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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Excerpts of audio interviews with Alain Resnais from Le Cinťma des cinťastes (1980) and Les …toiles du cinťma (1994)
  • New essay about the film by Phillip Lopate
  • Essay about composer Hanns Eisler by Russell Lack
  • Crew profiles written by film historian Peter Cowie
  • Optional music and effects track

Night and Fog


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Alain Resnais
1955 | 31 Minutes | Licensor: Argos Films

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $14.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #197
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 24, 2003
Review Date: July 10, 2016

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SYNOPSIS

Ten years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, filmmaker Alain Resnais documented the abandoned grounds of Auschwitz. One of the first cinematic reflections on the horrors of the Holocaust, Night and Fog (Nuit et Brouillard) contrasts the stillness of the abandoned camps' quiet, empty buildings with haunting wartime footage. With Night and Fog, Resnais investigates the cyclical nature of man's violence toward man and presents the unsettling suggestion that such horrors could come again.

Forum members rate this film 9.3/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterionís original DVD edition of Alain Resnaisí Night and Fog presents the film on a single-layer disc in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Because of the format it has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

The high-definition transfer comes from a 35mm interpositive and other than a few minor issues this presentation holds up fairly well. The film is a mix of what would have been newly shot footage and archival footage that Resnais and team dug up, mixing black and white and colour. For the archival footage the restoration work is limited, more than likely how Resnais would prefer it, and itís littered with damage like scratches, large tram lines, dirt, debris, stains, and so on. The newer colour footage is in pretty great shape, damage minimal, though a pulse is evident (as it is throughout most of the film). The new black and white footage has more marks present than the colour footage but itís still in better shape than the archival footage. The colours are a bit muted, never jumping offscreen, but I feel this was intentional (Criterionís new Blu-ray edition has similar, if not the exact same, colours).

The digital transfer itself is very strong. Detail is surprisingly great, even in archival footage, and many textures come through very clearly. Despite compression limitations of the format film grain still manages to look clean and fairly natural. I didnít detect any severe anomalies and upscaled the transfer still holds up. On the whole it looks really good.

There is one odd moment, which comes before the 5-minute mark when a photo is displayed, where the image looks very unnatural as if it was just a computer still. The rest of the film showcases a number of photos, but you can make out the pulse and grain of the film stock. This one still is lacking the movement of film grain and that pulse, and it appears to be interlaced leading in and out of this shot. Itís jarring but after some research I think I know what happened: Early in the film it goes over the deportations to the camps and Resnais shows a number of photographs capturing this event. One of these photographs showed a French policeman in the foreground wearing the distinct cap and this caused a stir with French censors because, you know, they feel uncomfortable acknowledging the French played any part in this horror. The censors threatened to cut the film to hell if he didnít remove this one image (which he claims he didnít notice) and the compromise was to block out the distinctive police cap. It looks like this was an attempt to restore the police cap back in. Iím guessing the original print had the cap removed and so the compromise was to insert a still of the original photo. Itís certainly not part of the film so I can only guess it was done electronically. It is, again, fairly jarring but I do appreciate the effort in restoring this quick shot.

Despite that one moment the presentation is otherwise very good. It looks fairly filmic (about as filmic as the format allows) and delivers decent details. Itís a good looking presentation.

7/10

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

Criterion includes two tracks: the original French track and then an isolated score. Both are presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. The French track can maybe be a bit flat a tinny, but the score sounds strong and doesnít come off edgy or harsh, and dialogue is clear and easy to hear. The sound has also been cleaned up rather nicely.

The isolated score comes off a bit edgier and louder but the quality is otherwise decent.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This was a fairly budget-conscience release, retailing for $14.95, very cheap for a Criterion title. At the time they stated they might consider releasing more short films on their own in similar releases, though this never came to fruition. Because of the budget aspect there isnít much on here other than a short 5-minute audio excerpt from an interview with Alain Resnais that was conducted on the program Les ťtoiles du cinema. Here Resnais quickly discusses how the film came about, his initial hesitation in doing it and issues that came about after it was finished, from being told it wouldnít be released because of the graphic content, to issues with the censor around that one photo featuring a French policeman. Resnais says he eventually just blotted out the distinctive hat to make it less obvious (as mentioned above, this has been restored). Itís brief, but getting Resnaisí firsthand account on making the film makes it of great value.

Criterion also includes an isolated score track, and then short crew profiles for Alain Resnais, producer Anatole Dauman, writer Jean Cayrol, cinematographers Ghislain Cloquet and Sacha Vierny, composer Hanns Eisler, historical consultants Olga Wormser and Henri Michel, and assistant director Chris Marker. The included insert also features an essay on the film by Phillip Lopate, notes about the production history and controversies around the film by Peter Cowie, and then a bio of composer Hanns Eisler by Russell Lack.

Not loaded but the essays are good reads and the interview is interesting. And at the price point I canít complain too much.

3/10

CLOSING

I do wish Criterion released more editions like this: budgeted editions of short films, though this was ultimately the only one. Though not loaded with a lot of features the presentation is still nice.


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