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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Shoah [Blu-ray]

 

(Claude Lanzmann, 1985)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Ministčre de la Culture de la Republique Française

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #663 / Masters of Cinema - Spine #100-104

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' / Region 'B' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:33:52.765 + 2:00:42.235 + 2:26:59.185 + 2:26:03.588

Runtime: 4:34:11.560  + 4:52:58.769

Disc One Size: 49,224,053,437 bytes / 49,322,687,461 bytes

Disc Two Size: 48,487,483,885 bytes / 49,236,276,819 bytes

Last of the Unjust: 46,461,941,395 bytes / DTS-HD Master 5.1 1755 kbps  / 3:39:08.969 / 1.85:1

Video Bitrate: 19.77 Mbps / 18.27 Mbps / 20.49 Mbps / 19.00 Mbps

Chapters: 57+ 29, 21 + 16 / 86 + 37

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Custom Thick case

Release date: June 25th, 2013 / January 26th, 2015

 

Video (both packages):

Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio French 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

LPCM Audio Miscellaneous languages1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles (both):

English, English (SDH), none

 

Extras: (Blu-ray Disc 3 - has optional English subtitles)

• Three additional films by director Claude Lanzmann: A Visitor from the Living (1999, 1:08:03); Sobibór, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m. (2001, 1:42:12); and The Karski Report (2010, 48:43)
New conversation between Lanzmann and critic Serge Toubiana (1:00:47)
Interview with Lanzmann from 2003 about A Visitor from the Living and Sobibór (13:58)
New interview with Caroline Champetier, assistant camera person on Shoah, and filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin (33:08)
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones and writings by Lanzmann

 

4 Blu-rays of the five films, which total 1006 minutes in length

• Four additional films by director Claude Lanzmann with optional English subtitles: On disc 3: A Visitor from the Living (1999, 1:08:03); Sobibór, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m. (2001, 1:42:10); The Karski Report (2010, 48:42) and on disc 4; Last of the Unjust (3:39:08)
300-PAGE BOOK containing writing on all of the films

 

Bitrate:

Criterion Part One TOP vs. Criterion Part Two BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema Disc One TOP vs. Masters of Cinema Disc Two BOTTOM

 

The Last of the Unjust

 

Description: Over a decade in the making, Claude Lanzmann’s nine-hour-plus opus is a monumental investigation of the unthinkable: the murder of more than six million Jews by the Nazis. Using no archival footage, Lanzmann instead focuses on first-person testimonies (of survivors and former Nazis, as well as other witnesses), employing a circular, free-associative method in assembling them. The intellectual yet emotionally overwhelming Shoah is not a film about excavating the past but an intensive portrait of the ways in which the past is always present, and it is inarguably one of the most important cinematic works of all time.

 

The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present – for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK – Claude Lanzmann's landmark documentary about the Holocaust, Shoah, alongside the four films he made through 2013 on the subject.

Lanzmann spent twelve years spanning the globe for surviving camp inmates, SS commandants, and eyewitnesses of the "Final Solution". Without dramatic re-enactment or archival footage – but with extraordinary testimonies – Shoah renders the step-by-step machinery of extermination, and through haunted landscapes and human voices, makes the past come brilliantly alive.

Shoah [1985], at 550 minutes, is a work of genius alone, an heroic endeavour to humanise the inhuman, to tell the untellable, and to explore in unprecedented detail the horrors of the past. It is one of the most powerful and important, and greatest, films of all time.

A Visitor from the Living [1997] is based on an interview conducted by Lanzmann with Maurice Rossel during the filming of Shoah. A member of the Berlin delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross from 1942, Rossel was the only member of the organisation to have visited Auschwitz in 1943, and to have also paid a trip to the "model ghetto" of Theresienstadt in June 1944.

Sobibór, October 14, 1943, 4PM [2001] recounts the prisoner uprising that took place in the Sobibór death camp in Poland. Only 50 prisoners ultimately evaded capture, while the rest were sent to their murders in the gas chamber.

The Karski Report [2010] is Lanzmann's brief film on Jan Karski, the Polish resistance figure who also featured in the final section of Shoah, and which recounts Karski's powerful testimonial given to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter on what he witnessed during a trip to the Warsaw Ghetto and to the extermination camp Belzec.

The Last of the Unjust [2013], at 218 minutes in length, moves between 1975 and 2012, detailing Lanzmann's mid-'70s Rome interviews with Benjamin Murmelstein, the last President of the Jewish Council in the Theresienstadt ghetto, and the filmmaker's own return to the location 37 years later — providing an unprecedented insight into the genesis of the "Final Solution".

***

Claude Lanzmann's landmark documentary about the Holocaust, Shoah, features alongside the four films he made through 2013 on the subject. Lanzmann spent twelve years spanning the globe for surviving camp inmates, SS commandants, and eyewitnesses of the Final Solution;. Without dramatic re-enactment or archival footage but with extraordinary testimonies Shoah renders the step-by-step machinery of extermination, and through haunted landscapes and human voices, makes the past come brilliantly alive. Also featuring the films A VISITOR FROM THE LIVING, SOBIBÓR OCTOBER 14 1943 4PM, THE KARSKI REPORT and THE LAST OF THE UNJUST.

 

 

The Film:

Claude Lanzmann's extraordinary nine-and-a-half-hour documentary (1985) is constructed as a series of approaches--through language, memory, and landscape--to a subject that can't be depicted: the Holocaust. Speaking with witnesses to the events, interpreting the apparent trivia of German train schedules, or (most powerfully) allowing his camera to roam the now-peaceful fields and forests of Poland where the exterminations took place, Lanzmann does not build his film chronologically but through patterns of repeated images. There is no historical footage in the film; the past emerges wholly through the present. In searching for the most vivid possible presentation of his subject, Lanzmann has been led to reinvent many of the principles of modernist and structuralist filmmaking, which here acquire a new kind of nonacademic urgency and justness. More than a treatment of a great subject, the film itself is a great achievement in form. In French with subtitles.

Capsule of Dave Kehr's review at the Chicago Reader found HERE

Making a history was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to construct something more powerful than that” – Claude Lanzmann

I consider Shoah to be the greatest documentary about contemporary history ever made, bar none, and by far the greatest film I’ve ever seen about the Holocaust” – Marcel Ophuls

I would never have imagined such a combination of beauty and horror… A sheer masterpiece” – Simone de Beauvoir

----

The enormity of Claude Lanzmann’s mission and the devastating nature of his subject matter have tended to overshadow Shoah’s greatness as documentary filmmaking. Not simply the most ambitious movie ever made about the extermination of the Jews, Shoah is a work that treats the issue of representation so scrupulously it might have been inspired by the Old Testament injunction against graven images—it’s a movie you watch in your mind's eye.

J. Hoberman's Capsule Review in the Village Voice HERE

 

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

The restoration of Shoah looks much improved on Blu-ray from Criterion.  The previous DVDs (New Yorker and MoC) looks very flat and green in comparisons.  This is housed on two dual-layered disc with a reasonable bitrate and textured grain is highly pleasing. Colors lean to appearing more realistic and there are instances of depth. It also seems that there is significantly more information (notably on the right edge) in the, original, 1.37:1 frame via this HD rendering. This Blu-ray is clean and has no discernable flaws - it supplies a vastly improved presentation via the restoration and 1080P transfer.

 

The new Masters of Cinema 1080P differs from the Criterion. Colors are richer, skin tones warmer and the greenish overhang is gone. It even shows a bit more grain. It looks great in-motion and is a superior image to their US counterpart.

 

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

 

1) New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC (Reviewed HERE)  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC (Reviewed HERE)  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC (Reviewed HERE)  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC (Reviewed HERE)  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

1) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - BOTTOM

 

 

Audio :

Clean audio in an an authentic linear PCM 1.0 channel mono track in original French (with English, German, Hebrew, Polish and Yiddish) at 1152 kbps. There are optional English or English (SDH) subtitles and my Oppo has identified this Blu-ray as being a region 'A' -locked.

 

Same liner PCM mono audio as on the Criterion. In brief testing my ears could not distinguish a difference. The Masters of Cinema also has optional English or English (SDH) subtitles, but the UK Blu-ray disc is region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

All the supplements are located on a third dual-layered Blu-ray disc. Criterion have included three additional films by director Claude Lanzmann. A Visitor from the Living is made from footage originally shot for Shoah. It looks at Theresienstadt, a town 50 miles outside of Prague that was chosen by the Nazis as a "model" ghetto. In it, Lanzmann interviews Maurive Rossel, a Red Cross delegate who was sent to survey conditions in the ghetto in June 1944. It ruins 1 hour 8-minutes and was made in 1999. While making Shoah, Claude Lanzmann interviewed Yehuda Lerner, who had taken part in the uprising at the Sobibor concentration camp in 1943. Ultimately, Lanzmann decided that the story needed to be a film in its own right, so he used the footage to create this 2002 1 3/4 hour documentary entitled Sobibór, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m. In it Lerner describes the fateful events of that day and his personal story of survival. The Karski Report has a Polish underground member (Jan Karski - as seen in Shoah) communicating the dire situation in the Warsaw ghetto. In this 2010 49-minute film (The Karski Report) Lanzmann presents additional footage of Karski, who goes into greater detail about his missions and the world leaders he met with - President Roosevelt among them - in hopes of saving the many Jews trapped in the ghetto. We also get a new 1-hour conversation between Lanzmann and critic Serge Toubiana director of the Cinematheque Francaise. They sat down together in January 2013 to discuss his epic work. There is a second interview with Lanzmann - this one from 2003 about A Visitor from the Living and Sobibór with writer Helene Frappat. It runs 14-minutes. There is a new, 2013, 1/2 hour interview with Caroline Champetier, assistant camera person on Shoah (and who supervised the color timing on this restoration), and filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin who has written about the films of Claude Lanzmann. There is also a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones and writings by Lanzmann.

 

We lose the 1.5 hours worth of interview extras on the Criterion, but keep the three Lanzmann films (also in the Criterion); A Visitor from the Living [1997], Sobibór, October 14, 1943, 4PM [2001] and The Karski Report [2010] all on a separate Blu-ray disc. Masters of Cinema additionally include the monumental 3 1/2 hour The Last of the Unjust [2013] on its own Blu-ray (a 4th in the package). It moves between 1975 and 2012, detailing Lanzmann's mid-'70s Rome interviews with Benjamin Murmelstein, the last President of the Jewish Council in the Theresienstadt ghetto, and the filmmaker's own return to the location 37 years later — providing an unprecedented insight into the genesis of the "Final Solution". Masters of Cinema also add a 300-page liner notes book containing writing on all of the films.

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray Disc 3

 

Both Blu-rays have:

 

 

But only Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray has:

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Brilliant, draining documentary that justifies its lauded place in cinema archives. Criterion have gone to town with this Blu-ray package making it the definitive for this epic work. Truly one of their most incredible efforts and we can easily recommend to all.

 

Masters of Cinema have advanced upon the Criterion with an incredible package offering different, richer, video, and go further in terms of supplements. Truly the definitive package of this draining film experience. Our strongest recommendation!  

Gary Tooze

June 10th, 2013

January 20th, 2015

 


 

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 5000 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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