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People on Sunday(1930)
People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag) represents an astonishing confluence of talent—an early collaboration by a group of German filmmakers who would all go on to become major Hollywood players, including eventual noir masters Robert Siodmak (The Killers, Criss Cross) and Edgar G. Ulmer (Detour, Bluebeard) and future Oscar winners Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, Ace in the Hole) and Fred Zinneman (High Noon, A Man for All Seasons). This effervescent, sunlit silent film, about a handful of city dwellers enjoying a weekend outing (a charming cast of nonprofessionals), 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
For more about People on Sunday and the People on Sunday Blu-ray release, see People on Sunday Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on July 4, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Erwin Splettstößer, Brigitte Borchert, Wolfgang von Waltershausen, Kurt Gerron
Directors: Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer, Fred Zinnemann, Curt Siodmak
» See full cast & crew
People on Sunday Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 4, 2011
Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer's "Menschen am Sonntag" a.k.a "People on Sunday" (1930) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include Gerald Koll's documentary "Weekend am Wannsee" and cinematographer Eugen Schufftan's short film "Ins Blaue Hinein" (1931). The disc also arrives with a 28-page illustrated booklet containing Noah Isenberg's essay "Young People Like Us" and reprints by scriptwriter Billy Wilder and director Robert Siodmak. With German intertitles and optional English subtitles. Region-A "locked".
People on Sunday is a unique experimental silent film that offers a fascinating look at Weimar Berlin. It was shot over the course of a couple of weeks and features five young Berlin workers without acting experience. In real life all of the non-professional actors had the same jobs they did in the film.
Erwin (Erwin Splettstoßer) is a taxi driver in love with Annie (Annie Schreyer). The two try to be nice to each other but often spend a great deal of time arguing. More often than not, Erwin gets what he wants.
Wolfgang (Wolfgang von Waltershausen), a bachelor and wine salesman, has met Christl (Christl Ehlers), a beautiful and single young girl. He offers to take her to the countryside, together with his best friends Erwin and Annie, and she immediately accepts.
On the day of the trip, however, Annie has a difficult time waking up – which is why Christl brings along her best friend, Brigitte (Brigitte Borchert), to accompany Erwin. The two couples then head to the beautiful Wannsee beach.
Wolfgang attempts to kiss Christl but she repeatedly rejects him. Brigitte, however, is a lot more receptive to his advances. Surprised and visibly upset by her friend's behavior, Christl turns her attention to Erwin, who, without Annie around, is ready to play.
People on Sunday is the collective effort of a group of young German filmmakers who would go on to have impressive careers in Hollywood: Edgar G. Ulmer (the famous noir classic Detour, Hannibal), Robert Siodmak (The Killers, Flesh and the Woman), Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, From Here to Eternity), and Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot). The reportedly very basic script for the film was also written by Robert Siodmak's brother, Curt Siodmak (who would later on write the screenplay for George Wagner's The Wolfman and the story for Jacques Tourneur's Berlin Express).
The style and energy of People on Sunday are quite amusing. The camera has a tendency to wander aimlessly and look for details that other films from the era would simply ignore. This is not to say that the film is chaotic; rather there is an unusual feeling of spaciousness in it that would become prominent later on in the works of the Italian neorealists.
The film's energy is also unusual. As the two couples move to the countryside so does the rest of the city, and a few terrific sequences capture a certain rhythm which most of the people have hoped to leave behind. For a single day, Wannsee becomes a mini-Berlin.
The film does not have a conventional finale either - a typical closure to the story is missing. Instead, a series of intertitles clarify that the rhythm would soon shift again after everyone goes back to work on Monday. This unusual simplicity is what gives the film its unquestionable charm.
People on Sunday arrives with two very different scores: a silent-era-style score, which was first performed by the Mont Alto Orchestra at the 2009 Telluride Film Festival and consequently recorded for Criterion in 2011, and a contemporary score, composed by Elena Katz-Chernin and recorded by the Czech Film Orchestra in 2000 in Prague.
People on Sunday Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080i transfer, People on Sunday arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new digital transfer was created from a 35mm mute print struck from the restoration negative provided by the EYE Film Institute Netherlands. It was scanned in 2K resolution on a Spirit 4K Datacine, played at 24 frames per second, and then digitally converted to the EYE Film Institute's recommended speed of 22 frames per second. Color correction was done using DaVinci Resolve software. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system, while Digital Vision's Phoenix system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Maria Palazzola.
Telecine colorist: Gregg Garvin/Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles."
Considering the history of the film, the presentation is indeed very impressive. Despite occasional clarity and contrast fluctuations, detail is very good, with many of of the close-ups coming close or being on par with what we have seen in some of the best Blu-ray release of silent films (Sunrise, Coeur Fidèle). Additionally, many of the outdoors scenes also convey very pleasing depth (see screencaptures #5 and 17). Color reproduction is also good - there is a good range of gentle grays and whites, while the backs relatively stable. Various damage marks, splices and cuts have been eliminated, and the majority of the time the film looks surprisingly healthy. Some traces of damage, however, still remain (see screencapture #8) because apparently it was impossible to eliminate them without affecting the integrity of the film. Lastly, there are some small frame transition issue as well. All in all, for an 81-year old film, this is indeed a mighty impressive presentation. (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).
People on Sunday Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two LPCM 2.0 audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: one for a silent-era-style score performed by the Mont Alto Orchestra and another for a contemporary score composed by Elena Katz-Chernin and performed by the Czech Film Orchestra. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
I prefer Elena Katz-Chernin's contemporary score. I believe that it enhances the film slightly better with its wider range of melancholic and upbeat melodies, particularly where the busy streets of Berlin are the focus of attention. Thankfully, the LPCM 2.0 track handles the score very well - the winds and strings are very well balanced, while the lovely piano, clarinet, and bassoon solos are never too bright or overexposed. The terrific aria in the beginning of Chapter 4 also sounds beautiful.
The silent-era-style score was first performed by the Mont Alto Orchestra at the 2009 Telluride Film Festival and consequently recorded for Criterion in 2011. It has a distinctive retro feel that works well for many of the hilarious scenes from the second half of the film. The LPCM 2.0 track is once again very strong, with the violin and trumpet solos sounding notably rich. Overall, however, this score has stronger chamber qualities favoring a slightly more compact sound.
People on Sunday Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
People on Sunday Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
People on Sunday is a very important early silent German film that offers a unique look at Weimar Berlin. It has been meticulously restored and now brought to Blu-ray by Criterion. I must say that it looks quite remarkable. These are the type of releases that I can't get enough of. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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