Home Page  
 
 

SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • German PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring filmmaker Wim Wenders
  • New interviews with actors Irm Hermann and Hans Hirschmüller
  • New interview with film scholar Eric Rentschler

The Merchant of Four Seasons

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
1971 | 88 Minutes | Licensor: Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #758
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 26, 2015
Review Date: May 28, 2015

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

Share:

SYNOPSIS

New German Cinema icon Rainer Werner Fassbinder kicked off a new phase of his young career when he made the startling The Merchant of Four Seasons. In this despairing yet mordantly funny film, Fassbinder charts the decline of a self-destructive former policeman and war veteran struggling to make ends meet for his family by working as a fruit vendor. Fassbinder had skyrocketed to renown on the acclaim of a series of trenchant, quickly made early films, but for this one he took more time and forged a new style-featuring a more complexly woven script and narrative structure and more sophisticated use of the camera, and influenced by the work of his recently discovered idol, Douglas Sirk. The result is a meticulously made, unforgiving social satire.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Merchant of Four Seasons receives a gorgeous looking new high-definition 1080p/24hz presentation on Blu-ray from Criterion. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. It has been sourced from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative.

What we get is yet another excellent presentation for one of Fassbinder’s works. Colours aren’t incredibly bold, somewhat flat, but this is more than likely the intended look (it matches most of Fassbinder’s other colour films, the ones I’ve seen at any rate) and saturation and rendering look spot on. Blacks are rich and deep, with crushing not being too big a concern, and contrast looks excellent.

The level of detail to be found is also extraordinary, even in long shots, and there’s wonderful depth to the image, particularly when Hans is running through the streets and alleys while following his new recruit. Film grain is present and looks natural for the most part, and no digital abnormalities were present on my television. There is what looks like a “gauze” effect in places, but this appears to be a filtering technique used while filming.

Restoration has also been superb as I don’t recall any blemishes rearing their heads. Overall it’s an incredibly sharp and pleasing image.

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.

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

AUDIO

The track as a whole is a bit flat, without much in the way of fidelity: even when Hans is calling out his specials to the households from the street the audio still sounds fairly one-note, despite Hans Hirschmüller’s booming voice. As it is, though, audio is clear, music sounds pretty good, and there is no damage to speak of.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

It’s a modest little special edition but the material is fairly strong on the whole. First is an audio commentary by director Wim Wenders, recorded for the Wellspring DVD in 2002. Though Wenders can repeat himself and deliver a number of dead spaces he does provide a fairly personal commentary, talking about filmmaking of the time period and the impact Fassbinder’s films have had on him, with The Merchant of Four Seasons being his favourite. While he does talk about the aspects of the film he admires (the Sirk influences, his presentation of dialects, and just the imagery he manages to capture) his track is most interesting when he talks about the more personal aspects. He talks about going to film school, applying at the same time as Fassbinder, and now regrets getting in while Fassbinder didn't. Wenders explains what a slow slog film school was, whereas Fassbinder, not being limited by the institution, just went out and made films, learning far quicker than Wenders ever did. He also talks about working with the performers who acted for Fassbinder, and how the experience differed for them, and he even shares a story about meeting the man. It’s certainly not the most energetic track but I found it engaging and informative.

Criterion then includes a couple of new interviews with the two lead actors: Irm Hermann and Hans Hirschmüller. The two both talk a bit about their work with Fassbinder, Hermann’s story about first meeting the director proving most fascinating. They also go over Fassbinder’s directing style (he didn’t really help much in developing characters) and talk about their more difficult scenes (hers the sex scene, his probably the torture scene). They’re both unfortunately brief at 9-minutes and 13-minutes respectively but worth viewing.

Criterion then includes an interview with film historian Eric Rentschler, who talks about the importance of the film in Fassbinder’s career, while also giving a general overview of the new German cinema. Fassbinder had pretty much sealed his style by this point so Rentschler spends a lot of time analyzing these elements, bringing up Sirk’s obvious influences, looking at his “hyper artificial” style, and his willingness to frustrate his audience (he calls the ending “irritating,” which matches Fassbinder’s style). He also talks about the story’s influences (Fassbinder based the film’s central character on his uncle) and the time period the story takes place in (50s or 60s). I found Rentschler’s observations on a few things questionable (particularly his thoughts on a death scene in The American Soldier when he talks about his early work) but he does offer a nice overview of this period in Fassbinder’s career and the development of his style, all of which be most useful to newcomers of the his work.

The release then closes with an insert featuring an essay by Thomas Elsaesser that touches on the social and economic climate in Germany at the time, and then touching on some of the same points that Rentschler does in his feature.

The film marks a sort of new beginning for Fassbinder, who has now cemented his style (influenced by Douglas Sirk and the melodrama), making the film a great starting point for those new to his work. Criterion must have figured this as the supplements, though not plentiful, do offer a fairly strong primer for those just dipping their toes in for the first time.

7/10

CLOSING

Criterion has put together a solid edition for the film. The supplements are rather good, working as a primer for newcomers, and the transfer is exceptional.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

Share: 



Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca  




Join our Facebook Group (requires Facebook account)

This site is not affiliated with The Criterion Collection