Georges Franju’s Judex Judex is presented in its original aspect ratio of about 1.66:1 on this new dual-format release. The film is given a new 1080p/24hz high-definition digital transfer on the dual-layer Blu-ray disc, while a standard-definition version is presented on the first of two dual-layer DVDs. The latter had been enhanced for widescreen televisions.
I can’t say too much other than it looks incredible. Though contrast may have been boosted in places (blacks can look too deep in some scenes while other daytime scenes look a little blown out) the transfer is otherwise nicely balanced, delivering wonderful gray levels and terrific shadows. The image is crisp and clean without a noticeable artifact, and fine details are rendered perfectly, delivering rich textures while also nicely handling the film’s grain structure.
The DVD’s transfer also looks very good, even upscaled, but it still can’t deliver the same level of detail or textures that the Blu-ray does. Film grain is hidden and compression noise is noticeable, but otherwise the image is still as sharp as can be and gray levels and tonal shifts are surprisingly effective.
The print is in excellent condition, with the only obtrusive issues remaining being some tram lines and minor marks. It’s otherwise quite clean, and the restoration work has been surprisingly thorough. Overall it’s a beautiful looking transfer. 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.
Delivered in lossless PCM on the Blu-ray and Dolby Digital on the DVD, the audio is fine, though suffers from some issues because of its age. Dialogue is okay, if flat and lifeless, but the music can be a bit edgy and an electric hum that can occasionally be heard in some settings, has an obnoxious, harsh sound to it. But the track has been cleaned up and doesn’t have any noticeable background damage. 6/10
Criterion gives their edition of Judex a nice roster of supplements starting with two interviews. The first is with Francine Bergé, who portrays the evil Diana in the film. For 12-minutes she explains how she got the role, which started with her lucky casting in Nikos Papatakis’ Less abysses. She’s unsure if Franju saw the film (though the next interview confirms he did indeed see it) but apparently Franju stated he wanted “the brunette who seems so evil” to be in Judex. She confirms what I suspected: Franju really didn’t care about the character of Judex and was more concerned about her character and other things in the story. This ultimately led to the English speaking Channing Pollock to feel somewhat alienated on the set. But she enjoyed the experience, saying that making the film and shooting scenes like the fight on the rooftop made her feel like she was a kid again, just playing a very simple game of good vs. evil. Her interview runs 11-minutes.
Cowriter Jacques Champreux next talks for 12-minutes about the development of the film, which was a remake of a 1916 silent serial of the same name by Louis Feuillade. Champreux, who just happened to be the grandson of Feuillade, was then brought on to write the film. Though he offers some backstory to the production, and talks about what it was like to work with Franju, this feature actually gives us more backstory about the original story and chapter serial, offering comparisons between the two where the original really wanted to be realistic while Franju wanted his to be more expressionistic and anything but real. For its short time it’s a fantastic interview, laced with a few surprises (like who was originally considered for the part of Diana.)
A 1998 episode of the French television program Cinemas de notre temps is included, the episode entitled Franju le visionnaire. Featuring interviews with Franju done over the years, it offers a great examination of his work, from his first short Blood of the Beasts to Judex and Eyes Without a Face. The director then talks about his views on violence, on the use of black and white. There’s also an amusing section where Franju is a judge at a festival, expressing a certain frustration with films. Quick witted, when the interviewer states he doesn’t want to hold the director from seeing any more films, Franju replies “if you’ve seen what I’ve seen you wouldn’t say that.” Portions of these interviews actually appear on the Eyes Without a Face DVD and Blu-ray Criterion released so if you’ve been through those there is repetition. Still it’s a great feature, running 51-minutes. Warning: there is some graphic footage from Blood of the Beasts, so the squeamish may want to skip this part, which is presented on chapter 2.
Criterion then adds a couple of features that weren’t part of the original announcement: the short films Le grand Méliès and Hôtel des invalides. The 31-minute Méliès stars Méliès’ son as the filmmaker, and the film acts as an almost documentary/narrative film hybrid, giving an overview of that filmmakers life, up to his toy shop in the train station. Franju looks at the effects in Méliès’ films, offering model recreations on how he created some the effects and magical moments in his films, imagery Franju was obviously inspired by.
Invalides is another experimental documentary about a veteran’s hospital. Though on its surface it may look like a straight forward doc about the location, it is ultimately an anti-war film, using some quick cutting (using some patients) to suggest the horrors of war. Of the two shorts it’s unfortunately the worst looking one, looking to come from an interlaced standard definition source. It runs 22-minutes.
The included booklet then features an essay by Geoffrey O’Brien who writes about the film and the basis for it, followed by a reprint of an interview with Franju, who talks about the film.
I’m disappointed there isn’t more about the 1916 film serial, with only bits of it mentioned throughout the features, primarily Champreux’s, but as it stands Criterion has put together a nice set of supplements, with the two shorts making it absolutely worth picking up. 7/10