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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with Haneke
  • Introduction by Haneke from 2001
  • Filming Haneke, a 2000 making-of documentary featuring interviews with Haneke, actor Juliette Binoche, and producer Marin Karmitz, as well as on-set footage of cast and crew
  • Interview from 2001 in which Haneke discusses the filming of the boulevard sequences
  • New interview with film scholar Roy Grundmann
  • Trailers

Code Unknown

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Michael Haneke
Starring: Juliette Binoche
2000 | 117 Minutes | Licensor: MK2

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #780
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: November 10, 2015
Review Date: November 10, 2015

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SYNOPSIS

One of the world's most influential and provocative filmmakers, the Academy Award–winning Austrian director Michael Haneke diagnoses the social maladies of contemporary Europe with devastating precision and staggering artistry. His 2000 drama Code Unknown, the first of his many films made in France, may be his most inspired work. Composed almost entirely of brilliantly shot, single-take vignettes focusing on characters connected to one seemingly minor incident on a Paris street, Haneke's film—with an outstanding international cast headlined by Juliette Binoche—is a revelatory take on racial inequality and the failure of communication in today's increasingly diverse European landscape.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Michael Haneke marks his debut in The Criterion Collection with his 2000 film Code Unknown. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc. The new high-definition 1080p/24hz presentation comes from a new 2K scan of the original 35mm negative.

Unsurprisingly it’s a sharp looking image, delivering crisp, clear details, natural looking textures, and a wonderful sense of depth in some sequences. The colour scheme leans on the colder side and colours can be a bit muted in general, but saturation still looks good and there’s a nice boldness to the blues and grays. Black levels are fairly nice but there is crushing present in some of the shadows.

Grain is present and looks clean, and no unusual artifacts were noticeable. Despite a couple of darker scenes close to the end looking a little noisy and blocky, the digital transfer appears to be clean and stable, and the print is in exceptional condition, restoration work appearing to have removed most damage. In comparison to the previous Kino edition—a non-anamorphic, compressed mess—it’s certainly a revelation but even without the older DVD to compare against I felt it still delivered a nice, filmic look.

Update (Mar 1, 2016): Back in November a member of this site pointed out there is an error on this disc, where it appears frames are skipping at certain spots, which you can get more details to here. I missed it initially but once pointed out it was easy to see. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors at the time, I forgot to update this review about the issue afterwards, and for that I apologize.

BUT according to Blu-ray.com and another member that e-mailed Criterion they have made with replacements that will be available soon. It's recommended to e-mail mulvaney@criterion.com if you want a replacement disc.

8/10

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AUDIO

The film comes with a 5.1 surround track presented in DTS-HD MA. Most of the audio, particularly dialogue, sticks to the fronts with noticeable splits and panning between the speakers. The surrounds mostly handle ambient noise but then kick it up substantially during a few other sequences, like some drumming sequences and a party scene. The mix is nice with excellent directionality between the speakers, while range and volume levels are nicely balanced with just the right amount of bass. Altogether this creates an effective and immersive experience.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion’s special edition ports over a few features from previous overseas DVD editions (I recall the Kino release having nothing) and adds a number of their own. A 4-minute introduction by Michael Haneke has been carried over and he gives a primer on what he was trying to say and accomplish with the film, even sharing the meaning behind the title. This is followed by a far more in-depth 28-minute interview with Haneke recorded exclusively for this edition. Here the filmmaker gets into an intense detail on the development of the film (which he calls his “mildest”) and the research he did into it upon first arriving in France. Since the film was made up of multiple “fragments” each done primarily in a single take (which he says was written into the script) there was an astounding amount of planning that went into the film and we get some examples of that here with storyboard samples (he admits he is horrible at drawing). He even talks in great detail about The Collector the film-within-the-film and even offers his thoughts on certain sequences. In comparison to a scholarly supplement on here I found this one to be actually far more insightful and effective, offering a wonderful peek at Haneke’s creative process.

From 2000 is the 27-minute making-of featurette Filming Haneke, which focuses primarily on the development of certain sequences, half of it focusing on the opening boulevard scene. Haneke narrates at times, while actor Juliette Binoche and producer Marin Karmitz pop up to talk about the film in more intimate interviews. The jewel to this, though, is simply watching Haneke at work, meticulously planning out every detail. It appears they do a number of run-throughs of the scene with Haneke then making changes, from pulling out an extra because he isn’t reacting to the action occurring around him (“can’t risk it” is Haneke’s reason) to finding the right moment when music should cue up. You can see the crew timing everything, figuring out how to move the camera, and more. We also get samples of the subway sequence where Binoche is harassed by a teenager (Haneke giving specific instructions to the young man) and then the Romanian immigrant scenes closer to the end. I found it an endlessly captivating behind-the-scenes look at the intricate planning that went into the film.

We then get more details about Haneke’s planning with an 11-minute segment featuring the director, where he goes over the boulevard sequences in the film, which was recorded in March of 2001. Here Haneke talks about finding the boulevard that was going to work for his written scenes, and then gets into yet more detail (complete with a hand drawn diagram) going over what was required of the boulevard and the immense planning on camera movements. He even explains the changes and set ups he did to help force the audience to focus on certain parts of the scene. Grouped together with every other feature all of this works as a sort of invaluable film class on how to plan this single-take tracking shots and I found all of it fairly mesmerizing, especially since Haneke is so energetic when talking about it.

Unfortunately any sort of joy I was getting from the supplements was suspended a bit with the releases lone scholarly interview. Film scholar Roy Grundmann, editor of the book A Companion to Michael Haneke spends 24-minutes looking at the development of Haneke’s style through his early films, primarily his “glaciation trilogy” which is made up of the films The Seventh Continent, Benny’s Video, and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance. Through the three films he looks at Haneke’s use of fragment episodes, black leaders, close-ups, long takes, and camera placement and how all of these things would be developed and then fully used in Code Unknown, while also going over similar themes and observations that the films share. It’s fine for what it is but it’s incredibly dry and a bit more trying to get through, especially after the far more energetic and engaging features before it.

The disc then closes with three teaser trailers all featuring small segments from the film: the film dubbing scene, the subway confrontation, and then the grocery store scene. They’re odd trailers as very little context is given, though Binoche is obviously being pushed. Nick James then provides an essay covering the film’s themes and structure along with giving an overview of Haneke’s television work. It’s a lengthy essay so you end up having to fold the insert out pretty far to read it.

Forgetting an underwhelming scholarly interview Criterion has put together some wonderful features nicely covering the creative process that went behind the film. I found this material in-depth and engaging, and admirers of the film should feel the same.

8/10

CLOSING

In comparison to the previous Kino edition this release is a no-brainer to upgrade to. It features a far-superior transfer, far more filmic in look, and a number of engaging supplements. A strong edition on the whole.


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