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(aka "Orpheus" or "Orfeo" or "Orfeas" or "Orfeus" )

 

directed by Jean Cocteau
France 1950

 

Jean Cocteau’s 1940s update of the Orphic myth depicts Orpheus (Jean Marais ), a famous poet scorned by the Left Bank youth, and his love for both his wife Eurydice (Marie Déa) and the mysterious Princess (Maria Casarès). Seeking inspiration, the poet follows the Princess from the world of the living to the land of the deceased through Cocteau’s trademark “mirrored portal.” As the myth unfolds, the director’s visually poetic style pulls the audience into realms both real and imagined in this, the centerpiece to his Orphic Trilogy.

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 29th, 1950 (France)

Reviews          More Reviews         DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Criterion (Spine # 68) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Gary Tooze for the Criterion / Home Vision (Spine # 68) Screen Caps!

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Criterion

Region 0 - NTSC

BFI
Region 2 - PAL
Criterion Collection - Spine #68 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:35:03 1:31:46 (4% PAL speedup) 1:36:01.797
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.16 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 9.48 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,596,585,890 bytes

Feature: 21,556,512,768 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 25.98 Mbps

Audio French (Dolby Digital 2.0)

French (LPCM)

LPCM Audio French 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, None English, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Cocteau’s 1950 essays on the film
• A Cocteau bibliofilmography
• 6-page liner notes with Cocteau Book excerpts

DVD Release Date: June 27th, 2001
Keep Case inside The Jean Cocteau Orphic Trilogy Box

Chapters 18

Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Feature commentary from French film expert Roland-Francois Lack
• Original trailer
• English Language Opening Credits Sequence
• Fully illustrated booklet containing posters, stills and a 1950 interview with Cocteau

 

DVD Release Date: October 27th, 2008
Keep Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,596,585,890 bytes

Feature: 21,556,512,768 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 25.98 Mbps

 

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary featuring French-film scholar James S. Williams
• Jean Cocteau: Autobiography of an Unknown (1984), a feature-length documentary (1:06:51 in 1080i)
• Jean Cocteau and His Tricks (2008), a video interview with assistant director Claude Pinoteau (13:29 in 1080i)
• 40 Minutes with Jean Cocteau (1957), an interview with the director (40:37 in 1080i)
• In Search of Jazz (1956), an interview with Cocteau on the use of jazz in the film (17:36 in 1080i)
• La villa Santo-Sospir (1951), a 16 mm color film by Cocteau (36:29 in 1080i)
• Gallery of images (48 in 1080P) by French-film portrait photographer Roger Corbeau
• Raw newsreel footage from 1950 of the Saint-Cyr military academy ruins, a location used in the film (1:41 in 1080i)
• Theatrical trailer (3:31 in 1080P)
• Liner Notes booklet featuring an essay by author Mark Polizzotti, an excerpted article by Cocteau on the film, and an essay on La villa Santo-Sospir by Williams

Blu-ray Release Date: August 30th, 2011
Transparent Blu-ray case

Chapters 17

 

Comments

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

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - August 11': The Blu-ray transfer is 'new' and a simultaneously released DVD is also offered HERE. The original Criterion DVD was released 10-years ago as part of the The Orphic Trilogy Boxset but while the 1080P appears to improve minimally via the static screen captures - it is far more evident in-motion. Once again we have a video-like image improving to a more textured film-respecting presentation. The, over-60 year old, film never achieves crisp status in HD but we feel this is more the authentic look of the original. It is thick and the grain is reasonably consistent and even.

Ratcheting up another notch is the audio - remaining faithful as a linear PCM track in original mono. Like the video it may make no demonstrative claims on overwhelming superiority - but the improvement is easy to ascertain by closing ones eyes and hearing both in consecutive scene viewing. Like all Criterion Blu-rays it is region 'A'-locked and offers optional English subtitles.

The most apparent difference between the first edition and the 2011 are the extensive supplements. This might be considered the primary reason for any double-dipping on the title.

So, as we have stated, being a new edition from Criterion - we get a stacked slate of brand new supplements including an audio commentary featuring French-film scholar, writer/producer, James S. Williams recorded for the Criterion Collection in May 2011. It is exceptionally informative with pauses for important relevant scenes. I think Cocteau fans will relish the opportunity to listen to this very professional expert on Orpheus. There are also somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 hours of video extras starting with Jean Cocteau: Autobiography of an Unknown from 1984 running over an hour. The documentary, presented here in HD, covers an immense amount of ground - it was directed by Edgardo Cozarinsky. Next up is Jean Cocteau and His Tricks, a video 2008 interview with assistant director Claude Pinoteau conducted by director Marc Caro (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children). He discusses the special effects in Cocteau's films and runs about 15-minutes in HD. In '40 Minutes with Jean Cocteau' we get more insight into the director via his own words in this interview conducted by Francois Chalais and shot by Orpheus cinematographer Nicholas Hayer. Cocteau discuses his film work as well as his paintings in the church at Villefranche-sur-Mer and in the villa Santo-Sospir. The interview was part of the French television series At Home With... and first aired August 28th, 1957. In Search of Jazz is another interview with Cocteau on the use of jazz in the films from a French television series. It runs 17-minutes and is presented in HD. La villa Santo-Sospir is a 16 mm color film by Cocteau - made in 1951. It runs 36-minutes and features a tour of his decorative art at villa Santo-Sospir and his home in Villefranche-sur-Mer. There is a beautiful gallery of 48 images by French-film portrait photographer Roger Corbeau presented in 1080P. Also included in a theatrical trailer in HD and almost 2-minutes of some raw newsreel footage from 1950 of the Saint-Cyr military academy ruins, a location used in Orpheus. Lastly is a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by author Mark Polizzotti, an excerpted article by Cocteau on the film, and an essay on La villa Santo-Sospir by Williams.

The extras are like a half-day clinic on Cocteau and worked fabulous for me with a coffee and a snack. I never felt like a neophyte when it came to the director but I am certainly far more educated on Orpheus now and it has only escalated my overall appreciation. This becomes beyond an 'easy recommendation' but is instead an essential package in my eyes. There is only a dollar difference in the price of the Blu-ray to DVD and we consider the extras 100 cents well spent. 

 - Gary Tooze

***

ON THE DVDs: Update: The BFI edition of Jean Cocteau's Orphée, released in October 2008, differs from Criterion's 2000 release in several important ways. First, unlike the Criterion which is available only as a part of a box set of Cocteau's Orphic trilogy - reviewed HERE, the BFI's edition is stand alone. Second, there's a noticeable difference between the contrast of the two editions. The Criterion is brighter, with richer black levels. By using a slightly darker palette, the BFI appears to be less manipulated. but the Criterion looks significantly sharper with more grain and the BFI appears flatter with muddier contrast. Third, in comparing the soundtracks, I can say that the BFI uses Linear PCM instead of Dolby Digital 2.0 and has a slightly crisper and cleaner audio presentation. Feel free to take from this what you will. Fourth, sticking with the audio for a moment, in the only line of dialogue that I compare subtitles with, the two releases translate it very differently. One example - the line is translated on the Criterion as "Your cafe amuses me", whereas the BFI renders it as "You'd think this cafe was the nerve-centre of the world." Given my lack of knowledge of French, I can't comment on which is more accurate, but it does make me wonder just how the translations differ between the two.

Lastly, the BFI has more extras. The Criterion offers only a biography and reprints of Cocteau's own writings, where the BFI comes with an excellent commentary by Roland-Francois Lack, detailing the film's production, the lives of the participants and the symbolism on screen. Additionally, the BFI has the original English credit sequence, a theatrical trailer, and another outstanding booklet with a newly commissioned essay, and reprints of an interview with the director and the original "Sight & Sound" review. I dearly love this film and I am so glad to have both editions. Those who enjoy it as much as me should seriously consider picking up this invaluable BFI edition even if you already own the Criterion box. Certainly recommended.

 - Brian Montgomery

 


Recommended Film reading (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Jean Cocteau: Erotic Drawings
by Annie Guedras
The Difficulty of Being
by Jean Cocteau, Elizabeth Sprigge
Cocteau
by Dominique Paini, Jean Cocteau
The Art of Cinema
by Jean Cocteau, Robin Buss
The Infernal Machine, and Other Plays.
by Jean Cocteau
The Holy Terrors (Les Enfants Terribles)
by Jean Cocteau, Rosamond Lehmann
Cocteau: A Biography (Nonpareil Books, No 40)
by Francis Steegmuller
Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film
by Jean Cocteau, Leprince De Beaumont


DVD Menus
(
Criterion (Spine # 68) - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)
 

 

Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 


 

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

 

Screen Captures

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

 
DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

Criterion

Region 0 - NTSC

BFI
Region 2 - PAL
Criterion Collection - Spine #68 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 




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