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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Varieté aka "Variety" [Blu-ray]

 

(Ewald André Dupont, 1925)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Universum Film (UFA)

Video: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spine #160

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:34:28.000 / U.S. Version: 1:23:14.416

Disc Size: 49,293,166,492 bytes

Feature Size: 31,111,098,04U.S. Version:8 bytes / U.S. Version: 18,157,581,888 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.95 Mbps / U.S. Version: 26.97 Mbps

Chapters: 7 U.S. Version: 6

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: January 23rd, 2017

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

U.S. Version:

DTS Audio English 768 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English subtitles for the German intertitles, none

 

Extras:

• Three scores: one by Stephen Horne, Tiger Lilies, Johannes Contag
The complete American version of the film
PLUS: A booklet featuring new writing on the film and archival images

DVD included

 

Bitrate:

Masters of Cinema (European) Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

Masters of Cinema (U.S.) Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Description: A key work of German silent cinema and an international smash on its release, E. A. Duponts Varieté (Variety) is an audacious revenge melodrama set under the canvas of the big top.

When Boss Huller (the iconic Emil Jannings) meets the young émigré Berta-Marie (Lya De Putti), it kindles his desire to relaunch his career as a trapeze artist, stalled due to an injury and the pressures of domestic life. But with passion comes obsession, and with the involvement of the famed Artinelli into their act, tensions rise to a fever pitch.

Visually astonishing, with some of the most inventive camerawork of the 1920s, and a typically intense and vivid central performance from Jannings, Varieté is presented here in an all-new restoration of the original German version. Featuring two scores: one by Stephen Horne (as performed at the London Film Festival 2015, and one by the Tiger Lilies (as performed at Berlinale 2015).

 

Masters of Cinema (European) Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

Masters of Cinema (U.S.) Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

The Film:

When American audiences were permitted to see German filmmaker E.A. Dupont's silent masterpiece Variety, it was the story of a carnival concessionaire (Emil Jannings), his alluring wife (Lya de Putti), and the handsome acrobat (Warwick Ward) who comes between them. Feeling doubly impotent because he himself had been a famous aerialist before suffering a crippling accident, Jannings fantasizes about killing his rival -- and, finally, does so. After serving a long prison term, Jannings is released by a compassionate warden, who feels as though the poor cuckold has suffered enough. This, again, is what Americans saw. In the original European version of Variety, which ran nearly twice as long as the U.S. print, Jannings deserts his wife (Maly Delschaft) when de Putti enters the scene. Moreover, he never marries de Putti, meaning that his only hold over her when Ward steals her away is an emotional one. Dupont had fashioned an ironic tale of a man suffering betrayal after having himself betrayed. The American censors wouldn't swallow that, nor would they pass the charming domestic scene wherein Jannings helps de Putti disrobe, unless the prologue involving Delschaft was chopped out and de Putti was transformed from mistress to wife. Though this sort of bowdlerization might seem like an artistic outrage, the American version of Variety is in fact superior to the original, especially in terms of pace; what seemed interminable in the German version zips along at an entertaining clip in the revised print.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Dupont's most celebrated film (it was one of the most famous films in the world in 1925) unfolds in a long series of flashbacks from a prison straight out of a Van Gogh painting: prisoner No 28 (Jannings, with his back to the camera more often than not) is granted remission, and in return tells the story of his crime to the governor. The story itself is a banal triangle melodrama: a trapeze duo in the Berlin music-hall becomes a trio, and the lady switches gentlemen, driving the cuckold to murder his rival. The treatment, though, is something else again. Impressionistic lighting, lingering expressionist imagery, and giddily mobile camerawork are all pushed to unprecedented extremes, like Murnau on speed. Hard to take it too seriously, but the bravura style and Lya de Putti's coquettish performance remain as impressive as ever.

Excerpt fromTimeOut located HERE

 

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

Varieté looks to have had an extensive restoration and is offered on Blu-ray from The Masters of Cinema group in the UK. It offers both version on the lone Blu-ray. The presentation starts with some German translated text screens that state "The film was restored in 2014/2015 by the Frederich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, in Wiesbaden, Germany, in co-operation with Filmarchiv Austria in Vienna. The source material was an abridged nitrate copy for the US market, provided by the Library of Congress, Washington, DC. The German Intertitles and missing scenes stem from a nitrate copy from Filmarchiv Austria. Some shots were added from a duplicate copy from the Filmmuseum Munich and a duplicate negative from the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Missing title cards were reconstructed on the basis of the censorship card and the typography of the Viennese copy's intertitles. They are marked by the abbreviation FWMS. The digital restoration in 2K definition was carried out by the Filmarchiv Austria." So, the image quality is a direct function of the available restored materials. Of course, there is damage and inconsistencies but I thought it looked quite remarkable and I don't think there is a significant drop in quality for the pink-tinted U.S. version - that is transferred with a lesser bitrate. I was quite pleased with the appearance - evidenced by the many screen captures below.

 

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

Masters of Cinema (European) Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

Masters of Cinema (U.S.) Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

Masters of Cinema (European) Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

Masters of Cinema (U.S.) Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema (European) Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

Masters of Cinema (U.S.) Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema (European) Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

Masters of Cinema (U.S.) Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema (European) Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

Masters of Cinema (U.S.) Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema (European) Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

Masters of Cinema (U.S.) Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema (European) Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

Masters of Cinema (U.S.) Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The audio is transferred via a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 2304 kbps (24-bit) for the three optional scores; Stephen Horne (piano), Tiger Lilies (has lyrics), Johannes Contag (mostly piano). There are optional English (SDH) subtitles for the German intertitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked. NOTE: the U.S. version only has a lossy, DTS, track with extensive organ and some circus sounds - I'm unsure of the composer.

 

 

Extras :

Masters of Cinema's Blu-ray disc is filled with the addition of the complete American version of the film, but the package has a booklet featuring new writing on the film and archival images and, being dual-format, it includes a second disc DVD.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Varieté is excellent. There is certainly a subtle element of fetishism and overwhelming physical desire packed into a wonderful moralistic expression - extremely risqué for its time. This gives Varieté a timeless, and universal, quality. Magnificent. It's a fabulous choice for MoC to release on Blu-ray. The addition of the U.S. version adds further value as does the enclosed booklet. Silent Era fans shouldn't hesitate. This is very strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

January 24th, 2017

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.

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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