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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

La Vie De Boheme [Blu-ray]


(Aki Kaurismäki, 1992)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Sputnik

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #693



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:42:59.798 

Disc Size: 46,080,810,661 bytes

Feature Size: 30,190,614,528 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 26

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: January 21st, 2014



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

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 (SDH), none



Where Is Musette?, an hour-long documentary on the making of the film (51:53)
New interview with actor André Wilms (11:28)
New English subtitle translation
One Blu-ray and one DVD, with all content available in both formats
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Luc Sante





Description: This deadpan tragicomedy about a group of impoverished, outcast artists living the bohemian life in Paris is among the most beguiling films by Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki. Based on stories from Henri Murger’s influential mid-nineteenth-century book Scènes de la vie de bohème (the basis for the opera La bohème), the film features a marvelous trio of Kaurismäki regulars—André Wilms, Matti Pellonpää, and Karl Väänänen—as a writer, painter, and composer who scrape by together, sharing in life’s daily absurdities. Gorgeously shot in black and white, La vie de bohème is a vibrantly scrappy rendition of a beloved tale.



The Film:

This is a well-regarded contemporary dramatic retelling of the story most familiar to audiences from Puccini's great opera La Bohème and was made by the noted Finnish film director Aki Kaurismaki. Like the opera, it is based on the novel Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. Despite their ever-present poverty, which poses a constant threat to their continued existence, the artists and their friends in this movie speak in only the most polite, elegant, and genteel manner, which only serves to underscore their desperate situation. In the story, the poet Marcel has been unable to come up with the rent for his barely tolerable room and has been evicted from it. While wandering in his neighborhood, he catches the eye of Rodolfo, an Albanian immigrant eating in a small cafe, who waves him over and invites him to share his dinner. Though they have never met, they are soon deeply involved in a discussion about art. They leave the restaurant together and, for want of a better idea, wander back to Marcel's former room. There the poet and his new friend, the painter Rodolfo, discover an equally congenial companion in the man who just rented his room, Schaumard, an Irish composer. Just one step away from starvation most of the time, these loyal friends share resources to help one another out. On one occasion, Marcel needs a suit for a job interview and is able to borrow one from one of Rodolfo's portrait sitters long enough to be interviewed and get a paid job. With his earnings from his new editing job, Marcel buys Schaumard a car he needs. On the job, Marcel meets poor provincial girl Musette, whom he falls for, and at the same time Rodolfo finds another poor provincial girl, Mimi, on his doorstep. He quickly comes to love Mimi, but circumstances constantly thwart their being together, until he at last succeeds in making a place for them and she dies in his arms.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Nothing actualy "happens" in an Aki Kaurismaki film. But things emerge -- deadpan, funny things. You have to become accustomed to the movie's low blood pressure, its subtly satiric rhythms.

The Finnish director has an exact target in mind, the niche between bathos and true poignance. His characters seem subdued, even hypnotized, but they're single-mindedly aware of the grim existence around their necks. The effect is funny, but not whoopingly campy. Their personal pain is too real and involving to push them into that zone.

In "La Vie de Boheme," Kaurismaki's slow-and-steady mood piece about artistic squalor in Paris, all of these things come into signature play.

Based on the same 19th-century novel (Henri Murger's "Scenes de la Vie de Boheme) that inspired Puccini's opera, the story is about three down-and-out losers doomed to penury and artistic obsession. There's Albanian painter Rodolfo (Matti Pellonpaa), playwright Marcel (Andre Wilms) and composer Schaunard (Kari Vaananen). Their problems are exactly the same: no rent or food money and the futile struggle to be recognized.

It doesn't help Marcel that he refuses to reduce his 21-act play to commercial size or that the chances of Schaunard's latest work making it (it's called "The Influence of Blue on Art") seem remote.

Excerpt from The Washington Post located HERE

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

La Vie de Boheme looks magnificent on Blu-ray from Criterion. The image has some of the most impressive contrast I have seen in a while. The visuals are rich and stunning.  This is dual-layered with a high bitrate and we can guess that it is a solid representation of the film. Detail is crisp and there is a hint of grain. It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. They are frequent examples of depth and no noise. This Blu-ray has no discernable flaws and supplies a wonderful 1080P presentation.


















Audio :

The audio is rendered via a linear PCM mono track, in original French, at 1152 kbps. La Vie de Boheme has a cool soundtrack with pieces by Emery Deutsch and Arthur Altman (lyrics translated to French), Mauri Sumén, of course Mozart's "Le nozze di Figaro" sounds wonderful and there are performances by Marcel Mouloudji, The Fake Trashmen and Little Willie John. Eclectic and wonderful! There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

Where Is Musette? is a 51-minute documentary, directed by Veikko Nieminen, shot on the set and featuring behind-the-scenes footage and cast and crew interviews providing a rare glimpse into the working methods of Aki Kaurismaki. on the making of the film. There is also a 2012 interview with actor André Wilms running almost a dozen minutes. He talks about meeting Kaurismaki and his memories of making La Vie de Boheme. The package is dual-format containing one Blu-ray and one DVD, with all content available in both formats. The package contains a booklet featuring an essay by critic Luc Sante.



Kaurismaki films continue to grow on me with the director's style and the deadpan humor producing pleasing entertainment. La Vie de Boheme fits in perfectly. Warm, human characters... hard to believe it is over 20-years old. This is a fabulous choice for Criterion to bring to Blu-ray and the package offers a fabulous a/v presentation with keen extras. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

January 1st, 2014


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.

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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