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100 Years of Olympic Films, 06: Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936/Berlin 1936
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • None

100 Years of Olympic Films, 06: Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936/Berlin 1936

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Leni Riefenstahl, Carl Junghans
2017 | 268 Minutes | Licensor: International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $399.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 5, 2017
Review Date: December 17, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

Spanning fifty-three movies and forty-one editions of the Olympic Games, 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912–2012 is the culmination of a monumental, award-winning archival project encompassing dozens of new restorations by the International Olympic Committee. The documentaries collected here cast a cinematic eye on some of the most iconic moments in the history of modern sports, spotlighting athletes who embody the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”: Jesse Owens shattering world records on the track in 1936 Berlin, Jean-Claude Killy dominating the Grenoble slopes in 1968, Joan Benoit breaking away to win the Games’ first women’s marathon in Los Angeles in 1984. In addition to the impressive ten-feature contribution of Bud Greenspan, this stirring collective chronicle of triumph and defeat includes such documentary landmarks as Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia and Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad, along with captivating lesser-known works by major directors like Claude Lelouch, Carlos Saura, and Miloš Forman. It also offers a fascinating glimpse of the development of film itself, and of the technological progress that has brought viewers ever closer to the action. Traversing continents and decades, reflecting the social, cultural, and political changes that have shaped our recent history, this remarkable movie marathon showcases a hundred years of human endeavor.


PICTURE

Covering the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Disc 6 of Criterion’s 100 Years of Olympic Films box set presents three films, Carl Junghans’ Youth of the World in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and both complete (or, as complete as possible) parts of Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia (Festival of the Nations and Festival of Beauty) in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. They are all on a dual-layer disc and all three have been given 1080p/24hz high-definition encodes. Though Adrian Wood’s notes on the restoration don’t provide any specific details for Youth of the World it would have either been restored in 2K or 4K resolution, while Olympia definitely comes from a new 4K restoration.

When this was first announced I figured films like Olympia and Tokyo Olympiad would receive the full treatment while most of the other films would probably be good enough. As I go through I’m realizing that is in no way the case and all of the films appear to be receiving a significant amount of love. Still as I go through the films chronologically it’s easy to see Olympia has one of the nicer looking restorations in the set so far and it appears—at least based on the notes provided by Adrian Wood in his essay on the restorations—this sounds to have received the most work. There are multiple versions of the film scattered around the world, Riefenstahl herself even removing all fascist imagery and shots of Hitler from the film after the war, so a lot of work went into the difficult task of tracking everything down to put together the most complete version possible, and Wood feels these versions are closest to what premiered in 1938 for Hitler’s birthday. This apparently took years to complete.

Outside of this painstaking reconstruction they’ve also done a thorough job in cleaning the film up. There are a few minor marks and the occasional flicker or pulse, but outside of that damage is not an issue. The level of detail is also striking throughout, probably the biggest surprise here. Wood’s notes on the restoration do make it sound as though he had access to the original nitrate elements and that would explain the level of clarity throughout most of the film. Close-ups of the athletes, the slow-motion shots, even long shots of the stadium are striking in the detail present. It also sounds as though he had to use other sources, like copies made through the years, to help construct the film but I was honestly hard pressed to detect any severe changes in quality so it rarely popped out when a different source was used.

Having said that Riefenstahl did use different film stocks while filming, basically whatever would work best with what she was shooting that day, and these differences can be evident, as are her shots of announcers over rear-projection screens. The opening sequence of the first film, which is a “recreation” of the Olympic Games, is incredibly grainy and dark, but the gray scale is incredible and the level of detail striking. Grain levels can then vary a bit throughout, very fine and crisp in some shots, a bit heavier in others, but it always looks sharp and well defined, never like noise, and the image retains a nice filmic look. I had concerns that shoving over 4-hours’ worth of material on one disc would hurt things but that’s not the case. The digital presentation is superb, no noise or artifacts present, and the final image looks wonderful.

With how well Olympia turned out it’s actually a bit surprising that Youth of the World doesn’t hold up as well. It’s obvious that the same care was put into transferring the film, and it’s obvious that restoration work was done, but the footage appears to have been in far worse shape. This one ends up being one of the weaker images in the set (so far), littered with more obvious damage like pulsing, frame shifts, and so on. It can get heavier in places but then subside, but there’s usually always something. Some sequences also look a bit “dupey” and detail and contrast are hurt a bit. But despite this the digital presentation itself is still really good, rendering grain well, delivering details when the source doesn’t limit it, and contrast on the whole is good. Though I’m sure all that could be done was done and the source materials were just weak it ends up being a little disappointing, especially when the silent films on the previous discs do come off better. But if this is the worst the set has to offer then we’re doing pretty good here.

Youth of the World: 6/10, Olympia: 9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

Screen Capture
Youth of the World

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Youth of the World

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Youth of the World

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Youth of the World

Screen Capture
Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations

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Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations

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Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations

Screen Capture
Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations

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Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations

Screen Capture
Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations

Screen Capture
Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations

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Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations

Screen Capture
Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty

Screen Capture
Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty

Screen Capture
Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty

Screen Capture
Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty

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Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty

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Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty

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Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty

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Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty

AUDIO

The first sound films in the set both are presented in their original German with lossless PCM 1.0 mono audio. Age holds both back a bit. Youth of the World comes off a bit harsh and flat while also presenting some obvious background noise, but there aren’t any sever drops, pops, or cracks.

Both Olympia films fare a bit better yet are still flat while I found the announcer voices a little edgy. Still, there are no sever pops or cracks present, and background noise is minimal.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The only disappointing aspect to this set is that there are no on-disc special features to speak of. The set does come with an incredibly thorough 216-page hardbound book, featuring material on the restorations by Adrian Wood along with essays covering the films, all written by film scholar Peter Cowie. It also filled with photos from the various events. Cowie provides two essays here, one for Youth of the World and another covering the Olympia films. For both he talks about their respective directors and the propaganda aspects of each film but his essay on Olympia is, not surprisingly, a lengthier one. He decides to get into more details about the events themselves, noting so much has already been written about the film itself. (The grade given here refers to the supplements for the set as a whole, which, in this case, is just the included book.)

5/10

CLOSING

A lot of work has gone into Olympia and the work has paid off: it looks absolutely outstanding here and is so far the most impressive restoration in the set.




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