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Westfront 1918 + Kameradschaft (Two films by G.W Pabst) [Blu-ray]
(Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1930 + 1931)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Gaumont-Franco Film-Aubert (G.F.F.A)
Video: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spine #170-171 / Criterion Collection - Spine # 907 + 908
Region: 'B'-locked (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Westfront 1918 Runtime: 1:36:10.055/ 1:36:31.577
Kameradschaft Runtime: 1:29:42.543 / 1:30:05.608
Masters of Cinema Disc Size: 48,407,811,664 bytes
Criterion Westfront 1918 Disc Size: 48,309,623,000 bytes
Criterion Kameradschaft Disc Size: 41,168,702,575 bytes
Westfront 1918 Feature Size: 23,656,701,312 bytes/ 28,833,736,704 bytes
Kameradschaft Feature Size: 22,091,828,928 bytes/ 26,545,686,528 bytes
Video Bitrate: 28.99 Mbps/ 37.52 Mbps - 35.20 Mbps
Chapters: 10 + 10/ 18 + 15
Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case
Release date: July 24th, 2017/ January 30th, 2018
Aspect ratio: 1.19:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio German 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
For Kameradschaft the option of English for both German + French, English just for German or English just for French, none
• Westfront 1918, an introduction by film scholar and author
Jan-Christopher Horak (17:57)
Westfront 1918 Criterion disc:
Hour-long French television broadcast of World War I
veterans reacting to the film in 1969 (1:11:04)
Kameradschaft Criterion disc:
• New interview with film scholar Hermann Barth on the
film’s production (30:30)
Description:Georg Wilhelm Pabst (Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl) made a flawless transition from silent to sound filmmaking with, Westfront 1918 and Kameradschaft, a pair of strongly anti-war titles (Pabst himself was a prisoner of war for the duration of WWI) that combined elements of Expressionism and New Objectivity to stunning effect.
In Westfront 1918, four infantrymen on the Western Front suffer the everyday hardships and insanity of trench warfare, and in Kameradschaft, a team of German miners risk their lives to rescue a team of French miners left trapped after an underground explosion.
Sharing many thematic elements, as well as key cast and crew (most notably cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner, M, Nosferatu, Der müde Tod), Westfront 1918 and Kameradschaft represents a master director at the height of his powers, and The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present both these titles for the first time ever on Blu-ray in a special Dual Format edition.
Pabst's first talkie offered a grim, humanitarian perspective on trench warfare, not unlike that in the almost contemporary All Quiet on the Western Front. Hardly any film since has given such an unremittingly horrific picture of warfare-in-action, from the agonising lulls to the surprise attacks, from harsh resilience to the release of madness or a death wish. The point is ultimately a simple pacifism, with all the political limitations that implies. But Pabst's brilliant tracking shots along the trenches, through ruins, and across no man's land, remain more haunting than anything in 'expressionist' cinema.
The absolute high-point of German socialist film-making of its period. Pabst imagines a coal-mine on the French-German border, where the aftermath of World War I is still being played out: French prosperity and chauvinism hard up against German inflation and unemployment. There's a disaster in the French wing of the mine...and the German miners go to the rescue. Both the visual style and the 'message' of solidarity owe a lot to Soviet Socialist Realism, but Pabst was a more sophisticated social critic than any of the Russian film-makers. Only a bruised and cynical Berlin pessimist could produce a film as moving, sincere and committed as this.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Georg Wilhelm Pabst's Westfront 1918 was premièred in Berlin on May 23rd, 1930, at the capitol Cinema. The original camera negative has been lost. This restoration was based on a master positive from the BFI National Archive Collection. Missing scenes were re-inserted using a duplicate negative from Praesens-Film, and the restoration is by Deutsche Kinemathek in cooperation with the BFI National Archive, with digital 2K processing by Alpha-Omega, Munich. The 1080P Blu-ray transfer has a high bitrate and looks great - plenty of wonderful grain, good contrast layering and occasionally surprising detail.
Kameradschaft's premieres took place in Berlin on November 17th, 1931. The film was based on the historic Courrieres mining disaster on March 10th, 1906, when over 1,200 miners were buried alive. Art the time German miners rushed to the aid of their French comrades. Pabst dedicated his film, which updated the setting to the present day, to these German miners. The German version's original negative, opening credits and ending have not survived. The original negative of a slightly divergent French version, La Tragedie de la Mine, is preserved in the archive at the CNC. The reconstruction of the German version is based on a dupe positive from the BFI National Archive. The CNC negative was used for the ending of the film, which was missing from the BFI footage. Unfortunately, this doesn't looks as good in the Blu-ray transfer. Certainly a function of the varied, and lesser, sources - the visuals are heavy and waxy and grain is less apparent than in Westfront 1918. The Kameradschaft image is unnaturally hazy and soft but is fairly consistent. This may be the best we get of this masterpiece.
Firstly, the Masters of Cinema has both films on one Blu-ray disc where Criterion are selling two different packages each with one of the films - and extras - on separate Blu-rays.
This is the same 2K restorations for both films (specified above and at the start of the presentations) but the Criterion has higher, max'ed out, bitrates. The Criterion is 'lighter', same framing, same strong grain, same speckles, damage - but the films look a bit brighter on the Criterion discs. This certainly benefits Kameradschaft as it brings up detail a notch. I think I may prefer Westfront 1918 on the UK disc - perhaps my personal preference is a darker image with deeper black levels. I've compared 7 captures (4 + 3) below for your reference.
in email: "The (Criterion) image is brighter
because the levels are stored properly on the Criterion
discs. On the MoC release, the darker detail are in the
blacker-than-black levels (below 16) and are therefore not
visible on properly calibrated monitors or in JPEGs that
have been converted from video levels to PC levels. Many TVs
and monitors do however have the option to enable PC levels
even when fed by a YCbCr signal over HDMI. Enabling PC
levels does actually bring up those otherwise lost detail
from the MoC, as long as the Blu-Ray player doesn't filter
out the blacker-than-black and whiter-than-white levels.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
The audio, for both films, is transferred via a linear PCM 1.0 channel track (24-bit) in the original German. The audio has the predictable deficiencies inherent in the era's production limitations. It was, however, clear and there are optional English subtitles provided. For Kameradschaft the option of English for both German + French, or English just for the German or English just for French,is provided as well as 'none'. My Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.
Same liner PCM mono (24-bit), and sounds, exactly, the same to my ears. Criterion doesn't have the varied subtitle option for Kameradschaft that MoC does - only optional English. The Criterion Blu-ray discs are Region 'A'-locked.
Masters of Cinema include an introduction by film scholar, and author of Dream Merchants: Making and Selling Films in Hollywood's Golden Age, Jan-Christopher Horak - running, for both film, running, in total, over 1/2 hour. He provides excellent information and background for viewing both Pabst's films. The package also contains a booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp, alongside rare archival plus a second disc DVD.
This is where Criterion take the most significant advance over the Masters of Cinema package. Criterion does have the same two, Fiction Factory, Jan-Christopher Horak introductions clocking in at about 1/2 hour in total - as described above.
Criterion's Westfront 1918 Criterion disc also has an hour-long French television broadcast of World War I veterans reacting to the film in 1969 as well as two authors of books on war. There is a new, 9-minute, restoration demonstration featuring Martin Koerber and Julia Wallmüller of the Deutsche Kinemathek and a 1988, 3-minute, audio interview with editor of Westfront 1918 Jean Oser responding to questions sent to him by film scholar Hermann Barth. The package as a liner notes booklet with an essay by author and critic Luc Sante.
The Kameradschaft Criterion disc has a new 1/2 hour interview with film scholar Hermann Barth on the film’s production. He was editor of a critical edition of Kameradschaft's screenplay and discuses the film's fascinating production history. There is a 1988, 12.5 minute, audio interview with editor Jean Oser, featuring footage from the French version of the film intercut with Oser's responses are scenes from the rare French cut of the film. The Kameradschaft package ha a liner notes booklet with an essay by author and critic Luc Sante and the 1930 text by Karl Otten that the film was based on.
Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Criterion go the extra mile and these Pabst films are definitely worthy of their own release although I doubt many would only purchase one of the two instead, of both if interested. Right now at Amazon they are 45% OFF!
July 14th, 2017
January 2nd, 2018