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Un Taxi pour Tobrouk(1960)
Libya, 1942. Four soldiers in the Free French Forces are crossing the desert when their jeep breaks down. They have no other option but to continue their journey to Tobruk on foot. On the way, they encounter a party of German soldiers - one of whom they take captive, the others they shoot down. Taking possession of the Germans’ jeep, the four French soldiers resume their desert crossing with their reluctant prisoner. What ensues is an odyssey that is both hazardous and revealing, but it is doubtful that any of the five men will live to tell the tale...
For more about Un Taxi pour Tobrouk and the Un Taxi pour Tobrouk Blu-ray release, see Un Taxi pour Tobrouk Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 16, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Hardy Kruger, Lino Ventura, Maurice Biraud, Charles Aznavour
Director: Denys de la Patellière
» See full cast & crew
Un Taxi pour Tobrouk Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 16, 2012
Denys de La Patellière's "Un taxi pour Tobrouk" a.k.a "Taxi for Tobruk" (1960) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Gaumont. The supplemental features on the disc include original French trailers for the film; video interviews with director Denys de La Patellière, assistant director Pierre Granier-Deferre, and actor Charles Aznavour; a look at Michel Audiard unique style; video interview with director Denys de La Patellière; and more. In French, with optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free
The Libyan desert, 1942. A group of French commandos attack a German gasoline depot near Tobruk. During the operation, they lose their truck and most of their supplies. This forces the commandos to head to the nearest friendly base, which is in El Alamein, some 500 kilometers away from them.
After they leave the depot, the commandos spot a German patrol truck. They kill everyone traveling in it but Capt. Ludwig von Stegel (Hardy Kruger, The Flight of the Phoenix), a bright young man fluent in French. The leader of the commandos, Theo Dumas (Lino Ventura, Classe tous risques), convinces his men (the great French singer Charles Aznavour, Maurice Biraud, and German Cobos) to take him with them. Soon after, the commandos begin questioning Theo's decision.
But the more time the men spend together, the more they begin to realize that they are all very much alike - soldiers fighting someone else's war.
Eventually, after repeatedly getting stuck in the deep sands of the Libyan desert, the men approach a mine field. They attempt to pass through, but change their minds after one of them activates a mine that nearly destroys the truck. With little gasoline, food and water left, the men pick a different, a lot more dangerous route to get to El Alamein. The only oasis on their way where they could replenish their supplies is also controlled by the Germans.
Denys de La Patelliere's Un taxi pour Tobrouk a.k.a Taxi for Tobruk is effectively divided into two rather large parts. In the first, the French commandos and their German prisoner question each other's reasons for wanting to participate in a war that has brought them thousands of miles away from their homes. Tension is in the air, but there are hardly any political clichés here.
In the second part, the men realize that if they do not help each other they will never be able to get out of the desert. With this realization the initial hostility between them slowly evolves into mutual respect. There are casual observations that follow up about different values and ideals the French held in high regard before and during the war, which are essentially the film's strongest asset.
Taxi for Tobruk is based on a story by Rene Havard, who had a very prolific acting career, though primarily as a supporting character actor. Havard appeared in such notable French films as Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob Le Flambeur, Henri Verneuil's The Cow and I, and Claude Autant-Lara's final film Gloria.
The film's sharp and very colorful dialog (which is rather difficult to appreciate if one isn't fluent in French) was written by the great Michel Audiard. Particularly during the second part, where the commandos and the German Captain warm up to each other, there are some very unique expressions. Audiard's unique style of writing earned him quite a reputation during the '60s and '70s when he contributed to a number of films that nowadays enjoy a cult status, such as Henri Verneuil's Any Number Can Win (top gangster film with Jean Gabin and Alain Delon), Gilles Grangier's The Counterfeiters of Paris, Georges Lautner's Monsieur Gangster (see our review here) and Henri Verneuil's The Body of My Enemy (one of my favorite films with Jean-Paul Belmondo and the beautiful Marie-France Pisier).
Un Taxi pour Tobrouk Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Denys de La Patellière's Taxi for Tobruk arrives on Bu-ray courtesy of French distributors Gaumont.
Like all previous releases in the Gaumont Classics Collection, the high-definition transfer for this release has been struck from a newly restored master. However, I do not have a DVD release of this film in my library to do some direct comparisons.
Generally speaking, detail and clarity are pleasing. Because the overwhelming majority of the action takes place in the desert and natural light is in abundance, there is also decent depth. The color grading does not disappoint either - the blacks are solid while the variety of grays and whites are well balanced with them. This being said, There are some minor compression anomalies. During specific sequences (early into the film) some light compression artifacts are easy to spot (see screencaptures #8 and 11). Occasionally, there is also light edge flicker that pops up here and there, usually either in the upper left or right corner. Theses are not serious issues that would affect one's viewing experience, but are certainly easy to spot. On a positive side, there are absolutely no traces of excessive sharpening corrections. Though occasionally mixed with light noise, grain is also present. All in all, this is a decent presentation of a film which I do not believe too many people outside of France have had the opportunity to see. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Un Taxi pour Tobrouk Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Gaumont have provided optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The lossless audio track is solid. During the action scenes the trucks are destroyed and elsewhere where shots are fired, the sound is well rounded and stable. There are no distortions, pops, or cracks. The overall range of dynamic is rather limited, but given the film's age and budget this should not be surprising. The dialog is crisp, clear, and stable. The English translation is very good.
Un Taxi pour Tobrouk Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Un Taxi pour Tobrouk Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Denys de La Patelliere's Taxi for Tobruk is a very entertaining period film that should appeal to viewers interested in classic French cinema. The film is currently available on an English-friendly Blu-ray only in France, courtesy of local distributors Gaumont, but Olive Films are set to release it in the U.S next month (see here). Olive Films are also bringing to Blu-ray Henri Verneuil's Greed in the Sun, another Gaumont film with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Lino Ventura (see here), and Gerard Oury's hilarious The Brain (see here). RECOMMENDED.
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