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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

The Army of Crime aka L'armée du crime [Blu-ray]

 

(Robert Guédiguian, 2009)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Studio Canal

Video: Kino / Lorber

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:19:03.042

Disc Size: 43,160,840,866 bytes

Feature Size: 34,803,388,416 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.96 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case inside a cardboard box

Release date: January 18th, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio French 1671 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1671 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

• Interview with Robert Guédiguian (14:59 - 1080i)
Virginie Ledoyen & Simon Abkarian at the Cannes Premiere (21:08 - 1080i)

Trailers in HD for Army of Crime and Mademoiselle Chambon

18 Stills

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: In Paris, 1941, Armenian poet Missak Manouchian leads a motley crew of foreign-born resistance fighters in clandestine battle against the Nazi occupation. An initially reluctant Manouchian and his team must resort to guerilla tactics and radical measures in the name of liberty. News of their daring attacks, including the assassination of an SS general, eventually reaches Berlin, and the Manouchian group ultimately have to answer for their brutal role in defending France as the cradle of freedom.

***

Retraces the epic story of the Parisian Resistance fighters of the FTP-MOI (Francs-tireurs and Partisans - Immigrant... Workers). Led by Missak Manouchian, a worker and poet of Armenian origin, the group carried out around 30 operations against the Nazis between August and November 1943. Handed over to the Germans by the French police, 23 members of the Manouchian group were executed, and the Nazis tried to use their foreign roots in a propaganda campaign against immigrants in Paris in Spring 1944. But the propaganda had the opposite effect and the members of the network became martyrs of the Resistance movement.

 

 

The Film:

The title is a double nod – firstly, to the nickname given to Manouchian and his colleagues after they were executed in 1944 and, secondly, to Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 masterpiece ‘Army of Shadows’, a film which dramatised with cold brilliance the rituals of the French resistance. But while Melville suggested that all of France was resisting or supportive of the resistance, Guédiguian adopts a more nuanced stance. By dramatising the efforts of the Francs-Tireurs, the leftist resistance, he dispels the myth of a unified, Gaullist resistance – an assumption that was first and most powerfully exploded in cinema by Marcel Ophüls in his 1969 doc ‘The Sorrow and the Pity’.

Dramatically, though, Guédiguian doesn’t live up to Melville, who condensed the spirit of the resistance to a tense drama of few personalities. Guédiguian, meanwhile, calls on a rambling ensemble to serve the many points he has to make about wartime France and why people did – and did not – join the resistance, from stressing Manouchian’s memories of war in Armenia and the motivations of French Jew Marcel (Robinson Stévenin) after his father is deported, to the idealistic communism of young Hungarian Thomas (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet) and the self-serving collaboration with the French police of young Jew, Monique (Lola Naymark).

The breadth of Guédiguian’s story is sometimes at the expense of dramatic momentum, but nobody could accuse him of over-simplification. His film is always fascinating and is a crucial, stirring addition to the cinema about wartime France.

Excerpt from Dave Calhoun of TimeOut London located HERE

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

I wouldn't say that Army of Crime exports a strongly dynamic video image on Blu-ray - however, the hi-def, 1080P, visuals are easily evident and produce some subtlety exposed detail and depth. My impressions are that this is a reasonably thick film-like presentation and I believe some care was made in the production to establish this appearance - helping characterize the time-frame (by the way, the art direction is excellent). Army of Crime has already been released on Blu-ray in both France and the UK and I suspect that this is the same dual-layered transfer. The film has some dark moments and many shot in natural light. Contrast levels are very strong and there doesn't appears to be any digital manipulation. Noise is minimal, but the image isn't especially crisp - most probably dependant on the stylistic approach to the film's appearance. The disc has a strong bitrate for the feature and I can only presume an accurate reflection of the theatrical look. I am impressed with the hi-def image and most should be pleased as it allows the viewer to sink more readily into Army of Crime's intended historically-related expression.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The audio is not particularly demonstrative with a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 1671 kbps. The film is reasonably passive with some selected aggression (explosion, guns etc.) which the track handles acceptably. There is both depth and some separation but neither would be considered overly notable or a large part of the viewer's recollection. Alexandre Desplat's score includes poetic Bach and Mozart and sounds impressively crisp. The lossless French dialogue track is without dominant flaws and there are optional English subtitles. My Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

Supplements include an interview with director Robert Guédiguian for about 15-minutes in 1080i and another, at a nice setting, with the pairing of Virginie Ledoyen & Simon Abkarian at the Cannes Premiere for just over 20-minutes. There is some viable information here but it is not in abundance. There are HD trailers for Army of Crime and Mademoiselle Chambon and a stills section with access to 18 photos relating to the film. I believe the European Blu-ray release has a bit more to offer with supplements but it doesn't appear to be anything remarkable.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I think the time I invested in this film was very worthwhile. Although it came out in 2009 - I had not seen it till this Blu-ray viewing. All the positive things I had heard were true. I resent the comparisons to Tarantino's erratic "Inglourious Basterds". Army of Crime is a dense film with many character threads - a fact-based effort with an impressive ensemble cast. This film is brooding and dark at times and never impinges upon Melville's classic - it has its own agenda which is delivered in a suspense tone by director Guédiguian. We strongly recommend the film and the Blu-ray

Gary Tooze

January 11th, 2011

 

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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