Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Charles Boyer, Madeleine Ozeray, Florelle, Pierre Alcover, Robert Arnoux
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Special Interests
Deserves to become a true cinema classic
albertatamazon | East Point, Georgia USA | 04/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At last we have it on video and DVD--the 1934 French film version of Ferenc Molnar's "Liliom", with very legible subtitles, so that now the entire English-speaking world can take in the beauty of this sorely neglected film.
For those who don't know, "Liliom" is the non-musical Hungarian play on which Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel" is based, and in 1934, the great German director Fritz Lang, while staying in France during his flight from the Nazis (he was Jewish), made a French film version of it. (There had already been an early U.S. talking film version in 1930, but from all accounts, it received very poor reviews, made no impact whatsoever and remains forgotten.) Hammerstein, when adapting "Liliom" into "Carousel" in 1945, was largely faithful to his source material, so viewers unfamiliar with "Liliom" should have no trouble recognizing the similarities, right down to certain lines of dialogue.
This French film, unfairly kept out of circulation by Fox in favor of the film version of "Carousel", is everything an exemplary film version of a play should be, exceptionally well acted by some of the best character actors ever to emerge from France, beautifully photographed, and directed with an imagination that surpasses Henry King's in "Carousel", as excellent as that film is. Fritz Lang's idea of Heaven, easily the funniest segment of this otherwise very serious and deeply moving film, is one of the most imaginative concepts Lang ever dreamed up, and has to be seen to be appreciated.
Charles Boyer, extremely young, and with a full head of hair if not a hairpiece, is perfectly suited for the role of Liliom , the non-musical equivalent of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Billy Bigelow. The role of Julie has an imaginative twist to it in this version---both Julie and her daughter are played by Madeleine Ozeray, and if ever an actress showed versatility it is here. Ms. Ozeray creates two distinct characterizations flawlessly.
In other roles, the actress Florelle plays Mrs. Muskat (Mrs. Mullin in "Carousel") as more of a floozy than Hammerstein makes her in the musical, and Lang even gives her a touch of sympathy and humanity when she orders that all the lights in the amusement park be dimmed at an especially tragic moment.
Pierre Alcover plays Alfred the criminal (Jigger Craigin in "Carousel") as a self-satisfied, overfed lout who wouldn't even think of obtaining money in an ethical manner, and does so in the great tradition of French 1930's character acting. Wolf Beifeld, the character who was turned into Mr. Snow in "Carousel", is omitted entirely in this version, but Mimi Funes does play Marie, Julie's best friend, as a much more worldly character than we have ever seen. Maximillienne is all wise understanding as Mrs. Menoux, the boarding house keeper and equivalent of Cousin Nettie in "Carousel".And Henri Richard contributes a truly comical portrayal of two equally flustered commissioners, one in Heaven, and one on Earth.
There is no clambake in this version either, but those who are used to "Carousel" will notice that "Liliom" is so well acted and directed that one does not miss the beautiful Rodgers and Hammerstein score even if the viewer has it ringing in their head as they watch this film. That is how good the Fritz Lang "Liliom" is. Fox has been, up to now, sorely negligent in seeing that this film was widely shown with subtitles in English-speaking countries, but they have finally come through. Rent or buy "Liliom", and treat yourself to the most unfairly neglected 1930's foreign film classic."
A Fine Film in a Disappointing Transfer
Frederick Edell | Nelson, BC Canada | 05/28/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Lang's version of Molnar's stage play, "Liliom" is quite wonderful, and one of the best films he directed during his long period of exile. However, Kino's DVD transfer is a disappointment and should be avoided. Buy the VHS version instead, particularly since the DVD looks as if the VHS was merely reproduced with a further loss in duplication. Kino almost always produces good to excellent DVD transfers, so this one is doubly troublesome; the contrast is poor, important details are lost, and the overall image is fuzzy and as soft as whip cream. This should be a five star but the poor quality of the transfer brings it way down. I bought it because I had to see it, but I only saw part of the lovely film that Lang originally put on the screen."
Lang's Personal Favorite
MacGuffin | New York City | 01/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film was thought to be lost; that a copy survived and was found at all is pure serendipity. Kino goes to great lengths to do right by the source material from which they work, which leads me to believe that this film just wasn't in very good condition. We're lucky to have it and I suspect they did the best they could. However, I've deducted a star because a release with such a high list price should offer something more in the way of special features than a "Fritz Lang Filmography" and "Subtitle Options." C'mon, guys.
This is a delicious piece of cinema. As mentioned by a previous reviewer, this film was shot on the fly during Lang's brief sojourn in France while en route to the States, fleeing what would have been almost certain extermination in Germany (despite his supposedly having been offered the opportunity to make films for the Nazis). He banged out this little gem (which flopped) and exited, well ahead of the Vichy Laws (talk about luck). Europe's loss continues to this day to be our gain, especially since so much of his catalog has been digitally remastered. The audio and video quality aren't great but they're really not as bad as reviewers would have you believe and besides, who can pass up a chance to visit Heaven--a la Lang, no less--with Charles Boyer?
Update as of 1/13/2007: I've read that the recent release of Carousel includes Liliom and that the print is MUCH better than this one (I've suspected for a while that Kino has been coasting on its reputation). Fans might want to look into purchasing the new release and getting two treatments of Liliom for the price of one."
Liliom, a "special feature" on the Carousel DVD
Tom Dowse | napa, ca USA | 02/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 50th anniversary DVD edition of Caruosel, recently released by Fox, has an excellent DVD transfer of Liliom. It's a wonderfully moving film. Buy Carousel and get Liliom too!"