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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Introduction by director Jean Renoir from 1962
  • New interview with Renoir scholar Christopher Faulkner about the film's production
  • New video essay by Faulkner on Renoir's methods
  • Un tournage ŗ la campagne, an 89-minute 1994 compilation of outtakes from the film
  • Interview with producer Pierre Braunberger from 1979
  • Screen tests

A Day in the Country

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jean Renoir
1936 | 40 Minutes | Licensor: Les Films du Pantheon

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #746
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: February 10, 2015
Review Date: February 16, 2015

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SYNOPSIS

This bittersweet work from Jean Renoir, based on a story by Guy de Maupassant, is a tenderly comic idyll about a city family's picnic in the French countryside and the romancing of the mother and grown daughter by two local men. Conceived as part of a larger project that was never completed, shot in 1936, and released ten years later, the warmly humanist vignette A Day in the Country ranks among Renoir's most lyrical films, with a love for nature imbuing its every beautiful frame.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Jean Renoirís short film A Day in the Country is presented on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The new high-definition presentation is delivered in 1080p/24hz.

The filmís in terrific shape, with very few blemishes remaining, limited mostly to some faint tram lines and a bit of debris here and there. For a film with such an interesting history (it was abandoned, unfinished by Renoir and sat around for years until its producer figured out a way to finish it after the war had ended) it looks far better than I would have thought.

The transfer itself also looks exceptional, though with a few minor issues. Itís a bright film but contrast looks nicely balanced, and gray levels are distinctly rendered with nice whites and rich blacks surrounding them. Detail looks very good, with great textures, particularly on close-ups, and depth looks superb. Long shots are also strong but not nearly as impressive as close-ups. Film grain remains and for the most part if looks good, but some pixilation is apparent in places.

Still, overall, it looks great, in far better shape than an 80-year old film probably should.

8/10

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.

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AUDIO

Thereís some background noise and a slight edge to everything, but the lossless 1.0 PCM mono track sounds good. Dialogue can be a little tinny but it does sound clear and distortion isnít too big of a concern. Ultimately itís limited by its age but it has still been restored rather nicely.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Despite the film only running about 41-minutes Criterion loads on a number of supplements starting with an introduction by Jean Renoir, recorded for a French television airing of the film. For 6-minutes Renoir talks about the origins of the film (saying he imagined it as a sort of omnibus film before they really existed) before going on some tangent about plagiarism and how more artists should do it (yes, thatís what he is saying, though he has his reasons). Only half of it has to do with the film but itís a good find from the archives, with Renoir giving his vision of what the film was supposed to be.

The Road to A Day in the Country features Christopher Faulkner talking about the production history behind A Day in the Country, how it came to be (the producer was infatuated with Sylvia Baitille and wanted to make a film with her) and how Renoir came to be involved. From here he then goes into the production problems that arose delaying then ultimately cancelling the project, with the filmís star and Renoir pretty much just walking away. He then talks about how the filmís producer, Pierre Braunberger ďfinishedĒ the film he apparently sunk a lot of money into, and also explains some of the things that werenít filmed but were scripted. Itís a terrific overview of the production and eventual release, nicely filling out the 25-minute running time.

Adding on more details about the production is an interview with the filmís producer, Pierre Braunberger filmed in 1979. This shy of 6-minute clip features Braunberger going over his reasons for making the film (he admits it was because he was smitten with Baitille) and bringing Renoir on board (it sounds as though the reason Renoir did it was simply because he was available) and humourously mentions when he figured out how to finish the filmóhe says it was when he was fleeing France after the Nazi occupation that it came to him to simply use title cards to bookend the film. Another nice find from the archives.

Renoir at Work is a 16-minute video essay by Faulkner using footage from Un tournage ŗ la campagne, the 84-minute film also included here in its entirety, made up of unused footage edited together to follow the same chronology of the film. It was constructed in 1994, decades after well over 4-hoursí worth of footage was discovered, and it offers alternate takes, a couple of deleted scenes, outtakes, different framings (which Faulkner showcases in his essay, showing how Renoir would test the framing of a scene), and general behind-the-scenes footage. With this material Faulkner in his essay tries to show how precise and commanding a filmmaker Renoir was, trying to show he wasnít as improvisational as some feel he was. He uses footage showcasing Renoir either giving very specific directions or even reaching in frame to position an actorís arm. Itís a nicely put together video essay well worth viewing. Accompanying all of this is then 9-minutesí worth of screen tests, which Faulkner touches on in his features. Great inclusions all-around.

Gilberto Perez then provides an essay in the included standard insert, covering the film, its production, and its story, which conveys so much in so little time.

Altogether I found all of the material on here rather invaluable, adding some real weight to this edition, making it less painful that one would be paying a hefty premium price for 41-minute. Criterion has put together a nice special edition here.

9/10

CLOSING

Some may be put off by the price of the disc for a 41-minute film, which is the premium $39.95, but I was rather pleased with this edition. Criterion has put together a lovely release, sporting a rather nice high-definition presentation and a nice wealth of supplements. Iíd say itís well worth it.


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