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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka 'The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant')

directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
West Germany 1972

 

The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant: Petra Von Kant is a successful fashion designer of moderate wealth. Petra has a silent servant, Marlene, who she badly mistreats and is constantly ordering her to do the most menial tasks. Petra was once married and has a daughter at boarding school, but now has no use for men. After a long conversation with her friend, the Baroness Sidonie, concerning their views on men and the impact of male-female relationships on their independence, Sidonie introduces Petra to Karin. Petra is instantly smitten by Karin and their relationship, and the effect it has on Petra, is the basis for the rest of the film.

The film was taken from a stage play and takes place entirely in Petra's apartment, but never feels like it's on a stage. The set does nothing to constrain the story, on the contrary, it contributes to the feeling of imprisonment that is one of the films themes. It is a showcase of powerful, emotional performances by Margit Carstensen as Petra, Hanna Schygulla as Karin, and Irm Hermann as Marlene. Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder's script delves into the nature of female relationships, sexual power, ambition, and despair.

Carstensen (most likely facilitated by Fassbinder's famous manipulations) gives a soul-bearing performance that is simply mesmerizing. Schygulla is the manipulator, at first shy and naive-seeming, but completely ruthless and cold when she needs to be. And Irm Hermann, does what the great silent film stars could do best; portray love, anguish, sadness, pride, and pity, all without saying a word.

Fassbinder rejects cinematic artifice and tricks. He and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus rely on long takes and uses very few closeups, instead allowing the all-seeing camera eye to glide around the characters and silently observe. They creatively utilize the confined nature of the set, as in one memorable scene when a wooden beam creates a split-screen effect. In Uli Lommel's (longtime friend, actor, and PA for Fassbinder) commentary on the excellent Fantoma DVD of Fassbinder's western Whity, he quotes the head of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation, Julian Lorenz, as saying "Forget all that you've heard and read about Fassbinder. If you really want to know who he was, just watch The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant."

The film is the most perfect encapsulation of Fassbinder's career theme - that to love was to show weakness; that the person who loved the most in a relationship, gave up all of their power and control. Another running Fassbinderean theme was class and money. Thus, Petra feels inferior to Sidonie, and superior to Marlene and Karin. She seeks to control Karin through her position and with money. But while money means a great deal in the Fassbinder universe, sex means even more, and Karin's ability to manipulate Petra with sex, desire, and love is the superior power.

The power pyramid and relationships of the film are often reflected using symbolism - as with the beautiful and strange positioning of the mannequins in the background or the positioning of furniture or lack thereof. And one cannot help but notice the wall size mural of Renaissance-esque nude males that often provides the film's background with below-the-waist subtext or pointing fingers.

At its core, the film is a riveting examination of the human need for relationships on one's own terms - relationships based on domination, subjugation, or obsession - rather than on some sort of mutual respect or shared feelings. Needs, wants, and goals may be shared, but true feelings? Feelings are to be locked away in a shell of human bitterness, escaping only in our tears.

Brook Kennon for DVDBeaver

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Comparison:

Wellspring Media Inc. - Region 1 - NTSC vs. E-M-S (2 Disc set) - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Andrey Diment for the Region 2 - PAL screen captures!

1) Wellspring - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT

2) E-M-S - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

   

Distribution

Wellspring Media Inc

Region 1  - NTSC

E-M-S
Region 2 - PAL
Criterion Collection, spine #740 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:04:04 1:59:04 (4% PAL speedup) 2:04:45.728
Video

1.33 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.35 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.28
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Disc Size: 47,624,779,913 bytes

Feature Size: 30,227,736,576 bytes

Average Bitrate: 28.49 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Wellspring

 

Bitrate:

 

E-M-S

 

Bitrate:

 

E-M-S

 

Audio German (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround) , German (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)  

German (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

LPCM Audio German 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles (Yellow) English or None English, and none English, and none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Wellspring Media, Inc.

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1
 
Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary from Jane Shuttuc (Professor at Emerson College)
• Documentary "Fassbiner 1997" (30 minutes)
• Insert Linear Essay by Thomas Elsaesser of the University of Amsterdam
• 2 Short 16mm Films "The City Tramp" and "Little Chaos"
• Filmographies
• Weblinlks

 


DVD Release Date: October 29, 2002
Keep Case

Chapters 28

Release Information:
Studio: E-M-S

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1

2-DVD edition (both are DVD-9)

Edition Details:
• 12-page booklet

Disk1:
Main title - 1.59.10
Interview with Irm Hermann - 0.11.10
Picture gallery
Biographies (audible)

Disk2:
"Der Stadtstreicher" Fassbinder short, b/w (1966) 4:3 ­ 0.11.25
“Life, Love & Celluloid” documentary 4:3 ­ 1.30.21 (11 chapters)
Filmography with excerpt, trailer or poster for many of the movies
Fassbinder's biography (audible)

EXTRAS NOT SUBTITLED IN ENGLISH

DVD Release Date: September 4th, 2002
Digipak

Chapters 5

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Disc Size: 47,624,779,913 bytes

Feature Size: 30,227,736,576 bytes

Average Bitrate: 28.49 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P

Edition Details:

• New interviews with Ballhaus (7:04) and actors Margit Carstensen, Eva Mattes, Katrin Schaake, and Hanna Schygulla (30:16)
• New interview with film scholar Jane Shattuc about director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the film (23:08)
• Role Play: Women on Fassbinder, a 1992 German television documentary by Thomas Honickel featuring interviews with Carstensen, Schygulla, and actors Irm Hermann and Rosel Zech (58:43)
• PLUS: An essay by critic Peter Matthews"
 

Blu-ray Release Date: January 13th, 2015
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 5

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (January 15'): There is quite a significant difference in the new Criterion 1080P transfer as compared to the old SDs. The video image is darker, has warmer flesh-tones and exhibits a fair amount of grain texture and depth. It looks very rich in-motion. I can't speak to how it looked theatrically but it shows itself with an even consitency and is very film-like.

Criterion transfer the film's audio via a linear PCM in original German mono at 1152 kbps. It sounds flat and the music (The Platters' The Great Pretender and Smoke Gets Into Your Eyes, as well as Verdi's 'Un dě felice' from 'La Traviata') has some depth and clarity that is pleasing to the ear. There are optional English subtitles on the region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.

Criterion add some great extras. We get a new, 2014, 1/2 documentary entitled Outsiders featuring actors Margit Carstensen, Eva Mattes, Katrin Schaake, and Hanna Schygulla discussing the production of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and their experiences working with director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. There is also a new, Criterion produced, 7-minute interviews with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and another new, 23-minute, interview with film scholar Jane Shattuc (professor of visual media arts at Emerson College and author of Television, Tabloids, and Tears: Fassbinder and Popular Culture) about director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the film, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Role Play: Women on Fassbinder, is a 1992 German television documentary by Thomas Honickel featuring interviews with Carstensen, Schygulla, and actors Irm Hermann and Rosel Zech. It runs just shy of an hour. There is also a liner note booklet with an essay by critic Peter Matthews.

Excellent Blu-ray package that fans of Fassbinder should be extremely pleased to own. Our highest recommendation! 

***

ON THE DVDs: The E-M-S PAL whites are truer than the Wellspring which has a shade too much green in their image. The Wellspring is sharper and they have the option of 5.1 audio. The E-M-S has some bountiful Extras on their 2nd disc and we will go for them in the Extras dept. I suppose true fans of the film may want both version - superior image quality in the Wellspring and better extras on the E-M-S although they are NOT subtitled in English if that is a requirement for you . No reason to change if you just want the film and own the Region 1 or are not conversant in German..

 - Gary W. Tooze





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(Wellspring - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. E-M-S - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


 

Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


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

 

Subtitle Sample - Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

1) Wellspring - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) E-M-S - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Wellspring - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) E-M-S - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Wellspring - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) E-M-S - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Wellspring - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) E-M-S - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Wellspring - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) E-M-S - Region 2 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures


 

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Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

Box Covers

   

Distribution

Wellspring Media Inc

Region 1  - NTSC

E-M-S
Region 2 - PAL
Criterion Collection, spine #740 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



 

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