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Financed by Marcel Pagnol's production company, Jean Renoir's Toni is a landmark in French
filmmaking. Based on a police dossier concerning a provincial crime of passion,
it was lensed by Claude Renoir on location (unusually for the time) in the small
town of Les Martigues where the actual events occurred. The use of
directly-recorded sound, authentic patois, lack of make-up, a large ensemble
cast of local citizens in supporting roles, and Renoir's steadfast desire to
avoid melodrama lead to Toni often being labeled "the first 'neorealist' film".
Renoir himself disagreed. Although Toni is acknowledged as a masterly forerunner
of neo-realist preoccupations and techniques he wrote: "I do not think that is
quite correct. The Italian films are magnificent dramatic productions, whereas
in Toni I was at pains to avoid the dramatic."
Toni's story centres on an Italian immigrant, Antonio Canova (Charles Blavette), a labourer at a local quarry who has become entangled in relationships with his landlady (Jenny Helia) and with the young, hot-blooded Spaniard, Josefa (Celia Montalvan). As Josefa's life disintegrates through rape and a necessitous marriage to the brutish foreman Albert (Max Dalban), Toni is caught up in a series of marriages gone sour and the psychological fragility of those he cares for.
Despite the exquisite location backgrounds — the vineyards, rocky hilltops and verdant pathways surrounding the little village — Renoir makes no attempt to impose, through picturesqueness, the placid power of this Provencal backwater. Toni's direct style and theme (Luchino Visconti was assistant director) attained classic status with the critics and directors of the French New Wave. Renoir's vision of realism approaches a purity sometimes found in documentary, whilst retaining the literary power and emotion of Balzac, Flaubert and Zola.
Theatrical Release: February 22nd, 1935
DVD Review: Eureka (Master's of Cinema #28) - Region 0 - PAL
|DVD Box Cover||
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|Distribution||Eureka Video - Master's of Cinema Spine #28 - Region 0 - PAL|
Average Bitrate: 8.10 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||French (Dolby Digital 2.0)|
length audio commentary by Kent Jones and Phillip Lopate
What a great find by Master's of Cinema - and for a film of over 70 years old the image is quite remarkable. The print used has sporadic dirt, light scratches and dust but is otherwise exceptional with digital noise appearing as grain. Contrast is very strong with the possibility of some slight black boosting. Everything is at the elevated standard that we have come to expect from a Master's of Cinema release and we should feel quite fortunate to be able to see the film in such exemplary quality.
I was very appreciative of the commentary with Jones and Lopate working dynamically well together - neither dominating yet both contributing imperative data for further in-depth appreciation. They reflect on many other films that harkens to memorable scenes in Toni and support each other's contentions with guarded references to Cassavetes, Mizoguchi, Kiarostami, Visconti and more. Geoff Andrew's 17 minute introduction is a good premise to viewing. It unusually looks to have been filmed in his bedroom!?! His comments make for a fine base before viewing the film, although some may prefer the watching the feature presentation first before exposing themselves to his insightful information. He makes important observations on post-dubbing and other later production details not necessarily present in Toni.
This is a great release folks. I am thrilled with it. Truly, I think this is one of the best DVD releases of the year so far and can see it garnering many votes in our balloting in December. I consider this a must-own DVD.