A Woman of Paris (1923)

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Released 15-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Introduction-David Robinson
Featurette-Chaplin Today
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-United Artists
Featurette-Paris In The 20s
Short Film-Camille (1926)
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Trailer-The Chaplin Collection
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1923
Running Time 77:51
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Charles Chaplin
Studio
Distributor
Regent Film Company
Warner Home Video
Starring Edna Purviance
Clarence Geldart
Carl Miller
Lydia Knott
Charles K. French
Adolphe Menjou
Betty Morrissey
Malvina Polo
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Charles Chaplin
Louis F. Gottschalk


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles German
Spanish
French
Italian
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Czech
Greek
Hungarian
Polish
Turkish
Hebrew
Russian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A young woman, Marie St Clair (Edna Purviance) is preparing to leave her small French village for the capital with her young lover Jean (Carl Miller). They plan to marry against the wishes of their parents, but when Jean's father dies while Marie is waiting at the railway station, Marie thinks he has dumped her and she heads off on her own.

    A year later she is seen in a swank Paris restaurant with her rich lover, Pierre Revel (Adolphe Menjou in his first starring role), living the high life. By now Jean is an artist in Paris, and Marie meets him by chance and agrees to sit for a portrait. There is still an attraction but Marie wants marriage and seems to be in love with Pierre, who intends marrying another. A chain of events unfolds which leads to tragedy and redemption.

    This film was a drama directed by Charlie Chaplin. Apart from a brief and unrecognisable cameo as a porter at the railway station, he does not appear in the film. It was an attempt to make his ageing long time leading lady Edna Purviance into a star in her own right, which failed.

    This is actually quite a good film of its type and was a critical success, though a commercial flop in 1923. The critical acclaim was due to this being a sophisticated film with some realistic situations and performances, little seen in US films up to this time, and it was banned or censored in several states. The film was an acknowledged influence on Ernst Lubitsch, the German director who arrived in the US the same year and proceeded to make a series of sophisticated comedies. The ones that I have seen from this period, such as The Marriage Circle, Lady Windermere's Fan and So This is Paris all show influences from A Woman in Paris, though they do not have the melodramatic elements of the Chaplin film.

    As the film was shortly withdrawn and not shown again until 1978, the film could not be assessed except through contemporary accounts and thus the nature of its influence could not be determined. The reissue demonstrated that Chaplin had a deft touch as a director and could easily have made a second career directing others, had he chosen to do so. While it may not seem like so much today compared to later films, there are few films made before this that have the qualities so admired by Lubitsch and Michael Powell (discussed in the Extras section). Perhaps Chaplin was himself influenced by European films and those of Cecil B. de Mille. This film is worth seeking out.

    The film is released as part of a two-disc set with A King in New York, reviewed separately.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    This is quite a sharp print, but it has a few problems. Being projected at sound speed, the movement of the actors seems a little jerky at times. The level of detail is not brilliant, with faces showing no more than the obvious features, and the rest looking homogenised. Shadow detail is not good, given that the contrast seems to have been boosted somewhat. Black levels are good but sometimes the image seems too dark.

    Apart from some telecine wobble, there is some very mild aliasing and a fair degree of excessive noise reduction, the latter causing stationary objects to appear as if they are moving slightly. This is most noticeable early in the film.

    While there are a few scratches and some minor print damage, the print material used was in good condition for a film over eighty years old.

    This is a dual-layered disc, with the entire film contained on one layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two available audio tracks. The default audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, with an alternative 5.1 mix. I listened to the former and sampled the latter, which is really not much different from the 2.0 track and no improvement on it.

    There is no dialogue, this being a silent film, so audio sync is very good. The audio is quite clear and while lacking in dynamics, comes up reasonably well in this transfer.

    The orchestral score is by Chaplin, as usual, and was composed in 1976 when he was 87 years old. It is a pretty good score for someone of this age. The score was completed and recorded in 1977 but the film was not premiered in reissue until April 1978, four months after his death.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Featurette - Introduction (5:11)

    The usual introduction to the film by David Robinson, giving some context to what we see on screen.

Featurette - Chaplin Today (26:30)

    This was made by Mathias Ledoux and features Swedish actress and director Liv Ullmann talking intelligently about the film. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with the film. Firstly, Edna Purviance's surname is mispronounced: it should rhyme with defiance. Then when the names of the speakers are shown on screen, they appear a character at a time and are accompanied by a clicking keyboard sound. This would not be so bad except it is heard over the voice of the speaker, which is quite distracting. Lastly, the reminiscences of those involved in the film are read by actors, who rarely have a natural inflection. Again, I would not normally be disturbed by this, except that they chose to present Adolphe Menjou's voice in an outrageous French accent that would not be out of place atop a castle battlement in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I may be wrong, and this is the correct accent for a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While Menjou was of French descent and could speak the language fluently (he appeared in several early French talkies), anyone who has seen one of his sound films will know he spoke English with an American accent. Most irritating.

    This featurette also features a voice interview with British director Michael Powell, who saw the film in America in 1923 at the age of 18, and claimed it as an influence on his own career.

Deleted Shots

    Ten short shots deleted from the reissue, with the footage in the final film shown first, then with the excised footage. Interesting to watch through once to see what Chaplin thought was unnecessary to be included in the reissue version. Unfortunately these can only be watched individually, as there is no option to play all of them.

United Artists (3:07)

    A short film showing Chaplin with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D. W. Griffith signing the contract that created United Artists in 1919. There is also footage of Fairbanks lifting Chaplin above his head.

Paris in the 20s (10:01)

    Home movie footage taken in Paris in the 1920s by an unknown hand, this has brief footage of a Chaplin impersonator.

Camille (32:46)

    A bizarre short amateur film based on the story by Alexandre Dumas fils made by Ralph Barton in 1926. The bulk of it seems to be shot at a dinner party with lots of alcohol, and Chaplin appears doing party tricks and so on. The cast is remarkable, with Paul Robeson, Ethel Barrymore, Dorothy Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Sacha Guitry, W. Somerset Maugham, Paul Claudel, Max Reinhardt, Ferenc Molnar, Clarence Darrow, H. L. Mencken, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, Anita Loos and Serge Koussevitsky. Oh, and the Sultan of Morocco and many more. How many of these people knew they were participating in a film is a moot point.

Trailer (2:39)

    A reissue trailer for the film.

Photo Gallery

    74 photos of Chaplin directing, the sets, Edna Purviance and some production and publicity stills.

The Chaplin Collection (10:43)

    Trailers for the other releases in this collection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   This material has also been issued in other regions. The material was mastered for PAL release in Europe, and the NTSC versions were made from the PAL masters, not from the original prints, and as a consequence of this the Region 1 release suffers from motion blurring artefacts and cannot be recommended.

    An earlier Region 1 release contained both this film and A King in New York on a single dual-layered disc, which I purchased to see the earlier film. This disc included a re-release trailer and some supplemental material as extras. The film is presented window-boxed to maintain the original aspect ratio, and from a brief sample of it, the transfer is lacking slightly in contrast and has numerous film artefacts. The new version seems better to me in terms of picture quality. However, the running time is 90:52, and the cover mentions that the material deleted from the re-release version is included. Based on that running time and PAL speed-up, this version runs nearly 10 minutes longer. How much of this is due to additional footage and how much to a slower running speed I do not know, but I suspect more due to the latter than the former. Unfortunately, this version is now out of print.

Summary

    An interesting film for fans of the great comedian, and not too shabby as an entertainment either.

    The video quality is good for a film of this vintage.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    A good selection of extras, with one reservation.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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