer - very solid.

    The authoring and compression appears to have been handled perfectly as there are no artifacts to speak of, nor was there any indication of edge enhancement.

    A very nice job indeed!

    Video: 4.5/5
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    Audio:
    The 1.0 monaural encoded soundtrack is almost on par with the video presentation.

    Most importantly, the track is mostly clean. Although hiss is present, it is extremely slight. The track is free of any popping or crackling. The overall tonality of the track is natural (bordering on slightly harsh), but certainly better than average. Interestingly, due to Signoret, Reggiani and Dauphin's ability to speak English, there is also an English dubbed version that appears as an audio option. That version doesn't fare quite as well as the dialogue tends to hinge on being harsh and edgy at times. Dialogue is clear but is at times, difficult to discern, not to mention the synching issues as a result. On the other hand, the French audio version isn't plagued with the same harshness.

    Not much to speak of in terms of dynamics. There's a few scuffles during the odd action sequence - here and there but this mostly dialogue driven film is relatively free of any bells and whistles. Beyond the limitations of the period, what more could we ask for?

    Stick with the original French audio track.

    Audio: 4/5
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    Special Features:
    Casque d'Or boasts an impressive array of special features starting with:
    [*] A Commentary by Peter Cowie. He unleashes an avalanche of information relating to the history of the film and many of those involved in its production including location shoots as well as some background information relating the Apache gangs, an appreciated aid to those not aware of the French crime syndicate. He also spends a great deal of time discussing the life and career of director Jacques Becker. I have nothing but respect for Mr. Cowie's level of expertise and his knowledge of film, but he isn't the easiest gentlemen in the world to listen to. His opening sentence into the commentary includes comparisons of the river and trees to that of a Monet landscape...
    [*] Behind The ScenesSilence on Tourne: Casque d'or was shot on the set of the film in 1951 and provides a rare glimpse of Jacques Becker at work. It was directed by Ange Casta. Film critic Philip Kemp recorded the commentary for the footage in 2004. This is indeed rare 8mm footage, which unfortunately is limited in quality video-wise (mostly poor) but an excellent find and an interesting inclusion. Duration: 7:36 minutes.
    [*] Next up is a pair of Interviews featuring Simone Signoret which was recorded in 1963 for the TV series Cinépanorama. Serge Reggiani is also interviewed for a 1995 program entitled La France en Films. These are both interesting as they touch briefly on mini bios as well as the success of the film itself. Duration: 7:15 and 6:20 minutes.
    [*] Up next is Cinéastes de Notre Temps is comprised of two parts and features interviews with Becker's associates and colleagues, including François Truffaut and Simone Signoret. Many details relating to the film are discussed as well as Becker, himself.. Duration: 14:14 and 12:33 minutes.
    [*] And finally... an Insert is included which hosts an essay on the film by critic Philip Kemp, a complete list of chapter stops, a complete list of cast & crew members as well as a detailed list of the technical credits.

    Special Features: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    Casque d'Or is a story of love, betrayal and tragedy filled with romantic energy. Even though the characters are less than upstanding citizens, their love for each other is strong and unwavering. We cheer for them through their entire journey although in the back of our minds we know their future is bleak. The plot is amazingly basic, but Becker does a superb job at turning this into an engaging visual spectacle. He takes something incredibly straightforward and manages to turn it into a creative wonder.

    Aside from a wonderful film, the disc itself is a vision of beauty. For a 53 year old film, the presentation borders on perfection. And on top of everything else, the disc is complemented with a healthy group of special features. Fans of Becker and Casque d'Or should have no reservations about this newest Criterion release.

    Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
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    Recommended..!!





    Release Date: January 18th, 2005
     
  2. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    Thanks Herb! I've already got this and will be screening it tonight (hopefully). [​IMG]
     
  3. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    Herb, very nice review man. Pure honey. I could not find this on tuesday. I know a bit of the story and it sounds intriguing. I have never seen the film.

    Ironically, speaking of shadow detail, Criterion hit a home run with a film 13 years Casque d'Or's senior with Port of Shadows.

    Now, Criterion, go get Odd Man Out and give me my dream disc.
     
  4. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Steve/Zen... let us know what you think of this. I really enjoyed this although I prefered Touchez Pas Au Grisbi a little more. And I agree Zen, Port of Shadows was also one of my favorite CC releases last year.



    humina humina ... wouldn't that be nice...!
     
  5. Jan H

    Jan H Cinematographer

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    Caught this last night. Great film and disc! Signoret looks absolutely luminous and the acting and production values are top-notch. You can definitely see Renoir's influence on Becker. Buying this is a no-brainer for fans of French cinema. [​IMG]
     
  6. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    Finally got around to watching Casque D'Or last night. Great flick, though like Herb, I slightly prefer Touchez Pas Au Grisbi. I was also very happy with Port of Shadows. [​IMG]

    And I'd pony up for a Criterion Odd Man Out, too. Until then, ain't no one gettin' my Image copy.

    Looks like Criterion and Warner are layin' some smack-down on all the other companies this year. [​IMG]
     
  7. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    Steve, couldn't agree more.
     
  8. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    I think it's one of the greatest French films ever made. I'm so glad that it was Criterion who released it on DVD.

    Bravo, Herb!
     

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