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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Phoenix [Blu-ray]

 

(Christian Petzold, 2014)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Schramm Film Koerner & Weber

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #809

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:38:32.948

Disc Size: 46,616,811,509 bytes

Feature Size: 29,578,518,528 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.63 Mbps

Chapters: 18

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: April 26th, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio German 3393 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3393 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 /
48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:
New conversation between director Christian Petzold and actor Nina Hoss (25:50)
New interview with cinematographer Hans Fromm (12:57)
The Making of “Phoenix,” a 2014 documentary featuring interviews with Petzold, Hoss, actors Nina Kunzendorf and Ronald Zehrfeld, and production designer K. D. Gruber (20:56)
Trailer (2:00)
PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Koresky

 

Bitrate:

 

 

 

Description: This evocative and haunting drama, set in rubble-strewn Berlin in 1945, is like no other film about post–World War II Jewish-German identity. After surviving Auschwitz, a former cabaret singer (Nina Hoss, in a dazzling, multilayered performance) has her disfigured face reconstructed and returns to her war-ravaged hometown to seek out her gentile husband, who may or may not have betrayed her to the Nazis. Without recognizing her, he enlists her to play his wife in a bizarre hall-of-shattered-mirrors story that is as richly metaphorical as it is preposterously engrossing. Revenge film or tale of romantic reconciliation? One doesn’t know until the superb closing scene of this marvel from Christian Petzold, one of the most important figure in contemporary German cinema.

 

 

The Film:

"Phoenix" is an intoxicating witches' brew, equal parts melodrama and moral parable, that audaciously mixes diverse elements to compelling, disturbing effect.

The latest collaboration between German writer-director Christian Petzold and star Nina Hoss (their last film together, "
Barbara," was a knockout) is set in Berlin in 1945, in the immediate aftermath of World War II. But its penetrating examination of how individuals endure the unthinkable makes it relevant and contemporary.

From its opening nighttime scene at a desolate U.S. Army checkpoint to its evocative Stefan Will jazz score and the soundtrack prominence of Kurt Weill's haunting "Speak Low," "Phoenix's" reliance on bleak film
Noir elements is immediately recognizable.

Excerpt from the LA Times located HERE

In Christian Petzold’s new film, Phoenix is the name of a Berlin nightclub where Nelly Lenz goes searching for her husband, a piano player she calls Johnny. World War II has just ended, which suggests that “Phoenix,” the title of this compact, haunting thriller, might have other, larger, metaphorical meanings as well. In a few years, Germany will ascend from the ruin of military defeat into an era of political stability and economic growth. Nelly, a Jewish singer who survived the Nazi death camps, is undergoing her own tentative rebirth — her face has been reconstructed after it was damaged by a gunshot wound — and her friend Lene (Nina Kunzendorf) encourages her to prepare for a new life in Tel Aviv.

But Mr. Petzold, a fixture of the Berlin School of historically informed, emotionally challenging realist filmmakers, is more interested in the ashes of the past than the bright plumage of the future. He gravitates toward ethical shadows and ambiguous states of feeling, using film
Noir techniques as a tool kit for probing dark regions of German history. Nina Hoss, who plays Nelly, has, since 2007, starred in four of this director’s features — “Yella,” “Jerichow,” “Barbara” and now this one — and seems to function for him as a combination of muse, alter ego and personified sensibility.

Excerpt from NY Times located HERE

 

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

DVDBeaver are very high on Christian Petzold (Barbara, The State I Am In, Gespenster, Yella, Jerichow) and were thrilled that Criterion chose to release Phoenix on Blu-ray. It is cited as a "New 2K digital transfer" an it looks as pristine as you might have imagined a new film should that is transferred to a dual-layered disc with a max'ed out bitrate. We can only suspect it is an extremely strong representation of its theatrical appearance.  It has a nice thick, heavy appearance with a touch of teal-leaning. It is not crisp or glossy. Merlin Ortner's meticulous art direction adds to the film's period visuals. The 1080P presentation exports some occasional depth, excellent contrast, but the major video attributes of the Blu-ray involve duplicating the heavy film-like appearance.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Criterion use a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround track at 3393 kbps (24-bit) in the original German language - that actually sounds very effective in exporting the film's dark moods. Effects are not dynamic but there are hints at separation and the score by frequent Petzold collaborator, Stefan Will (Barbara, The State I Am In, Gespenster, Yella, Jerichow) further augments the film's aura and deliberate pacing. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.

 

Extras :

Criterion add many new extras - we get a 26-minute conversation between director Christian Petzold and actor Nina Hoss who have worked together on six films since 2001. In this video piece, recorded by Criterion in Berlin in 2016, the two delve into their working process, the evolution of their collaboration, and the themes of their films together. There is also a new, 13-minute, interview with cinematographer Hans Fromm who comments on the lush noir look of Phoenix, and how his relationship with director Petzold has evolved over the course of two decades of collaboration. The Making of “Phoenix,” is a 2014 documentary featuring interviews with Petzold, Hoss, actors Nina Kunzendorf and Ronald Zehrfeld, and production designer K. D. Gruber. It runs 21-minutes. Lastly is a trailer and the package has a liner notes booklet that contains an essay by critic Michael Koresky.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I continue to be impressed by
Christian Petzold. I was keen on the Noir conventions lurking within Phoenix.  It's almost hard not to use the term masterpiece as the film's themes settle into your psyche. At a minimum - it is simply brilliant. This Criterion Blu-ray package lives up to the film's greatness with a deft a/v transfer and new, informative supplements. This is a keeper and we give it our highest recommendation!

Gary Tooze

March 28th, 2016


 

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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