Coeur Fidèle Blu-ray Review
Coeur Fidèle comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p resolution, encoded using the
AVCcodec, and framed within its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The disc itself is Region A locked.
Eureka has gone into some detail to provide the background information regarding their Blu-ray transfer. They outline how the 2007 HDCAM SR master created by Pathé for their
DVDrelease had to be rejigged, though progressive, because of the obvious frame rate issues that surrounded a 25fps feature. They eschewed interlacing as a no-go area and also decided not to favour the more common, but not ideal, solutions of removing a random frame per second or slowing down the footage. They excised all the repeat frames from the 2007 HDCAM SR master, which left them with only 18, unique, frames per second as the original 35mm print would have shown. Then was applied their own algorithm to add the minimum amount of repeat frames to keep it at the correct running time and enable 24fps, whilst keeping the unique frames and smooth motion handling. They add: “It is a minor tragedy that Blu-ray and DVDformats do not natively support all framerates — especially for fans of silent and avant-garde films — but we are happy to have avoided interlacing, slowdown, and the removal of unique frames."
And you should be happy too, as the work done is top notch. Unlike a couple of the Masters of Cinema series the blacks in this B&W feature are excellent, their strength and the overall contrast help to add some much needed depth to the frame. Whites are similarly strong, obviously not the whitest, but still better than the vast majority as seen on home format iterations of films from the period. In bright light they hold off blooming remarkably well and as Jean sits next to the white stone end of the steps at his and Marie’s secret meeting place, the pitted surface is easily picked out even in the bleaching sunlight.
Detail is a similar step up from what has been seen previously, with the fabric weave of Petit Paul’s jacket finely represented and the tight lines of Marie’s blouse and Jean’s trousers as they sit atop the rock by the sea show no signs of struggling with the fine parallel lines. The print is as clean as it has looked, clearly strides have been made to minimise the effect of the wear and tear of time. Light fluctuation is kept under close wraps and barring the usual smidge of telecine wobble as seen on the original caption cards (arguably as it should be) and a couple of instances where the sharpening is more noticeable than its usual unseen nature, there is nary a fault.
One track only – DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
The new score composed and performed by Maxence Cyrin shines in its detail and clarity. If you can’t hire a piano player to accompany your viewing this is likely the next best thing, as the warm and naturalistic tones of the instrument roll out of the front speakers with aplomb. Like all scores of the era, it has been composed with a particular style in mind, namely reliant on deeper notes for simplistic drama and the higher notes for whimsical emotion, however when the carousel sequence is unleashed Cyrin throws everything at the viewer in a complex and hectically energetic arrangement that the track takes in its stride.
High frequencies are piercing and pin sharp whilst the lower notes resonate. When the notes are hit and allowed to subside naturally the strength of just how organic this track feels hits home, the gentle roll into the background of the reverberating strings is even and distortion free, never slipping into muddiness as a new segment overlaps and begins. There are a couple of moments where the swell of subsiding notes seems perhaps a touch heightened, but this could be a trick of the mind as I rarely have a piano in my cinema room. It is a clean, potent and surprisingly wide 2.0 aural presentation that penetrates into the room as the drama heightens and provides a perfect artistic accompaniment to the main feature.
A “44-page booklet containing rare production photography, and writing about the film by Jean Epstein, Henri Langlois, René Clair, and more”. The photography is essentially the shots that appear on the disc’s “Photography Gallery” but the written content, and particularly that by Epstein himself, is certainly enlightening.
Somewhere around twenty photographs sourced from Iconothèque Cinémathèque française, which is elongated to 30 screens for this feature due to close ups of many of the portrait shots.
Play Film Without Subtitles
For purists and those with better GCSE French than me.
Coeur Fidèle is a visual masterpiece that helped lay the blueprint for much of the avant-garde storytelling of the silent era. However, beyond that it is still a wonderfully acted and gripping human drama. Epstein’s flair for fast editing and symbolic cinematography has helped elevate it to the realm of classic but it is far more accessible than others it has influenced, with a core narrative that is easily identified with and performances that tug at the heart strings.
The disc from Eureka fits in nicely in their Masters of Cinema catalogue, being both adept in image and audio quality. The transition from 25fps source to 1080/24p should be a template of how it should be executed – with care and attention to detail, whilst the new score composed and performed by Maxence Cyrin is pitch perfect for both the film and the Blu-ray. The extras are light, hence why this title perhaps doesn’t carry the higher price of others in the series, but as a set it is still an exceptional offering.
If you’re a fan of films from the silent era, and have already picked up Sunrise and City Girl from the Masters of Cinema selection, this should be an instant purchase.
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