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H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

State of Siege aka État de siège [Blu-ray]


(Costa-Gavras, 1972)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Reggane Films

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #760



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

Runtime: 2:01:34.870

Disc Size: 46,360,334,874 bytes

Feature Size: 35,573,649,408 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.91 Mbps

Chapters: 20

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: May 26th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

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 (only for non-English dialogue), none



• New conversation between Costa-Gavras and film scholar Peter Cowie (31:08)
NBC News excerpts from 1970 on the kidnapping of Dan A. Mitrione, on which the film is based (7:15)
PLUS: An essay by journalist Mark Danner






Description: Costa-Gavras puts the United States’ involvement in Latin American politics under the microscope in this arresting thriller. An urban guerrilla group, outraged at the counterinsurgency and torture training clandestinely organized by the CIA in their country (unnamed in the film), abducts a U.S. official (Yves Montand) to bargain for the release of political prisoners; soon the kidnapping becomes a media sensation, leading to violence. Cowritten by Franco Solinas, the electrifying State of Siege piercingly critiques the American government for supporting foreign dictatorships, while also asking difficult questions about the efficacy of radical violent acts to oppose such regimes.



The Film:

Like most of Costa-Gavras' political thrillers, the French State of Siege is based on a true story. The incident dramatized herein is the kidnapping of a U.S. official somewhere in Latin America. The director's sympathies clearly lie with the kidnappers, especially since the official (played by Yves Montand), ostensibly an expert in traffic control, has been assigned as special advisor to the government's secret police, training these worthies in the art of the torturing of political prisoners. Uruguay was the country where this story actually took place; though no names are given, there's little doubting the identity of Costa-Gavras' fictional locale. Despite its up-to-date radicalism, State of Siege adheres to time-honored Hollywood formula, with ugly, vulgar bad guys vs. handsome, articulate good guys.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

How easily should one dismiss political potboilers? Z caused a lot of stir, with its topical subject and excellent performance from Trintignant; its audience was large, its message clear. State of Siege betrays its later date in the laboured difficulty of its subject: Tupamaro guerillas vs the CIA. It's the more courageous film, but far less 'successful', simply unable to contain the subject of terrorism within a basically thriller format. Both films sacrifice analysis and integrity in favour of popular polemic and an exploitative format, but then both films told the truth before it became 'true'; well worth seeing, if only to wonder what similar films could be made on Ulster or any of the other 'forgotten' aspects of British democracy in action.

Excerpt from The NY TimeOut Film Guide located HERE


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

State of Siege shows consistent grain on Blu-ray from Criterion but the image has even more teal-leaning than The Confession. I suspect that a lot of this grey-ish blue cast is part of the original appearance. This is dual-layered but a max'ed-out bitrate and Pierre-William Glenn's (Day For Night, Coup de torchon) cinematography shows some impressive inventiveness and looks appealing in the higher resolution. It is in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio and contrast and detail, in close-ups, look solid. Skin tones show warmth and I'd say the uniform film textures are the most outstanding, and film-like, feature of the HD presentation.


















Audio :

The audio is via a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps. There are effects that sound flat but export depth. The score is by Mikis Theodorakis (Zorba the Greek, Serpico, Z) and is quite strong - pristinely clean and rises and falls with the film's tensions. There are optional English subtitles - for the foreign-language only - on the region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.


Extras :

Supplements include a new, 1/2 hour conversation, recorded by Criterion at Cinemateque Francaise in January 2015, between Costa-Gavras and film scholar Peter Cowie who, together, discuss the evolution of State of Siege. The character Philip Michael Santore in State of Siege played by Yves Montand, was based on the real-life figure Dan A. Mitrone, who was kidnapped by the left-wing Tupamaros group in Uruguay on July 31st, 1970. We can see 7-minutes of NBC News excerpts that follow the developments in the kidnapping case. They aired originally from August 8th to August 12th, 1970. There is also a liner notes booklet with an essay by journalist Mark Danner.



I enjoyed State of Siege even more than I did The Confession. It also has Costa-Gavras' excellent pacing and an uneasiness that it is hard to determine what will happen next. I thought the dialogue was excellent. The Criterion Blu-ray package offers a 1080P video presentation, lossless audio with relevant and educational extras. The director's fans will love this. Recommended! 

Gary Tooze

April 23rd, 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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