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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Two scores: a silent-era-style score by the Mont Alto Orches­tra and a modern one by Elena Kats-Chernin, performed by the Czech Film Orchestra
  • Weekend am Wannsee, Gerald Koll's 2000 documentary about the film, featuring interviews with star Brigitte Borchert and writer Curt Siodmak
  • Ins Blaue hinein, a thirty-six-minute short from 1931 by People on Sunday cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan

People on Sunday

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer
1930 | 73 Minutes | Licensor: Praesons-Film AG

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #569
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 28, 2011
Review Date: June 26, 2011

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SYNOPSIS

Years before they became major players in Hollywood, a group of young German filmmakers-including eventual noir masters Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer and future Oscar winners Billy Wilder and Fred Zinnemann-worked together on the once-in-a-lifetime collaboration People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag). This effervescent, sunlit silent, about a handful of city dwellers (a charming cast of nonprofessionals) enjoying a weekend outing, offers a rare glimpse of Weimar-era Berlin. A unique hybrid of documentary and fictional storytelling, People on Sunday was both an experiment and a mainstream hit that would influence generations of film artists around the world.

Forum members rate this film 8.3/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

People on Sunday makes its debut on Blu-ray from Criterion, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. Surprisingly the transfer is not in 1080p but is instead presented in 1080i/60hz, a first for Criterion. The reasons for this could possibly be related to the frame rate for the film. The booklet’s notes on the transfer mention that the film was transferred playing at 24 frames-per-second but was digitally corrected to 22 frames-per-second, the suggested frame rate.

There would expectedly be some concerns about an interlaced transfer but those fears can be laid to rest: while I did find a few screen captures where some artifacting is noticeable (and I included a few below) I should stress that while the film played on my television not once did I notice a problem in relation to the interlacing. In all this is a fine looking presentation, far better than I was expecting. The transfer is stable and clean, remaining consistently sharp with some excellent details. Contrast is spot on and a gray levels are clearly distinct.

The print has some issues like scratches, marks, and blotches, but it’s in stunning shape all things considered (the film was cut up differently in certain countries and the source used here is from a 1997 restoration that was taken from multiple sources to get the most complete possible version.) I didn’t notice any problems with the frame rate or any serious problems that would hamper one’s viewings. Despite being interlaced it’s an incredible looking image.

7/10

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

The film is silent (with German intertitles and option English subtitles) but comes with two Linear PCM stereo scores. The default one is classified as a “silent-era-style” score recorded in 2011 by the Mont Alto Orchestra, and the other is a more modern one recorded in 2000 by the Czech Film Orchestra. I think I preferred the default track but in the end it will come down to taste.

As to their presentation they’re perfectly fine, though this should be expected since the tracks were recorded recently (the default one within the last few months.) They’re both distinct and clear, with superb range and fidelity.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

I’m sort of shocked as to how little we actually get with this edition. Other than the two musical scores we only get two other features totaling a little over an hour together. Thankfully it’s at least fascinating material.

First is a 2000 documentary Weekend am Wannsee, running 31-minutes and containing interviews with writer Curt Siodmak (brother of the director, Robert), actress Brigitte Borchert, and film restorer Martin Koerber. Siodmak and Borchert recall the production, which was limited by a tight budget. Borchet talks about some of the sequences and the people she worked with and also mentions what happened to most of the performers after the film. Siodmak talks a little about his brother and the story, and if I understood him correctly, he actually doesn’t like the film. Koerber talks about the restoration, focusing on how he was able to put together the version we now have. Very strong documentary that decently covers the subject.

The other feature is a 36-minute short film by People on Sunday’s director of photography, Eugen Schüfftan, called Ins Blaue hinein, which the online translator translates to Into the Blue, made around 1931 or so (some sites state 1929 as the date.) Very little info on this one, and as far as I can tell it was only discovered within the last few years. It probably has more of a narrative drive to it in comparison to People on Sunday (and it’s also a “talkie”) but at first it does sort of share that free flowing feel of that film and has very little plot, simply following 4 characters who go on “one last ride” in the car that belongs to the former owner of a failed company. The first 15-minutes are basically about nothing, simply observing these characters as they drive (and drive, and drive), but then after a sort of twist of fate they are then led to a new profession, though they still face headwinds. It has its charms but its flow and story really take sharp turns in a few spots and it comes off a little uneven, almost feeling like it could be better suited as a Three Stooges short with a few adjustments to the script and a hearty dose of slapstick. But even if I didn’t completely warm up to it it’s still an intriguing addition and worth watching.

As to its presentation it’s also interlaced and looks a little noisier but it still looks fairly good.

The included booklet then includes an excellent essay by Noah Isenberg about the film and what little can be found out about its production. Criterion also includes reprints of articles written by Billy Wilder and Robert Siodmak, who both tell their own versions about the film’s production.

Generally speaking the features are fine but they still manage to feel slim and I’m surprised we didn’t get more. A little disappointing.

5/10

CLOSING

I do feel slighted by the features but the presentation is strong, even though it is interlaced. But this is easily the best you’ll see the film on home video.


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