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Les Visiteurs du Soir(1942)
At the end of the 15th century, two minstrels, Gilles and Dominique, come from nowhere into the castle of Baron Hugues. Gilles charms Anne, Hughes' daughter, while Dominique charms both Hugues and Ann's fiancé. Gilles and Dominique are not really in love: they are sent by the Devil to desperate people. But Ann is so pure that Gilles is caught to his own trap.
For more about Les Visiteurs du Soir and the Les Visiteurs du Soir Blu-ray release, see the Les Visiteurs du Soir Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Arletty, Marie Déa, Fernand Ledoux, Alain Cuny, Gabriel Gabrio, Jules Berry
Director: Marcel Carné
» See full cast & crew
Les Visiteurs du Soir Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 23, 2012
Marcel Carne's "Les visiteurs du soir" a.k.a "The Devil's Envoys" (1942) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include original theatrical trailer and a documentary film featuring interviews with author and Carne friend Didier Decon, archivist Andrew Heinrich, film historian Alain Petit, and journalist Philippe Morisson. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson. In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
In the year 1485, the Devil sends two of his envoys to drive people to despair. Disguised as minstrels, they enter the castle of Baron Hughes (Fernand Ledoux, The Trial), who is getting ready to marry his beautiful daughter Anne (Marie Dea, Orpheus).
During a lavish banquet, Baron Hughes invites Dominique (the legendary Arletty, Flesh and the Woman) and Gilles (Alain Cuny, La Dolce Vita) to sing for Anne and her fiancée Renaud (Marcel Herrand, Fanfan La Tulipe). Gilles chooses a beautiful love song that quickly melts Anne's heart. Realizing how dangerous Gilles' words are, Renaud warns him that if he values his life he should never ever sing again in the presence of his future wife.
Later that night, the Devil's envoys use their magic and separate Anne and Renaud. Gilles forces Anne to fall in love with him, while Dominique puts a spell on Renaud and he accepts a ring from her that will always remind him of her. But in the days that follow something unusual happens - mesmerized by her purity and beauty, Gilles falls madly in love with Anne. The Devil (Jules Berry, Baccara), who has been observing quietly his envoys from afar, immediately leaves his lair and heads to Earth.
Dressed as a nobleman, the Devil enters Baron Hughes' castle on a dark and stormy night. His manners and eloquence immediately earn him the respect of the host and his guests, who then allow him to easily manipulate their thoughts and emotions. The only one the Devil has a difficult time controlling is Anna.
Eventually, the Devil forces Baron Hughes and Renaud to clash in a duel. Before they do, Renaud, who has already forgotten about Anna, promises Dominique that he would leave with her as soon as his sword strikes Baron Hughes. At the same time, the Devil chains Gilles and warns him that he will die a painful death if he does not renounce his love for Anne.
Written by the great Jacques Prévert and Pierre Laroche, Marcel Carne's Les Visiteurs du Soir a.k.a The Devil's Envoys transports its viewers to a magical world where love conquers all – but it is essentially an allegory for the occupied by the Nazi French state, trying to withstand a great evil and looking for a new identity.
Up until the point where the Devil comes on Earth, the script is fairly straightforward. But then the Devil's sudden scolding of Baron Hughes' guests redirects the film and essentially changes the meaning of its key conflicts. Gilles' exchanges with the Devil, in particular, quite obviously target the Nazi and Vichy regimes.
Seen strictly as a medieval tale about good and evil, Les Visiteurs du Soir is just as fascinating of a film. It has the magical atmosphere of Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast in which miracles are very easy to believe (for example, the short but terrific scene in which the Devil transforms the servant into a stunning beauty is impossible to dismiss). The costumes and lavish decors are also quite wonderful, as are the various songs composed by Maurice Thiriet (Children of Paradise) and Joseph Kosma (La Grande Illusion, Elena and Her Men).
Les Visiteurs du Soir had its premiere in 1942, during the Occupation. It was an immediate success in France and had the longest first-run for a locally produced film.
Les Visiteurs du Soir Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Marcel Carne's Les visiteurs du soir arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears in the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a Spirit 2K Datacine from a 35mm fine-grain inerpositive struck from the original nitrate negative. The restoration of Les Visiteurs du Soir was undertaken by SNC at Scanlab in Paris. Additional image and audio restoration was done by Criterion.
Restoration supervisor: Filmo, Paris.
Colorist: Gilles Grannier/Scanlab, Paris.
Digital restoration of soundtrack: L.E. Diapason, Epinay-sur-Seine, France.
Photochemical restoration of soundtrack: NLF, Vanves, France."
The new restoration of Les Visiteurs du Soir is quite beautiful. From start to finish there is very pleasing depth and clarity. Even the nighttime sequences in the garden where the lovers meet boast very good detail and stable contrast levels. More importantly, however, there are no traces of excessive degraining. Edge-enhancement is also not a serious issue of concern (see how crisp but natural the panoramic shot is in screencapture #2). Color grading does not disappoint either - there is a good range of solid blacks, grays, and whites. This being said, there are a few very small skips where frames are apparently missing, but this should not be something that will distract viewers. A few very small vertical lines also pop up here and there, but overall the restorers have clearly removed as much debris and damage marks as possible without affecting the integrity of the film. To sum it all up, this is a competent, very impressive restoration of Marcel Carne's legendary film which will undoubtedly please its fans. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Les Visiteurs du Soir Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM, 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
There are no serious technical issues to address in this review. The lossless track has a somewhat limited dynamic amplitude, but this should not be surprising given the age of the film and its original sound design. As far as I am concerned, the restorers have optimized and stabilized the audio as best as possible - and it clearly shows. Balance is very good and there are no sudden drops in dynamic activity or problematic distortions. The English translation is excellent.
Les Visiteurs du Soir Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Les Visiteurs du Soir Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The great success and reputation of Marcel Carne's Children of Paradise have somewhat overshadowed his Les Visiteurs du Soir. For what its worth, I think that the film is just as unique. It is unusually cruel but beautiful and enormously elegant. I don't particularly like the long and passionate political 'readings' that typically follow it, as I am not convinced that the film was meant to be that kind of a political statement, but some of the symbolism is obviously wide open to personal interpretation. Criterion's presentation of Les Visiteurs du Soir is excellent. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Les Visiteurs du Soir Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Blu-ray in September: De Sica, Carné, Fincher, Bartel - June 15, 2012
After much speculation, the Criterion Collection has posted their full roster of Blu-ray releases for September 2012. Titles include Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D., Marcel Carné's Les visiteurs du soir & Children of Paradise, David Fincher's The Game, and Paul ...
Les Visiteurs du Soir Blu-ray Screenshots
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