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Raymond Bernard - Eclipse Series 4

 

Wooden Crosses (1932)       Les misÚrables (1934)


One of the greatest and least-known directors of all time, Raymond Bernard helped shape French cinema, at the dawn of the sound era, into a truly formidable industry. Typical of films from this period, Bernard's dazzling dramas painted intimate melodrama on epic-scale canvases. These two masterpieces—the wrenching World War I tragedy Wooden Crosses and a mammoth, nearly five-hour Les misÚrables, widely considered the greatest film adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel—exemplify the formal and narrative brilliance of an unjustly overshadowed cinematic trailblazer.

 


Titles

 

 


 

Wooden Crosses (1932) - Hailed by the New York Times on its Paris release as "one of the great films in motion picture history," Raymond Bernard's Wooden Crosses, France's answer to All Quiet on the Western Front, still stuns with its depiction of the travails of one French regiment during World War I. Using a masterful arsenal of film techniques, from haunting matte paintings to jarring documentary-like camerawork in the film's battle sequences, Bernard created a pacifist work of enormous empathy and chilling despair. No one who has ever seen this technical and emotional powerhouse has been able to forget it.

Les misÚrables (1932) - Hailed by film critics around the world as the greatest screen adaptation of Victor Hugo's mammoth nineteenth-century novel, Raymond Bernard's dazzling, nearly five-hour Les misÚrables is a breathtaking tour de force, unfolding with the depth and detail of its source. Featuring stunning art direction and cinematography and unforgettable performances by the exquisite Harry Baur (who died tragically during World War II), as Jean Valjean, and the legendary Charles Vanel, as Inspector Javert, Les misÚrables is one of the triumphs of French filmmaking.

Posters

Theatrical Releases: 1932 - 1934

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Eclipse Series Four from the Criterion Collection (3-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: Respectively - 1:53:32, 1:49:52, 1:25:21 + 1:26:36
Bitrate:

Wooden Crosses

Bitrate:

Les misÚrables (part 1)

Bitrate:

Les misÚrables (part 2 + 3)

Audio French (original mono)
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eclipse / Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33 

Edition Details:

  •  one page (for each film) of liner notes in the transparent case


DVD Release Date: July 16th, 2007

2 Transparent Keep Cases inside a Slipcase cardboard box
Chapters: 18, 19, 12 and 13

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The 2 feature films of this boxset are housed in individual transparent keep cases (slim for Wooden Crosses and a double for Les mis) they are not sold separately at this time. These particular editions can only be obtained in Criterion's Eclipse Series Four - Raymond Bernard package at present.

All three DVDs are dual-layered and, unfortunately for some, pictureboxed transferred (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). Each are coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. The transfers are progressive and in the original 1.33 aspect ratio. The audio for all is original mono French and there are optional English subtitles. The PathÚ logo starts each film so we can assume that is the transfer source.

Wooden Crosses (1932) - Although it is the older of the two films it looks surprisingly strong. There is some contrast flickering and damage marks, but detail and grey scale are excellent. The image is on the dark side. If I have a complaint it would be about the audio which is not as consistent as we have been accustomed to from Criterion - there are many instances of background hiss and I'll assume that it was unavoidable from the source. There are optional English subtitles and the film is a genuine masterpiece. Comparisons to All Quiet on the Western Front are accurate. A fabulous cinema experience that I am so glad to have been able to see.           

 

Les misÚrables (1934) - Firstly - everything you may have heard about this film version of Hugo's novel is true; it is awe inspiring. I was riveted for the entire, nearly, 5 hours. It is filled with beauty and depth - almost hard to believe it was made over 70 years ago.

 

The transfer looks very professional and although the image and audio quality is not perfect by any means - it was adept enough for me to swoon over the film. Criterion's hallmark remains their contrast. I'll assume there was some black level boosting which brings out detail to a higher standard. It has some damage but none extensive enough to impinge upon viewing, and the digital noise is fine enough to resemble grain. I watched it on a plasma television and it appeared quite wonderful considering the films age.

 

As standard for Eclipse there are no digital supplements but some liner notes readable through the keep case cover (for Wooden Crosses) and a 4 page leaflet in the Les mis box.  

For the price I consider this a must-own DVD package. I don't know where you will see these films, looking this good, for the total price of less than $25 (currently 37% off at the time of this writing). Really - it is a ridiculous bargain in my mind. Les Mis fans maybe especially be keen for much more from just a historical viewpoint - this film eclipses (no pun intended) any version, live, musical or other, that I have seen. Highly recommended!

Gary W. Tooze




DVD Menus



 

Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

Wooden Crosses (1932) aka 'Les Croix de bois'

Directed by Raymond Bernard

Starring Gabriel Gabrio, Charles Vanel, Raymond Aimos and Antonin Artaud
 
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Double Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

 

Les MisÚrables (1934)

 

Directed by Raymond Bernard

Starring Harry Baur, Charles Vanel, Paul Aza´s, Max Dearly, Charles Dullin and ╔mile Genevois

 

Disc 1 (Part 1)

 

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Les MisÚrables (1934)

 

Disc 2 (Part 2 and 3)

 

 

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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

 

Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

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