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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • French PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • You Speak of Prague: The Second Trial of Artur London (1971), a twenty-one-minute documentary by Chris Marker shot on the set of The Confession
  • New interview with the film's editor, Françoise Bonnot
  • Conversation between Costa-Gavras and programmer and scholar Peter von Bagh about the director's life and career, from the 1988 Midnight Sun Film Festival
  • Portrait London, a 1981 interview with Artur and Lise London, the real-life figures on whose story the film is based
  • Interview with actor Yves Montand from 1970
  • New interview with John Michalczyk, author of Costa-Gavras: The Political Fiction Film

The Confession

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Costa-Gavras
Starring: Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Gabriele Ferzetti
1970 | 139 Minutes | Licensor: KG Productions

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #759
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 26, 2015
Review Date: June 5, 2015

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SYNOPSIS

The master of the political thriller, Costa-Gavras, became an instant phenomenon after the mammoth success of Z, and he quickly followed it with the perhaps even more riveting The Confession. Based on a harrowing true story, the film stars Yves Montand as an influential Czechoslovak dignitary who, in the early fifties, was abducted, imprisoned, and interrogated by fellow members of his country's Communist ruling party-their intentions vague, their methods terrifying. Also starring Simone Signoret and Gabriele Ferzetti, Costa-Gavras's film is an unflinching depiction of a troubled historical period and the miasma of twentieth-century politics.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Costa-Gavras’ The Confession gets a nice special edition from Criterion, who present the film in its original aspect ratio of about 1.66:1. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is presented on a dual-layer disc. The transfer was made from a 2K scan of the original 35mm negative.

Like its companion piece, State of Siege, I can’t say too many bad things about the encode itself. It’s clean, looks fairly filmic and natural, with nicely rendered film grain and little noise (some darker scenes present some mosquito noise in darker areas). Detail is exquisite, depth is excellent, and textures look as though you could reach out and feel them. The restoration work is even impressive, with only a few minor blemishes scattered about. Otherwise there’s nothing.

My main issue with the transfer is the presentation of colours. The film has a very cold look, heavily applying blues and grays. This looks fine, but it almost looks as though this has impacted the black levels rather severely. It’s not as bad as what I saw with State of Siege but there’s still a fair amount of crushing going on. Details get obliterated in dark areas and blacks rarely look truly black. It doesn’t look natural and looks digitally manipulated. Again, this all could be how it’s always looked but whatever the case it creates some distracting issues that don’t look entirely inherent to the source.

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’s lossless PCM mono track comes off fairly well. Dialogue is clean and natural, as does the film’s music. Range is limited but it doesn’t sound tinny, and there are moments where it offers excellent fidelity. The track is also free of noise and distortion.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion packs quite a bit on here in comparison to State of Siege, which had very few items on it. This one starts with the intriguing and rather cool addition of Chris Marker’s on set “documentary” of sorts, You Speak of Prague: The Second Trial of Artur London. This fairly experimental film seems to work more to question the novel and its adaptation in terms of whether it is, as Montand puts it early on, useful as “grist for the mill” for those that oppose communism. The film and book both depict the brutal actions of Stalin’s communist regime, and this of course could be used to offer further proof of the evils of communism, though those involved here explain that Stalin’s totalitarian implementation of the idea was not what communism is. It turns into a rather fascinating essay by Marker, with the added advantage of providing actual footage from Stalin’s “show trials”.

There is then a 64-minute interview with Costa-Gavras at the Midnight Film Festival, conducted by Peter von Bagh. The rather thorough and in-depth interview covers the director’s career, first going over the films that made an impact on him, and then going through his early career in the film industry and then the films he made throughout the years, including this film and State of Siege. It’s a fine all-encompassing overview of his career, but not the most engaging one of these features, which Criterion has been putting on a number of releases lately. Still worth a view.

Criterion then includes an 11-minute clip from a 1981 episode of Portrait London. Filmed just after the release of the American hostages being held in Iran, Artur London, whose book and experience was the basis for The Confession, comes on to talk about the psychological impact a situation like that can have on a person. Though London doesn’t know exactly how the hostages were treated, he talks about his imprisonment and poor treatment, and what happened to him and others during Stalin’s “show trials.” He talks about trying to contact people now in Czechoslovakia (very hard) and shares the memories that haunt him most about that time. Though the film ultimately gives a fairly adequate idea of what London’s ordeal was like, it’s still worthwhile getting a firsthand account from the man himself, as well as his wife, who speaks a little later.

Criterion also unearths a 1970 interview with actor Yves Montand. The two talk a bit about the film and its subject but then the interviewer focuses the discussion on Montand’s physical transformations. Montand lost a significant amount of weight for the role, and it shows throughout the film, and he obviously doesn’t have much interest in discussing the subject (he states this very clearly) but he humours the interviewer and talks about the process for a bit. Though I get why Montand doesn’t really care to talk about this aspect of his performance I still found it a fascinating topic and am glad Criterion still saw fit to include it.

Criterion has then recorded a new interview with Costa’s editor Francoise Bonnot. She first talks about getting into editing, thanks to her mother, and how she came to work with the director on Z, then focuses on The Confession and State of Siege. She explains the techniques used for handling the flashbacks and flash forwards, the reasoning behind some of her decisions, like where to place cuts to keep the rhythms of a scene, and also compares the editing of the torture scenes found in the two films (she was torn between wanting to show how awful the scenes were, but reluctant to show too much out of fear of turning off the audience—as pointed out many times during the supplements on here and on State of Siege, the film was to be an entertainment first). She also amusingly admits to be being annoyed by the Costa-Gavras since he liked to out in the editing room with her. It’s another wonderful inclusion.

The disc then closes with filmmaker John Michalczyk. He talks about this film and Z, pointing out how his style has changed since his previous film, explaining how the film is more “Kafkaesque” in execution. It runs about 7-minutes.

The release then comes with one of Criterion’s large, road map style inserts, featuring an essay on the film, the book, and its release by Dina Iordanova.

In all Criterion offers a nice examination of the film, the book and incident on which it’s based, and director Costa-Gavras’ career.

8/10

CLOSING

Though I’m unsure of the transfer I still have to admit it looks pretty good and still comes off fairly filmic. Where it really shines, though, is in its special features, offering some great archival material on the film, author Artur London, and Costa-Gavras’ career.


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