A weak entry -- really!
Hammen | Seattle, WA United States | 09/15/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"It's hard to take bad reviews seriously when everyone else says a film is great, especially a restored silent by a big name director. But hear me out...
I rented this based on the gushing reviews it's gotten and because I'm a big fan of silent films; but it's not just because of the production design. There's also the storytelling element, and in this regard, The Blue Bird, frankly, sucks.
Haven't heard of the story before? That's because this film is based on a very didactic 19th century play for children that has NOT withstood the test of time. It's sort of amusing at first, watching the characters of The Soul of Bread and The Soul of Water come to life in interpretive dance... sort of.. but then come the characters, one by one, like a long lecture, with names like "Can eat when not hungry". And the punch line, in an hour plus, is the old Gilded Age saw: Be grateful for what you have, and don't strive for more.
The images are nice at times, but not any better or worse than any other big budget fantasy of the period (and nowhere near as inventive as the great stuff from Lang, Murnau, Chaney, Fairbanks, etc.)
And finally, the newly recorded music is bland as a rainy day,
The experience of this film was like being stuck in one of those historic landmarks of a one room schoolhouse, except that instead of looking around for a moment and leaving, you have to sit stock still and listen to a real school marm give you an hour long "children's" lecture, with one hand on the ruler in case you get restless."
The First BLUE BIRD And Still The Best.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 09/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you mention the name Tourneur (tour-NURR) to most film aficianados they will say Jacques Tourneur (1904-1977) the director of the film noir classic OUT OF THE PAST and several Val Lewton horror films such as CAT PEOPLE and I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. But before Jacques there was his father Maurice Tourneur (1873-1961) who was one of the major directors of the silent era. He came to the U.S. in 1912 and made a number of major films until 1926 when studio interference drove him back to France where his career continued but was never quite the same. Until recently he was long overshadowed by his son because so many of his films were unavailable. Now that is being rectified with the release in the last few years of many of his silent classics (see VICTORY, THE WISHING RING, and THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS).
Two brand new releases are LORNA DOONE and this first and best version of Maurice Maeterlinck's allegorical play THE BLUE BIRD. Tourneur was one of the great visual stylists of the silent era and nowhere is that more apparent than here. The film is a combination of realistic and deliberately stylised elements that draw on Tourneur's former theatrical background. This mixing of styles confused audiences of 1918 and the film, though critically praised, was not a success. Even today it takes some getting used to but if you make the effort THE BLUE BIRD has its share of rewards.
The print used for this DVD comes from the George Eastman House and is a restored version of an old VHS version released through Grapevine Video. It too features the original 1918 color tints and is in much better shape though parts of the film still retain some damage but not enough to ruin the viewing experience especially for silent film enthusiasts. The new score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra is well performed and has a great deal of charm, but I would have preferred something a little more ethereal during the fantasy scenes to enhance the unreal quality.
For those of you who don't know the story, it follows the efforts of two children to find the blue bird of happiness by going on a journey into the past and future. They are accompanied by the living souls of their pets and ordinary household objects. After many adventures in fantastic locales, they discover that it was at home all along (sound familiar?). Unlike THE WIZARD OF OZ there are philosophical and theosophical points to be made along the way. After all this was a major work by one of the most popular writers of the pre-World War I era. One of the special DVD features includes written excerpts of the original play for you to check out.
Although remade twice (1940 with Shirley Temple and in 1976 in a fabled Russian-American disaster directed by George Cukor), this version remains the closest to Maeterlinck's intentions. That coupled with Maurice Tourneur's imaginative touches and delicate direction make this a classic that's great to have back in circulation. If you prefer reality to fantasy check out Tourneur's just released LORNA DOONE. It is one of the great historical romance films of any era."
Great film. Terrible copy.
Balaste | 1313 Wistful Vista, Anyplace, USA | 05/28/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Tourneur was a director of great visual imagination--but how do you show this in a film that has chemical decomposition and even blistering running down its center through roughly half its length? Add to that several lengthy missing scenes in the middle, and a few missing shorter sequences elsewhere, and you've got a problem getting the essence of the man's vision across to even veteran archival film lovers who can accept a good quality print of Griffith. I enjoyed it, but I was willing to work through all the screen garbage to see some of the beauty that was buried, there. My wife just rubbed her eyes.
So kudos to the Eastman folks for holding this print, and making it available, and to the music team for creating such a sympathetic score. But nobody restored this work, and Kino took its usual cheap way out of extras by simply printing on screen a laudatory review from the original film's opening, and a couple of acts from the original play. Not a commentary in sight, or bios of the director, or actors, or listing of Tourneur's films.
So cavaet emptor: consider The Blue Bird for purchase only if you don't mind owning a heavily damaged, somewhat incomplete version of the film, in the likelihood no one will do for it what has been done for many other films of its vintage. I'm hoping this version will be superceded in the near future."