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The Night Porter(1974)
In Liliana Cavani’s scintillating drama, a concentration camp survivor (Charlotte Rampling) discovers her ex-torturer/lover (Dirk Bogarde) working as a night porter at a hotel in postwar Vienna. When the couple attempt to re-create their sadomasochistic relationship, his former SS comrades begin to stalk them. Operatic and disturbing, The Night Porter deftly examines the cruelty and decadence of Nazi culture.
For more about The Night Porter and The Night Porter Blu-ray release, see The Night Porter Blu-ray Review
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling, Philippe Leroy, Gabriele Ferzetti, Giuseppe Addobbati, Isa Miranda
Director: Liliana Cavani
» See full cast & crew
The Night Porter Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 19, 2012
Italian director Liliana Cavani's controversial "Il portiere di notte" a.k.a "The Night Porter" (1974) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment-UK. Unfortunately, there are no supplemental features to be found on this Blu-ray release. In English, without optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Vienna, 1957. Max (Dirk Bogarde, The Damned, Death in Venice) is the night porter in one of the city's most luxurious hotels. He is a former Nazi officer who works hard and tries not to think about the past. He is in his early 40s and living alone.
One day, an elegant young woman (Charlotte Rampling, Flesh of the Orchid, Under the Sand) enters the hotel. She immediately recognizes Max. A series of flashbacks then reveal that years ago she was one of his inmates in a camp where the Nazis did various experiments, and that they had a relationship.
Lucia is now the wife of a respected American conductor with a busy schedule. While her husband works with the local symphony orchestra, she decides to approach Max. The two meet in the hotel and have one of the most unusual romantic reunions ever filmed.
Meanwhile, a group of elderly Nazis who specialize in removing knowledgeable Holocaust survivors that could jeopardize their safety begin investigating Max. They suspect that he might have ignored the group's rule to report anyone capable of exposing their true identities. The leader of the group mentions a young and beautiful American woman who has recently arrived in the city together with her well known husband. Soon after, a killer is dispatched to remove the woman.
Max and Lucia continue to meet. When they make love, they often hurt each other. They aren't sadomasochists, but pain is something they have both come to expect from each other. Various flashbacks reveal why.
Eventually, the group's killer moves in a room right across from the one where Max and Lucia have been spending most of their time. In a desperate attempt to keep his lover alive, Max barricades himself and Lucia inside the room. They continue to make love - until they run out of food.
To say that Italian director Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter is a dangerous film would be a major understatement. There are two reasons why: First, it explores the darkest corners of the human soul with such authority that it is absolutely impossible to dismiss it as an exploitation film. Exploitation films cannot be dangerous because they aren't believable. This film definitely is. Second, The Night Porter boldly challenges serious taboos which throughout the years only a few respectable films have had the courage to address in a familiar fashion.
Given the nature of the project, the cast is absolutely phenomenal. There are some truly unforgettable sequences with Rampling, who essentially plays two entirely different characters. The one sequence where she is seen entertaining the Nazi officers is particularly disturbing because it does not look kitschy at all. Bogarde is also terrific as the guilty man whose obsessions are slowly destroying him.
The film was lensed by the great cinematographer Alfio Contini, who during the 60s and 70s worked with some of Italy's greatest directors, including Michelangelo Antonioni (Zabriskie Point), Franco Rossi (A Rose for Everyone), and Mario Monicelli (Lady Liberty). The film's color scheme is particularly striking. It favors mostly very cold greens, blues, and grays, which further enhance the already remarkably tense atmosphere.
The outstanding set decors and production designs were done by Oscar winner Osvaldo Desideri (Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom, The Last Emperor).
The Night Porter Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment-UK.
The high-definition transfer appears to have been sourced from the same new master French distributors Wild Side Video had access to when they prepared their Blu-ray release for the Gallic markets (in fact, the Wild Side Films logo appears in the beginning of the film). Generally speaking, its basics are quite strong. Despite the abundance of low light, most close-ups convey pleasing depth, with the footage from inside the hotel looking quite good. The daylight footage also boasts decent fluidity (see screencapture #3). The best news, however, is that there are no traces of problematic denoising/degrainning corrections. Additionally, edge-enhancement never sneaks in. This being said, grain isn't always well resolved, partially due to the fact that extremely light noise occasionally overwhelms it - but there are no lumps of grain or noise that stick out. On the contrary, despite some minor fluctuations the film has a genuinely pleasing organic look. There are absolutely no serious stability issues to report in this review either. All in all, this Blu-ray release of Liliana Cavani's controversial film represents a substantial upgrade in quality over virtually every previous release of the film, including Criterion's quite problematic R1 DVD release, as well as General Video's Italian R2 DVD release. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Night Porter Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Anchor Bay-UK have not provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The English LPCM 2.0 track has a strong dynamic amplitude that gives quite a boost to the excellent soundtrack. The oboe and violin solos, in particular, sound beautiful. The long segment from the performance of Die Zauberflote also boasts substantially better depth (when one compares the same segment from the Criterion release). There are no distortions, excessive background hiss, pops, or cracks. The dialog is also very easy to follow. However, optional English subtitles should have been included. I tested only a few scenes with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track but did not hear any substantial dynamic improvements. For this film, I prefer the original two-channel track.
The Night Porter Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, there are no supplemental features to be found on this Blu-ray disc.
The Night Porter Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter is a fascinating and exceptionally bold film reminiscent of Luchino Visconti's legendary The Damned and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist. It is the type of film that can no longer be made. This new Blu-ray release of The Night Porter represents a substantial upgrade in quality over virtually every previous release of the film. My only minor criticism pertains to the fact that there are no supplemental features on it. Regardless, fans of classic European cinema should not miss it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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