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Brilliantly capturing the opressive paranoia of Franz Kafka's classic novel, Orson Welles' THE TRIAL is the story of the young clerk, Josef K., who is arrested. All without ever knowing his crime. Welles filmed this baroque work of genius in a deserted belle epoque railway station in Paris. The strange setting perfectly captured the bizarre and nightmarish world of Kafka's mythical totalitarian state.
For more about The Trial and the The Trial Blu-ray release, see the The Trial Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 11, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Orson Welles
Writer: Orson Welles
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Akim Tamiroff, Elsa Martinelli
» See full cast & crew
The Trial Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 11, 2012
Orson Welles' "Le procès" a.k.a "The Trial" (1962) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Studio Canal. The supplemental features on the disc include original European trailer for the film; deleted scene; video interview with actor and playwright Steven Berkoff; archival interview with director Orson Welles; video interview with director of photography Edmond Richard; and a documentary focusing on the production history of "The Trial" and the life and legacy of Orson Welles. The release also arrives with a booklet on the film written by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. In English, with optional English SDH, French, and German subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The main protagonist in Orson Welles' The Trial is a young man who looks normal. He is tall, handsome and well educated. He lives in a small but clean and well organized apartment. He is single and has a steady office job. His name is Joseph K. (Anthony Perkins, Psycho).
Early into the film Joseph K. is awaken and arrested by two demanding respect detectives. They never specify why, which is why Joseph K. begins asking questions. But the more he insists on being told what is happening, the more hostile the detectives become. He asks his beautiful neighbor (Jeanne Moreau, Mademoiselle) for an advice, but all he gets is an uninspired kiss. Seriously frustrated, Joseph K. embarks on a journey to discover what he is being charged with, and how he can prove that he is an innocent man.
Soon after, Joseph K. encounters the Advocate (Orson Welles, Touch of Evil), an overconfident man with an impeccable reputation who is served by an unusually elegant maid (Romy Schneider, The Swimming Pool). The Advocate further confuses Joseph K. after he reveals to him that his case is extremely serious. The poor man barely manages to remain calm as he has absolutely no clue what is happening - or what might have happened before the detectives entered his apartment.
While looking for answers, Joseph K. enters a large courtroom, where he is told by a rude judge that he is terribly late. He tries to defend himself - despite the fact that he is still unsure what crime he has committed - but quickly loses his temper and angers the judge. When the court's cleaning lady (Elsa Martinelli, The 10th Victim) and an aggressive man begin fighting, Joseph K. runs away - and enters a huge industrial building with hundreds of typists working in giant halls and piles of documents and books scattered all over the place. Fearing that his mind might have started playing tricks on him, Joseph K. tries to leave the building, but gets stuck in the dark and cold tunnels underneath it.
Orson Welles' adaptation of Franz Kafka's famous novel is a true masterpiece of cinema. It is a dark, bizarre, and hugely atmospheric visual feast that sums up what paranoia is better than any other film ever made.
Perkins plays the clueless Joseph K. to perfection. There are sequences in the film where he is calm and reasonable and then there are sequences where it looks like someone has unplugged his mental cord - he is a man who has fallen in the abyss of madness but does not know it.
But what if this man is actually perfectly sane and it is the social environment that he is a part of that has mutated into a giant grinding machine. The worst authoritarian societies were all grinding machines, breeding followers rather than free-thinkers and expunging those who were brave enough to question them. Perkins' Joseph K. exists in precisely such a reality, a dark and surreal place where everything is twisted and the realization that he is not one of the normal ones slowly destroys him from the inside out.
The Trial blends the elegance of classic noir with the edginess of Gothic horror. The result is a fascinating to behold film with a sleek retro industrial look. Particularly during the second half there are a number of sequences that look like something only the mind of David Lynch could have imagined.
The Trial was lensed by cinematographer Edmond Richard, who worked closely with Luis Bunuel (see The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Phantom Of Liberty, That Obscure Object of Desire).
Note: In 1964, The Trial won Best Film Award at the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics Awards).
The Trial Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.64:1 encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Orson Welles' The Trial arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Studio Canal.
The Trial is the weakest of the three new additions to Studio Canal's classic collection (the other two are Luis Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire and Marcel Carne's Le Quai Des Brumes). The high-definition transfer this release uses has been struck from a dated source and quite often it shows. The most prominent issue here is the presence of moderate edge-enhancement, which viewers with larger screens will likely easily notice (see screencaptures #4 and 12). Fortunately, it is not too overwhelming, and this is why good portions of the film actually look acceptable (see screencapture #2). Contrast and brightness levels appear to have been slightly elevated, which is why it is often easy to spot grain fluctuations and minor filtering corrections. Detail is decent but clearly not as pleasing as that from the other two releases mentioned above. Color grading is relatively good. Finally, there are a couple of sequences where I noticed minor stability issues (frame transition issues and edge flicker) but they are hardly distracting. All in all, considering how poor previous DVD releases of The Trial have been in various regions, Studio Canal's Blu-ray release represents an obvious upgrade in visual quality. Very clearly, however, there is still a lot of room for serious improvements. (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).
Note: The disc's adjustable main menu - the interface can be set in English, French, or German - indicates that this Blu-ray release is also meant to be sold in Germany and France. Naturally, the German and French releases should look identical to the UK release.
The Trial Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are three audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, and German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Studio Canal have provided optional English SDH, French, and German subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless audio track is good. The dialog is stable and relatively crisp. Some extremely light hiss occasionally creeps in, but there are never serious issues that could potentially distract one's viewing experience. There are no serious dynamic fluctuations either. I also did not detect any distortions and dropouts to report in this review.
The Trial Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Trial Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Trial is the weakest of the three new additions to Studio Canal's classic collection (the other two are Luis Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire and Marcel Carne's Le Quai Des Brumes), but I still think that it is worth picking up if one finds it on sale. Though far from perfect, the Blu-ray release represents an obvious upgrade in quality over previous DVD releases of the film, and comes with a very strong selection of supplemental features.
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