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(aka "The Merchant of Four Seasons" )

 

directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
West Germany 1971

 

New German Cinema icon Rainer Werner Fassbinder kicked off a new phase of his young career when he made the startling The Merchant of Four Seasons. In this anguished yet mordantly funny film, Fassbinder charts the decline of a self-destructive former policeman and war veteran struggling to make ends meet for his family by working as a fruit vendor. Fassbinder had gained acclaim for a series of trenchant, quickly made early films, but for this one he took more time and forged a new style—featuring a more complexly woven script and narrative structure and more sophisticated use of the camera, and influenced by the work of his recently discovered idol, Douglas Sirk. The result is a meticulously made, unforgiving social satire.

Posters

Theatrical Release: 4 November 1971 (West Germany)

Reviews                                                                                      More Reviews                                                                             DVD Reviews

 

Comparison:

Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the DVD Screen Caps!

1) Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

 

 

 

Distribution Wellspring
Region 0 - NTSC
Criterion Collection - Spine # 758 - Region 'A' Blu-ray
Runtime 1:28:15 1:28:45.486
Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.9 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Disc Size: 39,799,491,202 bytes

Feature Size: 26,177,734,656 bytes

Total Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 Video

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

Bitrate:

 

Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition)

 

Bitrate: Criterion Blu-ray)

 

Audio

German (Mono, 5.1 Dolby)

LPCM Audio German 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Wellspring

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Commentary track by Wim Wenders
• Life, Love & Celluloid: A Journey and Film Retrospective (Documentary) (1:29:27)
•  The Many Women of Fassbinder (Documentary) (50:56)
• Filmographies
•  Weblinks

 

DVD Release Date: July 9, 2002
Keepcase

Chapters 30

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

Disc Size: 39,799,491,202 bytes

Feature Size: 26,177,734,656 bytes

Total Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 Video

 

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary featuring filmmaker Wim Wenders
• New interviews with actors Irm Hermann (9:13) and Hans Hirschmüller (13:25)
• New interview with film scholar Eric Rentschler (26:10)
• PLUS: An essay by film scholar Thomas Elsaesser

 

Blu-ray Release Date: May 26th, 2015
Transparent Blu-ray case

Chapters 13

 

 

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

ADDITION: Criterion Region 'A' Blu-ray: May 2015: The Criterion transfer is much darker than the old Wellspring SD and it shows more information in the frame - notable in the top and right edges. The HD is also crisper with a higher degree of sharpness and it shows some consistent texture. It is on a dual-layered disc with a max'ed out bitrate. Colors are deeper on the BD and there are artifacts on the SD (low bitrate). The Wellspring was not poor for its time, but - of course - it is way out-of-print now.

Criterion adhere to authenticity with a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps in the original German language. No effects notable but dialogue is clean and consistent. There is no score for The Merchant of Four Seasons but in the film we do hear Rocco Granata's Buona Notte. I'd say this is flat but with some depth - probably very similar to its theatrical roots. It has optional English subtitles and the Blu-ray disc is region 'A'-locked like all Criterions to date.

Criterion include the 2002 audio commentary featuring filmmaker Wim Wenders from 2002 - also found on the Wellspring DVD and added 3 new interviews, with actors Irm Hermann (9:13) and Hans Hirschmüller (13:25) in German with English subtitles and another, 26-minutes long, with film and German-language scholar Eric Rentschler discussing the importance of The Merchant of Four Seasons in Fassbinder work. There is a liner notes booklet with an essay by film scholar Thomas Elsaesser.

NOTE: The DVD offers the same Wenders commentary plus Juliane Lorenz's 1998, 1.5 hour, documentary entitled Life, Love & Celluloid: A Journey and Film Retrospective that has some archival footage of Rainer Werner Fassbinder . There is another 50-minute documentary; The Many Women of Fassbinder by Alessandro Colizzi with Bernardo Bertolucci, Liliana Cavani and others on the importance and the role of women in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's films. There are also filmographies and weblinks. I might give the edge to the Wellspring in regards to supplements although the Criterion Blu-ray offers real value with the 2015 interviews - which are certainly more relevant to the film.

I like Aubry Anne D'Arminio's description of The Merchant of the Four Seasons as "...another of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's several "bourgeois films" that depict and critique middle-class society. The film deceptively unfolds like a standard bourgeois melodrama: there is the black sheep son, the disappointed mother, the unhappy wife, the sympathetic sister." This is another complex, articulate piece of cinema, maybe with less-subtle themes but is rich and deep. It is an easy recommendation for all those who missed out of the Wellspring more than a decade ago. Essential Blu-ray for all world cinephile librarian's home theaters.

 -Gary Tooze

 

 


Menus
Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC
 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


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Screen Captures

 

1) Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

Subtitle sample

 


1) Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Wellspring (The Masterworks Edition) - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray captures

 


 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Wellspring / Blu-ray

 
Box Covers

 

 

 

 

Distribution Wellspring
Region 0 - NTSC
Criterion Collection - Spine # 758 - Region 'A' Blu-ray

 



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