Liliom

Liliom

Director: Fritz Lang, Madeleine Ozeray, Charles Boyer, Pierre Alcover

Cast: Fritz Lang, Madeleine Ozeray, Charles Boyer, Pierre Alcover

     
 
Kino International's long-awaited DVD release of Fritz Lang's Liliom is not a disappointment in any respect. Among Lang's least-known movies in the United States (where it never had a theatrical release, owing to Frank Borzage's earlier version), Liliom was Lang's personal favorite among his own movies and holds a unique place in his oeuvre, constituting

Overview

Kino International's long-awaited DVD release of Fritz Lang's Liliom is not a disappointment in any respect. Among Lang's least-known movies in the United States (where it never had a theatrical release, owing to Frank Borzage's earlier version), Liliom was Lang's personal favorite among his own movies and holds a unique place in his oeuvre, constituting the beginning and the end of his Parisian period. It's also a uniquely graceful and spirited work, with an earthy charm and a beguiling (and very knowing) wit. It stands much closer in spirit and content to Ernst Lubitsch's Heaven Can Wait (1943) and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death (1946) than to the director's Dr. Mabuse movies, M, Metropolis, or any other Lang title that one might care to name. Unlike those films, however, Lang's Liliom was virtually a lost movie (in terms of not having a legitimate distributor). There were some unauthorized videotape editions without any subtitles, but that was it. This DVD is as close as the film has ever gotten to receiving a proper release in America, and it is a delight -- not perfect, but very nice looking, with bright, tinted, easy-to-read subtitles that can be switched on or off. There are some mild deficiencies in the source material, mostly in the form of modest fading at times, but none of it is remotely serious enough to reduce the allure of the disc. The image is slightly soft, but not so much that it interferes with the enjoyment of the movie, and a lot of care has gone into balancing the contrasts, brightness, and density of the image from shot to shot and scene to scene. There's detail even in the darker shots involving characters in dark clothing, and the result is a good account of Rudolph Maté's cinematography. What's more, the sound has been mastered at a healthy volume, which not only gives the whole audio track good presence, but enhances the value of Franz Waxman's score (which is mostly confined to the scenes in heaven). All of this is in the service of the film itself, which is driven by Lang's wry wit and free-flowing romantic spirit, and a lusty, charismatic performance by Charles Boyer as a passionate, vain, brash protagonist who finds himself facing a doom of eternal proportions at the sudden end of a flawed, but not irredeemable, life. The 116-minute movie has been divided into 14 chapters that are well placed and easy to access. The disc opens on a multi-layered menu that includes no extras except for the optional subtitles and a Lang filmography.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Atkinson
On his way to Hollywood after fleeing the rise of the Nazis, legendary expressionist filmmaker and cynic Fritz Lang dallied in 1933 Paris long enough to make Liliom, the third adaptation of the popular play by Ferenc Molnar that eventually became the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel. Shooting this bizarre Hungarian fantasy as if it were a prequel to M, Lang one-upped the early-talkie Hollywood version by Frank Borzage (1930), and, presumably, a 1919 version left unfinished by another soon-to-be émigré, Michael Curtiz. The tale itself hasn't aged superbly: a womanizing carnival barker (Charles Boyer, before he emigrated) loses his job, shacks up with a starry-eyed maiden (Madeleine Ozeray), and loafs and slaps her around, eventually joining in on a botched robbery to net some cash after he learns his girlfriend is pregnant. After committing suicide, Liliom pleads his thin case before a heavenly court, but is sentenced to purgatory regardless. After 16 years, he's allowed to redeem himself by doing a single good deed on Earth -- but after becoming frustrated trying to convince his teenage daughter that her absentee father was a louse, he ends up belting her, too. Only after both his daughter and his aging girlfriend persist in professing unconditional love for Liliom does he find peace in the next world. Cheesily tragic and full of the effervescent otherworldliness so typical of French films of the early '30s (as in Vigo, Clair, Buñuel, Cocteau, and Renoir), Liliom has the dusty charm of a cluttered granny attic, and Boyer is aggressively engaging. But it's difficult to get around the fact that the film comes across today as something of an apologia for spousal abuse, to the extent that spiritual/moral redemption can be had if the victims refuse to emotionally prosecute. Given the long legacy of Molnar's play in 20th-century culture (it was first performed in 1909, and Carousel saw a major revival in the 1990s, culminating with Time labeling it the "Best Musical of the Century"), it's an impossible movie to dismiss, although the PC-minded will try.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/30/2004
UPC:
0738329034528
Original Release:
1934
Rating:
NR
Source:
Kino Video
Presentation:
[B&W]
Time:
1:56:00
Sales rank:
61,276

Special Features

[None specified]

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Madeleine Ozeray Julie
Charles Boyer Liliom
Pierre Alcover Alfred
Roland Toutain Sailor
Robert Arnoux Strong Arm
Alexandre Rignault Hollinger
Raoul Marco Detective
Antonin Artaud Knife Grinder
Odette Florelle Mme. Muskat
Mila Parely Actor
Viviane Romance Actor
Rose Valetti Actor
Maximilienne Actor

Technical Credits
Fritz Lang Director,Screenwriter
Paul Colin Art Director
Jean Lenoir Score Composer
Robert Liebmann Screenwriter
Rudolph Maté Cinematographer
Louis Nee Cinematographer
Erich Pommer Producer
René Renoux Art Director
Franz Waxman Score Composer
Bernard Zimmer Screenwriter

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. The Hippo-Palace [:09]
2. "Out of Commission!" [:18]
3. Seducer of Maids [9:06]
4. Julie's Hooligan [10:01]
5. Police Station [9:00]
6. The Isle of Love [5:22]
7. Mrs. Muskat's Offer [7:37]
8. "A Baby!" [7:41]
9. Alfred's Plan [10:43]
10. Last Words [7:47]
11. Paradise Police Station [6:04]
12. Justice [8:57]
13. Purgatory [8:39]
14. "Incorrigible!" [7:13]

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