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A Foreign Affair [Blu-ray]
(Billy Wilder, 1948)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Paramount Pictures
Video:Universum Film / Kino Lorber / Masters of Cinema (UK) Spine #232
Region: 'B' / Region 'A'/ Region 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 1:56:20.932 / 1:56:23.935 /1:56:21.307
Disc Size: 21,545,694,569 bytes / 34,834,969,455 bytes / 46,913,538,902 bytes
Feature Size: 20,116,353,024 bytes / 33,830,387,712 bytes / 36,810,470,208 bytes
Video Bitrate: 20.99 Mbps / 34.94 Mbps / 35.58 Mbps
Chapters: 12 / 8 / 10
Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Standard Blu-ray Case / Transparent case
Release date: February 13th, 2014 / August 6th, 2019 / June 22nd. 2020
Video (all three):
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 842 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 842 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
Master Audio English 1555 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1555 kbps /
16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
German, none / English, none / English (SDH), none
• Trailer (1:00)
Audio Commentary by Film Historian Joseph McBride
•Audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride
• From Berlin to Hollywood: Wilder and Dietrich's Foreign Affair - A video essay by Kat Ellinger (22:47)
• Two radio adaptations of A Foreign Affair, broadcast as part of the Screen Directors Playhouse in 1949 and 1951. Featuring the voices of Billy Wilder, Marlene Dietrich, Rosalind Russell, John Lund, and Lucille Ball (59:45 / 1:00:01)
• Archival interview with Billy Wilder (10:18)
• Theatrical trailer (1:01)
• A collector's booklet featuring new writing by film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; a new essay by critic Richard Combs; and archival material
Description: Writer/director Billy Wilder (in collaboration with producer/writer Charles Brackett) earned his first critical condemnation with A Foreign Affair. Reviewers accused Wilder (as they would so often in the future) of moral bankruptcy, challenging him to prove what could possibly be funny about the Nazi war guilt, the bombed-out city of Berlin, the postwar European black market or attempted suicide. All of these elements are in Foreign Affair, and all are very funny. John Lund is an American army captain carrying on a casual affair with Berlin songstress Marlene Dietrich, who accepts Lund's attentions so long as there are contraband cigarettes and nylons added to the bargain. Iowa congresswoman Jean Arthur is sent as part of an American fact-finding delegation to Berlin, and Lund is compelled to clean up his act--or at least pretend to. Despite her initial shock at the corruption all around her, straitlaced Arthur eventually falls for Lund, but Dietrich has been at this game a lot longer. For an interesting cinematic and sociological exercise, A Foreign Affair should be shown in tandem with Wilder's 1961 Cold War comedy One, Two, Three.
Shot amid the ruins of Berlin, Wilder's satire on the corruption among GIs fraternising with the locals did not go down too well with the Defence Department. Arthur plays a prim congresswoman investigating an army officer (Lund), and when she realises she really has fallen for her man, she has to win him away from the exotic charms of chanteuse Dietrich. This may not be Wilder at his best - the story develops along fairly predictable lines, with Arthur switching her starchy uniform for a glistening evening gown - but there are some precious set pieces, notably a seduction among a row of filing cabinets and Dietrich's club act, not to mention a crackling script.
In 1947, United States Congresswoman from Iowa, Phoebe Frost, arrives in the American occupation zone in Berlin, Germany, with a group of fellow congressmen to investigate the morale of the ten thousand troops stationed there. The congressmen receive an official greeting from American troops, during which Phoebe presents to Captain John Pringle a home-baked cake, which was sent by his fiancée, whom he has not seen in four years. Unknown to Phoebe, John immediately trades the cake on the black market for a mattress, and brings the mattress and various hard-to-find luxury items to his German girl friend, Erika von Schluetow, a beautiful torch singer. After a tour of the city, the stern and prim Phoebe immediately begins taking notes on the troops playtime antics, which include chasing German blondes in the ruined streets and drinking at an off-limits nightclub called the Lorelei.Excerpt from TCM located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
A Foreign Affair appears true to the source on Blu-ray from Universum out of Germany. The image quality shows pleasing grain and the layered contrast supports depth. It adds a full notch of superiority over the decent SD transfer notably in support of the film's textures. It has the same marks and scratches as the DVDs - but they are not overly prevalent. This Blu-ray supports the film's visuals well and provides a solid 1080P presentation.
The Kino Blu-ray image is even more gorgeous with beautifully consistent grain textures on their dual-layered disc with a max'ed out bitrate. It is from the same strong source (see duplicate scratches/speckles) and the 1080p presentation is fabulous - a technical notch ahead of the single-layered Universum.
The Masters of Cinema is likewise a strong transfer - again, the same source. It also has a max'ed out bitrate on a dual-layered disc and is on-par with the Kino in terms of image quality.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
More Blu-ray Captures
More Blu-ray Captures
The DTS-HD 2.0 channel track at 842 kbps sounds crisp with hints at depth in the score by Friedrich Hollaender (Caught, Berlin Express, Background to Danger, The Verdict). A faithful transfer without flaws and dialogue is clean and clear with only a couple of instances of sounding a bit rougher. There are optional German subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.
Kino use a 16-bit DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track that is more robust than the Universum but not 24-bit. I found it hard to tell the difference excepting that the Kino sounded deeper. Both service the film very well, but the Kino offers optional English subtitles (see sample) on their Region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.
Masters of Cinema go a notch ahead in the audio transfer. They use a linear PCM, but at 24-bits - dual-mono. Sounds excellent supporting the higher end and score by Hollaender and Marlene Dietrich performing Black Market, Illusions, The Ruins of Berlin etc. The UK disc offers optional English (SDH) subtitles and their Blu-ray disc is Region 'B'-locked.
Only a trailer but the disc has (untested) BD-Live accessibility.
Kino include an audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride (author of Two Cheers for Hollywood: Joseph McBride on Movies). He discusses that Wilder considered it one of his best films, the layered political satire, the American naïveté about the war and why the film has been overlooked over the years among many other topics including his personal recollections of knowing Jean Arthur. There is also a short theatrical trailer and trailers for other films.
MoC include the same audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride but add much more. I enjoyed the 23-minutes "From Berlin to Hollywood: Wilder and Dietrich's Foreign Affair" - a video essay by Kat Ellinger exploring the director's work and Dietrich - I found it very informative. Included are two radio adaptations of A Foreign Affair, broadcast as part of the Screen Directors Playhouse in 1949 and 1951, featuring the voices of Billy Wilder, Marlene Dietrich, Rosalind Russell, John Lund, and Lucille Ball. They run about an hour each. There is a 10-minute archival interview with Billy Wilder, a theatrical trailer and the package contains a collector's booklet featuring new writing by film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; a new essay by critic Richard Combs plus archival material.
Universum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Masters of Cinema- Region 'B' - Blu-ray
The Kino Blu-ray is the better package. Superior image and the commentary are enough of a reason to indulge.If you haven't seen it - this is definitely the way to go and if you already own it on SD - the film-like image is impressive via HD. Jean Arthur is always fabulous - double ditto for Dietrich. I'm very pleased to own the Blu-ray - as the film has substantial 're-watch value', as Wilder flirts between genres.
I appreciate A Foreign Affair more each time I see it and the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray is easily the definitive edition to own for this diverse film narrative with excellent performances. The supplements make it the Blu-ray to own for Wilder + Dietrich fans or cinephiles in general. Our highest recommendation!
August 29th, 2014
August 3rd, 2019
June 15th, 2020
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.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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