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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Despair [Blu-ray]


(Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Bavaria Atelier

Video: Olive Films



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

Runtime: 2:01:13.307

Disc Size: 41,126,192,555 bytes

Feature Size: 25,608,462,336 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.10 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 15th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1687 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1687 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)






• Fiction Factory The Cinema and Its Double - Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Despair Revisited (1:12:53 in 1080P)





Description: Based on the classic novel by Vladimir Nabokov with screenplay adaptation by Tom Stoppard. In early 1930s Germany, against the backdrop of the Nazis’ rise to power, Hermann Hermann (Dirk Bogarde), a Russian emigrant and successful chocolate magnate, starts experiencing mental breakdowns. He soon meets Felix, an unemployed laborer, who Hermann believes to be his doppelganger. He hatches up an elaborate plot, which he believes will free him of all his worries and nightmares. Cinematography by legendary DP, Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas, The Departed). Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Berlin Alexanderplatz).



The Film:

Hermann is truly impossible — dandified, sarcastic and dishonest even about the details of his background. But, as he says at one point, "All the information I have about myself is from forged documents." With that acute sensitivity that often heralds approaching illness, Hermann responds to all of the world's vulgarities as if they were a kind of physical torture. An eyebrow twitches involuntarily when Lydia makes one of her egg-and-mild toddies, which she calls "moggy-woggies." He flinches as if threatened with a crowbar when Ardalion (Volker Spengler). Lydia's cousin and sometimes lover, a fat slob of an artist, appears before him dressed in nothing but a towel, his belly hanging over the top.

But Hermann does love Lydia for all her sillinesses, probably because she loves him and finds him ever fascinating. "How dare you come into the room partly clothed," he yells at Lydia when she enters their bedroom dressed only in a black slip. "Off with it!"

Excerpt from Vincent Canby at the NY Times located HERE

This generally ill-received assault (in both senses) on the art house market, filmed in English, toys perversely with its signifiers of 'class' (Nabokov novel, Stoppard script, Bogarde performance) to both plainly outrageous and oddly hermetic effect. The novel's surprises are merrily given away half way through (when distressed chocolate manufacturer Hermann Hermann decides to opt out of proto-Nazi Germany by murdering a 'double' who in fact looks nothing like him), and Fassbinder increasingly aligns the material with his more personal studies in schizophrenia like Satan's Brew or World on a Wire, while matching his own concerns with illusionism to Nabokov's with delusion. Bold, garish and obsessive, but more than a little irritating.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

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

Despair appears more detailed than an SD rendition on Blu-ray from Olive Films. There is some noise on the dual-layered disc - and the two-hour film has a middling bitrate.  I can't help think the less-dynamic visual qualities are a faithful representation of the film. It is consistent in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio. There is little depth but detail is at healthy levels. I don't see that this Blu-ray transfer has had any digital manipulations.  Certainly not the type of film that would rely on extraneous eye-candy - I suspect that the 1080P presentation was as good as we are likely to find for the film.















Audio :

Olive Films provide a faithful DTS-HD Master in 2.0 channel stereo at 1687 kbps. It is fairly unremarkable without range or depth. Peer Raben's original score supports the film and, like the dialogue, sounds clean without notable flaw. There are no subtitles for the English language track and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE.


Extras :

Only one extra - but it is a doozy. We get one of Robert Fischer's excellent feature-length making-of documentaries; The Cinema and Its Double.  It includes new interviews with leading actress Andrea Ferreol, screenwriter Tom Stoppard, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, and other members of the cast & crew - plus archival interviews with director Rainer Werner Fassbinder as well as behind the scenes clips of the work in progress. It runs just shy of 1 1/4 hours and is presented here in 1080P. Fassbinder fans will surely indulge and be appreciative of the content.



Fassbinder's depiction of bourgeois madness - like most of his work - won't be to all tastes. The perceived doppelganger adds an important layer to Despair. I wouldn't know where to put this in the director's oeuvre - but it may be my personal favorite. I think there are elements here that are quite universal - that we all mentally fence within our minds. It is quite the film experience and one I would recommend. The Blu-ray is probably a solid recreation of the film and is well worth seeing. 

Gary Tooze

November 16th, 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.

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Gary W. Tooze






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