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Blu-Ray Review: Criterion Continues Blu-Ray Expansion With Pair of Truffaut Classics

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HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

CHICAGO – The Criterion Collection continues its foray into the world of HD with one of the most beloved directors of all time, taking a film already in the collection and giving it the HD treatment while simultaneously releasing a new edition of one of his later films. The legend is Francois Truffaut and the films are “The 400 Blows” and “The Last Metro”.

The “continuing series of important classic and contemporary films” has long-included “The 400 Blows” but this marks the first time that the film has been available on Blu-Ray. Criterion just started doing Blu-Ray and they are wisely alternating bringing some of their most popular films to the format along with issuing new releases on it.

The 400 Blows was released on Blu-Ray on March 24th, 2009.
The 400 Blows was released on Blu-Ray on March 24th, 2009.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

“The 400 Blows” is actually Truffaut’s first film. Released in 1959, this classic piece of personal filmmaking recalls the childhood of its creator through the eyes of a young man named Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud). This seminal film in the French New Wave tells the story of a French boy in his early teens who struggles with authority figures including his parents and teachers.

The 400 Blows was released on Blu-Ray on March 24th, 2009.
The 400 Blows was released on Blu-Ray on March 24th, 2009.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

Truffaut’s amazing debut won the Best Director Award at the 1959 Canned Film Festival and won a critics award from the 1959 New York Film Critics’ Circle. It was even nominated for Best Original Screenplay for the Academy Awards. It’s a must-own for hardcore movie fans.

Having said that, if you already own the Criterion standard version and have a Blu-Ray set up to upconvert your old DVDs, you don’t really need to upgrade. Of course, “400 Blows” looks great with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but the monaural track isn’t significantly enhanced and the special features are exactly the same. So, unless a slightly improved picture over an upconverted standard one is of major importance to you, the 2006 Criterion version you already own will suffice.

The Blu-Ray features includ a new, restored high-definition digital transfer with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, two audio commentaries, one by cinema professor Brian Stonehill and another by Francois Truffaut’s lifelong friend Robert Lachenay, rare audtion footage of Jean-Pierre Leaud, Patrick Auffay, and Richard Kanyan, newsreel footage of Leaud in Cannes for the showing of “The 400 Blows,” an excerpt from a TV program in which Truffaut discusses his youth, his critical writings, and the origins of Antoine, a TV interview with Truffaut about the global reception of “The 400 Blows” and his own critical impression of the film, the theatrical trailer, and an essay by film scholar Annette Insdorf.

The Last Metro was released on Blu-Ray on March 24th, 2009.
The Last Metro was released on Blu-Ray on March 24th, 2009.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

Blu-Ray Criterion collectors can jump from Truffaut’s first film to one of his last, the gripping “The Last Metro” from 1980. Two of the best French actors that ever lived, Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve star as members of a French theater company living under German occupation during World War II. The show must go on, even in the face of pure evil.

The Last Metro was released on Blu-Ray on March 24th, 2009.
The Last Metro was released on Blu-Ray on March 24th, 2009.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

“The Last Metro” looks incredible in HD with a beautiful 1.66:1 aspect ratio and a new, restored transfer. Criterion may be new to the Blu-Ray party but they are already producing some of the most well-balanced and mixed HD pictures on the market. It’s no surprise. Their standard DVD transfers have been perfect for years. The new uncompressed monaural soundtrack is great too.

The spectacular collection of special features on “The Last Metro” include a new audio commentary by Annette Insdorf, author of “Francois Truffaut,” an audio commentary by actor Gerard Depardieu, historian Jean-Pierre Azema, and Truffaut biographer Serge Troubiana, a deleted scene, French television excerpts featuring interviews with Truffaut and actors Catherine Deneuve, Depardieu, and Jean Poiret, new video interviews with actors Andrea Ferreol, Sabine Haudepin, and Paulette Dubost, second assistant director Alain Tasma, and camera assistants Florent Bazin and Tessa Racine, in which they discuss “The Last Metro“‘s ensemble performances and visual style, a video interview with the celebrated cinematographer Nestor Almendros, detailing his collaborations with Truffaut, “Une histoire d’eau” - a 1958 short film codirected by Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, the theatrical trailer, and a booklet with a new essay by Armond White.

Commentaries, a deleted scene, interviews, TV excerpts, and a short film codirected by Godard?!?! It’s the best collection of special features of the year to date for another great Criterion Blu-Ray.

Criterion has begun their attempt at the same Blu-Ray dominance by using several of the directors who made them so respected on DVD - Wes Anderson (“Bottle Rocket”), Wong Kar-Wai (“Chunking Express”), Bernardo Bertolucci (“The Last Emperor”), Orson Welles (“The Third Man”), Akira Kurosawa (“Ran” is coming soon), Ingmar Bergman (“The Seventh Seal” is coming soon), and now Francois Truffaut. By the end of this year, it feels like a hardcore movie fan could have a respectable Blu-Ray collection of classic films just from Criterion alone.

‘The 400 Blows’ is released by The Criterion Collection and stars Jean-Pierre Leaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Remy, Guy Decomble, Georges Flamant, and Patrick Auffay. It was written by Marcel Moussy and Francois Truffaut and directed by Truffaut. It was released on March 24th, 2009. It is not rated.

‘The Last Metro’ is released by The Criterion Collection and stars Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Jean Poiret, Heinz Bennent, Andrea Ferreol, and Paullette Dubost. It was written by Suzanne Schiffman and Francois Truffaut and directed by Truffaut. It was released on March 24th, 2009. It is not rated.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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