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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Shoah [Blu-ray]


(Claude Lanzmann, 1985)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Ministčre de la Culture de la Republique Française

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #663



Region: 'A' (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

Disc One Size: 49,224,053,437 bytes

Disc Two Size: 48,487,483,885 bytes

First Era Parts 1 Size: 26,835,683,328 bytes

First Era - Part 2 Size: 20,792,635,392 bytes

Second Era (Parts 1 + 2) Size: 23,887,577,088 bytes + 23,551,666,176 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.77 Mbps / 18.27 Mbps

Chapters: 57, 29, 21 + 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 25th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



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



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



Disc One TOP vs. Disc Two BOTTOM



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 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 very impressive 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.




New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC (Reviewed HERE) TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - PAL (Reviewed HERE) TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC (Reviewed HERE) TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC (Reviewed HERE) TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



New Yorker Video - Region 1 - NTSC (Reviewed HERE) TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



More Blu-ray Captures













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.


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.


Disc 3


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. 

Gary Tooze

June 10th, 2013

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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