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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka 'Berlin Alexanderplatz: Remastered)

Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Italy / West Germany 1980

 

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's controversial, fifteen-hour-plus Berlin Alexanderplatz, based on Alfred Döblin's great modernist novel, was the crowning achievement of a prolific director who, at age thirty-four, had already made forty films. Fassbinder’s immersive epic, restored in 2006 and now available on DVD in this country for the first time, follows the hulking, childlike ex-convict Franz Biberkopf (Günter Lamprecht) as he attempts to "become an honest soul" amid the corrosive urban landscape of Weimar-era Germany. With equal parts cynicism and humanity, Fassbinder details a mammoth portrait of a common man struggling to survive in a viciously uncommon time.

***

This shattering adaptation of Alfred Döblin's masterpiece - made for TV in 13 episodes with a two-hour epilogue - offers a level-headed account of protagonist Biberkopf's key weakness: his quasi-sexual infatuation with the psychotic pimp Reinhold. Aided by great design, cinematography, and, not least, performances, Fassbinder tells the story surprisingly naturalistically. Then in the epilogue, he offers a disturbing meditation on his own fantasies about Biberkopf. This phantasmagoria is Fassbinder's most daring act of self-exposure: a movie time-bomb that forces you to rethink the series as a whole. The work of a genuine master with nothing left to lose or hide.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

***

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 151/2-hour adaptation of Alfred Doblin's novel is perhaps the capstone of his career (1981), a work of unprecedented narrative density that revolves around a single character. Franz Biberkopf (Gunter Lamprecht) is a pudgy, affable ex-con, determined to achieve some kind of decency in a world--the Berlin of the Weimar Republic--that will not tolerate it. Fassbinder discards the mannerism of his late films in favor of a noble simplicity, concentrating on a single point of view as it operates across a wide range of experiences and environments. All of the usual distancing effects drop out, leaving the wrenching spectacle of one man grappling with his life in perfect candor.

Excerpt from Dave Kehr's capsule at The Chicago Reader located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: August 28th, 1980 - Venice Film Festival

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Comparison:

Criterion (7-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Second Sight (6-disc) - Region 2 - PAL vs. Second Sight - Region 'B'- Blu-ray

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

   

 

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #411 - Region 1 - NTSC Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime Approx 15.5 hours (4% PAL slowdown) Approx 15 hours Approx 15 hours
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.63 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.99 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc One Size: 48,175,462,040 bytes

Part 1: 19,449,830,400

Video Bitrate: 27.91 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080i

Audio German (Dolby Digital 1.0)  German (Dolby Digital 1.0)  LPCM Audio German 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, None English (non-removable) English (non-removable)
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Hans-Dieter Hartl's 1980 documentary Notes on the Making of "Berlin Alexanderplatz" (44:06 in German with English subs)

• Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz - Notes About The Restoration (31:56 - 16X9 in German with English subs)
• Phil Jutzi's 1931, ninety-minute film of Alfred Döblin’s novel, from a screenplay co-written by Döblin himself (1:23:48 in German with English subs)
• New video interview with Peter Jelavich, author of Berlin Alexanderplatz: Radio, Film, and the Death of Weimar Culture (23:53 in English 16X9 - no subs)
• 70-page booklet with essays and interviews

DVD Release Date: November 13th, 2007

Keep Case
Chapters: various

Release Information:
Studio: Second Sight

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• The Making of Berlin Alexanderplatz (43:56 in German with English subs)
• Berlin Alexanderplatz - a Meg Movie and Its Story (1:04:58 - 16X9 interlaced - in German with English subs)
• Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz - Notes About The Restoration (31:56 - 16X9 in German with English subs)
• The Restoration - Before and After (7:27 4X3)
• Photo Gallery

• The Original Recaps (4:18 in German with English subs)

• Cast and Crew credits of restoration (4:23)

• 2007 trailer

DVD Release Date: October 22nd, 2007
Keep Case
Chapters: various

Release Information:
Studio: Second Sight

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc One Size: 48,175,462,040 bytes

Part 1: 19,449,830,400

Video Bitrate: 27.91 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080i

Edition Details:

• 'Fassbinder: Love Without Demands’ - The acclaimed 2015 feature length documentary by Christian Braad Thomsen (1:47:10)
• An appreciation by writer and critic Tony Rayns (44:26)
• Fassbinder's Phantasmagoria - - A Visual Essay by Daniel Bird (6:10)
‘A Mega Movie and it’s Story’ documentary by Juliane Lorenz (1:05:20)
• The Making of Berlin Alexanderplatz (44:00)
• 'The Restoration' documentary including ‘before and after’ (7:28)
• Notes on Restoration (31:57)
• The Original Broadcast Recaps (4:19)
Berlinale 2007 trailer (6:59)
• 60 page perfect bound booklet featuring new essay by Cahiers Du Cinema’s Stephane du Mesnildot and archive material by Wim Wenders, Thomas Elsasser and Christian Braad Thomsenr

Blu-ray Release Date: July 23rd, 2018
Custom
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: various

 

DVD Packages

 

 

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

 

 

Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL

 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: (July 2018) Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray: Second Sight Films have brought Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz to Blu-ray. The iconic TV mini-series - a 15-1/2 hour episodic exploration of the character of Franz BiberkopfIt is on 5, dual-layered Blu-rays with the the 13 segments spread over 4 Blu-rays and a fifth containing the supplements. This is the same situation as Krzysztof Kieslowski's Dekalog and how Arrow transferred it, accurately, in how it was broadcast in its premiere on television - in PAL. So the 1080i transfer is not interlaced (combing) - it was done with the correct forethought of replicating the presentation as it was seen when it was initially shown - and that is on TV in the PAL (25 fps) standard. The 16mm derived image looks solid in the HD format showing even more information in the frame than the Criterion SD, contrast has a more layered appearance and the rich grain textures are impressively prevalent. Detail rises and the colors gain some depth, flesh tones normalize and cool - losing the orange hue of the SDs. It appears to look as good as this modest technical-production can on digital video.

The audio is transferred via a linear PCM (mono) track in the original German language. Effects aren't demonstrative and the series is enhanced by the
subtle score by Peer Raben (Fassbinder's Despair, Tenderness of the Wolves, The Marriage of Maria Braun, In a Year with 13 Moons). Liker the video, the audio is at the mercy of the production limitations but does sound clean and consistent with audible dialogue throughout.  Like Second Sight's DVD set, there are, unfortunately, non-removable English subtitles (not burned-in) - see samples - and my Oppo has identified the five discs in the set being region 'B'-locked Blu-rays.

Second Sight add new extras - all on the fifth
Blu-ray, but also repeat the ones previously on DVD including the 45-minute Making of Berlin Alexanderplatz (in German with English subs), the 1-hour 4-minutes Berlin Alexanderplatz - a Meg Movie and Its Story (also in German with English subs), the 1/2 hour Notes About The Restoration along with The Restoration - Before and After with split-screen examples. Also includes are the 4-minutes of 'The Original Recaps' that started each new episode on TV plus a 2007 trailer. What is new on the final Blu-ray disc are the acclaimed 2015 feature length documentary, 'Fassbinder: Love Without Demands’, by Christian Braad Thomsen. As described on IMDb: Thomsen presents previously unseen interview footage recorded with Fassbinder throughout their fifteen-year friendship, which spans exactly the length of his career - their first encounter was at the Berlinale in 1969 where Fassbinder's debut was famously booed (you can hear the cries of "Awful!" and "Shame!" on the archive footage), and their last was just three weeks before his untimely death. It's very interesting for fans of the director. There is also an excellent 3/4 appreciation by writer and critic Tony Rayns discussing intricacies of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz. Lastly is Daniel Bird's visuals essay; Fassbinder's Phantasmagoria - that runs over 6-minutes. Excellent. Included is a 60 page perfect bound booklet featuring new essay by Cahiers Du Cinema’s Stephane du Mesnildot and archive material by Wim Wenders, Thomas Elsasser and Christian Braad Thomsen and this Blu-ray package is limited to only 2000 copies.

Berlin Alexanderplatz is so unique, unforgettable and impacting.
The director's Magnum Opus gets a very fan-satisfying Blu-ray set. The PAL standard is important and the new extras; 
Christian Braad Thomsen's documentary, Bird's visual enlightening essay, 3/4 of an hour of Tony Rayns and the extensive book make this one of the best packages of the year. It is very strongly recommended! 

  - Gary Tooze

ON THE DVDs: This colossal task of comparing the image quality (color, detail, contrast etc.) of 7 disc vs. 6, did not yield significant results. As the captures below will bear out - the restored image on both dual-layered DVD(s) editions looks almost exactly the same. This is a positive in one respect as each edition supports the other for accuracy. There appears to be no heavy digital manipulation to further enhance the appearance... in either release. Criterion may have some minor black/red boosting. I will list below the most important differences that I noted:

1) The Criterion is coded for region 1 in the NTSC standard. The Second Sight is coded for region 2 in the PAL standard. Both are progressive. Shot on 16mm - 25fps cameras - the Criterion NTSC is sped down 4% (slower), like "28 Days Later" (Thanks ManicSounds!) - see Criterion blog HERE (Thanks Jason!).

2) The Criterion transfer is pictureboxed (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). NOTE The Criterion captures below have been put in their own table to show the amount of pictureboxing (black bars circumventing the edge). Where this may benefit systems that produce overscan (ex. production cathode ray tubes) - it detracts from systems that do not requite it (ex. HTPC).

NOTE: '...And why has Criterion picture-boxed this TV film. Every professional DP has taken the overscan into account, because every TV set it was broadcasted in (at the time) had overscan.' (Thanks Per-Olaf!)

3) Criterion has the feature film over 6 discs with a 7th included solely for supplements, while the Second Sight has 6 discs for the feature and the supplements (final chapter, epilogue and extras all on the last disc). This will benefit the compression on the Criterion and I noticed digital artifacts being less visible on the NTSC edition - but not significantly so.

4) Framing - the Criterion shows minutely more information on all 4 edges - most notably the sides - but the amount appears negligible.

5) The Criterion has removable English subtitles where on the Second Sight I cannot find a way to eradicate them from the screen. (NOTE: I don't believe they are burned-in but they cannot be removed on any of my systems). Subtitles seem similarly well translated in both editions.

6) Package - the Criterion has some very nice artwork on a 4-teired digipak with 3 overlapping disc compartments where the Second Sight has 2 X 3-teired digipaks (single disc compartments). Both are housed in a large box - the Criterion includes an 80-page book. See images above.

7) Extras (see below) 

The image seems faithfully dark and grainy on both. I've tried to include many samples below for contrast and color - both seem similar if not exact. Both are fairly clean with no distracting damage marks. We conclude that both represent the restoration extremely well on SD DVD. Like Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut - the intensely heavy grain adds a thick prominent texture to the image.

Audio - My notes show no issues with the mono audio which sounds duplicated quality-wise - no noted pops, dropouts or hiss either. If I was forced to lean one way - I'll say Criterion may be marginally more consistent.

Supplements: This may be more of a significant division than the image for most people although two featurettes are duplicated. Both editions share Hans-Dieter Hartl's 45 minute, 4:3, 1980 Behind-the Scenes documentary entitled Notes on the Making of "Berlin Alexanderplatz" - it is in German with English subtitles. This is a valuable record of Fassbinder's working methods featuring interviews with cast and crew. Also on both is Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz - Notes About The Restoration - anamorphic - 30 minutes in German with English subtitles. In this director Juliane Lorenz talks with director of photography Xaver Schwarzenberger. Also on both is Berlin Alexanderplatz - a Mega Movie and Its Story is an hour long anamorphic (but interlaced on the Second Sight - progressive on the Criterion - on disc 6) documentary. It is in German with English subtitles and has input from many sources.

Criterion includes Phil Jutzi's 1931, ninety-minute film of Alfred Döblin’s novel, from a screenplay co-written by Döblin himself  - in German with English subtitles - it's in rough shape but watchable. There is a new video 25 minute interview with the very insightful Peter Jelavich, author of Berlin Alexanderplatz: Radio, Film, and the Death of Weimar Culture. It is anamorphic and in English. Finally the Criterion has a 70-page booklet with color photos, a listing of cast and credits, a 22-page essay by Tom Tykwer, a 12-page essay by Fassbinder entitles The Cities of Humanity and The Human Soul: Some Unorganized Thoughts on Alfred Doblin's novel Berlin Alexanderplatz., another essy (8-pages) by Thomas Steinfeld "You've No Right To exist, You Shall Not Be: On Alfred Doblin and his novel Berlin Alexanderplatz. Also included is Black and White in Color: A Conversation With Director of Photography Xaver Schwarzenberger - 10 pages.

The Second Sight have some unique supplements as well - the 7 minute The Restoration - Before and After 4:3 segment giving some great insight in the form of spilt screen samples as to how the re-mastered improved upon the previous un-restored version. There is also a poorly done, filler, photo gallery, The Original Recaps (4:18 of deleted scenes from the film in German with English subs), a credit listing of the restoration crew and the 2007 trailer.

Price: $81.99 US for the Second Sight after conversion - $87.49 US for the Criterion (at the time of this writing - this does not include shipping or Amazon.UK deduction for foreign order Value Added Tax - a 17% discount!).

Choice: Pick'em - dependant on issues stated above. With Criterion's 80-page liner notes booklet - supplements lean the package in their favor.

In no way could I convey the film experience in two or three sentences (not matter how many adjectives I 'stuff in'). Words like 'impacting', 'memorable' seem somehow understating my viewing(s). 'Life-altering'... or how about 'gimungous' as more appropriate terms. This will be a frontrunner in DVD of the Year 2007 balloting for both the film as well as the transfer/supplements - no matter which edition you end up buying. An essential purchase for cinephile and casual film fan alike - this is a towering monument to late 20th Century filmmaking and considered the director's Magnum Opus.   

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus Samples

 

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)


 

Supplements

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)

 

 

Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 


 

Starts all three editions (every segment)

 

 

Title

 

Disc 1 Bitrates

 

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


Title

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


Title

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Titles

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Titles

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


Titles

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL MIDDLE

3) Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


Title

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

 


Box Covers

   

 

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #411 - Region 1 - NTSC Second Sight - Region 2 - PAL Second Sight - Region 'B' - Blu-ray




 

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