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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New video program about actor Gérard Philipe
  • A clip from the colorized version of the film
  • Theatrical trailer

Fanfan la Tulipe


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Christian-Jaque
Starring: , Gina Lollobrigida, Marcel Herrand, Olivier Hussenot
1952 | 99 Minutes | Licensor: Rialto Pictures

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #451
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: November 18, 2008
Review Date: November 2, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

Legendary French star Gérard Philipe swashbuckled his way into film history as the peasant soldier Fanfan in Christian-Jaque's devil-may-care romantic action-comedy. In eighteenth-century France, Fanfan joins King Louis XV's army to avoid a forced marriage to a local lass. And thus begins an adventure that sees Fanfan getting himself out of close scrapes and into tight squeezes with Gina Lollobrigida's impostor fortune teller, Adeline, on his way to fighting in the Seven Years' War. Filled to the brim with dazzling stunts and randy innuendo, Fanfan la Tulipe, which won the best director prize at Cannes and was a smash hit upon its initial release, remains one of France's all-time most beloved films.

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PICTURE

Fanfan la Tulipe is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layered disc. Some will be pleased to know the image has not been pictureboxed.

The transfer for the film is actually quite stunning and it looks like a lot of work went into it. The image overall is quite sharp and crisp presenting an excellent level of detail. Blacks and whites are very strong and contrast looks perfect. Clean up looks to have been fairly extensive as damage is absolutely minimal with only a handful of blemishes appearing throughout.

I was actually quite stunned at how good this one looks and it’s another top level black and white transfer from Criterion. For what seems like a small release this was a pleasant surprise.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The disc also presents an excellent French Dolby Digital mono track. Dialogue and music sounds crisp and clean, with great range. Overall it sounds clean and natural and, for a majority of the film, is free of distortion. There are a couple of moments where it does come off as a bit of a mess, though it has to do with the source materials and how the sequences were shot: Sequences involving the enemy present them talking in a bizarre foreign language, but what it appears to be is just French dialogue looped backwards. Forgetting these couple of odd moments the mono track comes off very strong and impressive for an older film.

An English mono track is also included. It's fine but comes off a little flat compared to the French track and doesn't sound as clean. The same issues found in the French track involving the enemy also exist here. I recommend sticking with the French track but I'm sure most viewers will.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This is the one area where the disc disappoints after being so strong in the other areas. This is a smaller, lower-tier release from Criterion so it only comes with a couple of supplements, only one of which is worth bothering with.

Gérard Philipe: Star, Idol, Legend is a 27-minute documentary made exclusively for this release about the film’s star and features new interviews with Philipe’s daughter Anne-Marie Philipe and biographer Gérard Bonal, and features archival interviews filmed in 1979 with director Christian-Jaque and Gina Lollobrigida. In all I don’t think I found it a very deep documentary but it offers a respectable look at the man, his life, and his work. Through the interviews (Bonal taking up most of the documentary) it covers his early life, how he first got into acting and his early work, and also touches on some personal problems including his father standing trial for his involvement with the Nazis (the young actor then using his clout to help him escape and avoid execution.) It touches on his involvement with politics, Philipe leaning [i]strongly[/i] left, probably because he spent his youth surrounded by his father’s extreme right views. Of his works it primarily focuses on Fanfan and even offers some behind-the-scenes footage, and there are details about how difficult Philipe could be to work with (apparently he wanted to make Fanfan a “deeper” character while Christian-Jaque had to fight with him to keep the character the free spirit that was intended.) I felt it maybe skimmed over the man a little too much and focused too much on Fanfan but it is still an interesting documentary worth your time.

The second feature is A clip from the colorized version of the film, which is interesting, though fairly frivolous. The notes state that the film is so popular in France that a colorized version was created in 1997. The clip is the sequence where Fanfan saves the Princess from a group of bandits. I’ll say that it doesn’t actually look that bad, though it has obviously been colorized. It’s an interesting curiosity but not much else.

The disc then closes with the original 4-minute trailer, which is in French with burned-in English subtitles.

Included with the disc is a 12-page booklet with an essay by Kenneth Turan. It offers a short analysis of the film and also covers its reception and popularity, and Turan also defends the film as it (along with other films similar to it and the films of Christian-Jaque) were heavily criticized by Godard and Truffaut.

The documentary was worth a look and the booklet's essay makes for a good read, but taken as a whole I can't say the supplements really enhanced my appreciation of the film in any way.

4/10

CLOSING

Supplement wise the release is disappointing but the transfer goes beyond what I would have expected. It looks and sounds fantastic. Most will probably want to give the disc a rental if they’re not familiar with the film but for those quite interested in owning the film they’ll be more than pleased with the presentation on this disc.


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