Le Corbeau (The Raven) (1943)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 2-Dec-2009

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Dr Adrian Martin
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1943
Running Time 87:30
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (47:31) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Henri-Georges Clouzot
Studio
Distributor
Continental
Madman Entertainment
Starring Pierre Fresnay
Ginette Leclerc
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Tony Aubin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Back in 1943 when this film was made, Germany was occupying France and German film company Continental Films was making movies in French for the French. French actors and directors who were involved in those films were considered collaborators at the time and subsequently banned from the French film industry after the war. This movie, Le Corbeau or The Raven, was one of those films. The director Henri-Georges Clouzot was initially banned for life although this was later changed to two years. Le Corbeau was widely considered to be a Nazi propaganda film at the time as it portrayed such a bleak picture of the French and French society, although there is another view that this particular film in fact shows the evils brought about by people being suspicious of each other and trying to reveal each other's secrets. This practice of course was encouraged by the occupying Germans in order to root out Jews, resistance members and others considered undesirable. Both of these views are explored in the excellent commentary by Dr Adrian Martin which is exclusive to our Region 4 release of this important film. I am not going to pretend that I know whether the film was propaganda or an underground attempt at resistance against the Germans. The good news is that as well as being 'important' this is a very worthwhile film in its own right from an entertainment perspective.

    The story is set in 1943 but is based on an incident which happened in a small town in France in the 1920s. The small town in the movie is not named and the film specifically says it could be anywhere. The main protagonist is a local doctor, Remy Germain (Pierre Fresnay), who has recently moved to the town and has a mysterious past. He is not overly likeable, being rude to most and slightly less rude to a few. He is boarding in the local schoolhouse along with the one-armed schoolmaster, the schoolmaster's disabled and slutty sister Denise (Ginette Leclerc) and his young teenage daughter Rolande (Liliane Maigne). They are a thoroughly unlikeable bunch, pretty much like the rest of the town. Dr Germain, who seems to have every woman under 60 in town after him (including the 14 and a half year old Rolande), is carrying on a furtive relationship with the wife of the local psychiatrist, Dr Michel Vorzet (Pierre Larquey) who is much older than his wife. Rumours start that he is performing abortions as he has had a few babies die whilst the mothers lived. This begins a chain of letters, sent from someone who refers to themself as Le Corbeau, which include some hidden truths about characters in the town, some unsubstantiated rumours and some straight out lies. This causes the town to turn on itself, with everyone suspicious of each other based both on the content of the letters and because each thinks that the other might be Le Corbeau. Serious consequences result. Who is the mysterious letter writer?

    This film has many quality technical aspects such as interesting shots (through a keyhole, a scene with a swinging light, etc) which remind me of various Hitchcock moments. There is also excellent use of shadows and lots of interesting details in the way sets are used, especially the continued use of gates and entrances to public places. The fact that even the hero is unlikeable is a major difference this film has to many others, even of a similar style. There are also strong themes explored regarding sexual morals, treatment of the mentally ill and the physically disabled in society along with the political overtones I mentioned earlier. There is a lot going on in this film with everyone seeming to have ulterior motives and hidden agendas.

    A really well made and distinctive classic psychological thriller from France.

   

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is quite good for the age of the film. This edition would seem to contain the same transfer as the UK Optimum release. You can find a direct comparison of this transfer and the Criterion edition from DVD Beaver  here. Based on the screen shots and information provided on DVD Beaver it would seem this is the best transfer available.

    The feature is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is obviously not 16x9 enhanced. This is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was quite clear and sharp throughout for a film of this age. Shadow detail was reasonable.

    The black & white looks quite decent and although the Criterion features somewhat better contrast, this is offset by the other issues mentioned in the link above.

    From an artefacts perspective, there is some film grain throughout although this is to be expected. There is also some telecine wobble, especially during the opening credits and a little bit at other points. There are regular white spots and specs although never too big. There is a jump at 2:34 and some minor MPEG artefacts during motion at 46:14. There is also some strange print damage to be seen at 35:10 to 35:30 and 60:25 which manifests as some flashing in sections of the screen.

    There are subtitles in English which are burned into the print. They are clear and easy to read.

    The layer change was not noticeable during playback and occurs at 47:31.
    

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

Audio

    The audio is good.

    This DVD contains a French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 224Kb/s.

    Dialogue seemed clear and easy to understand. There was some background hiss.

    The music by Tony Aubin sounded somewhat strident on this transfer.

    The surround speakers were not used.

    The subwoofer was not used.

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

Extras

    

Menu

    The menu includes an intro and music. The cover includes an essay about the film on the inside.

Commentary - Dr Adrian Martin - Senior Research Fellow, Monash University

    This regular commentator on Director's Suite releases from Madman produces another excellent and interesting commentary for this film. He discusses the film's link to the Nazis , the various opinions about it and its director both in 1943 and now, the visual imagery used in the film, the themes of mental and physical disability and sex amongst many other interesting topics. Fans of this film or students of cinema will be keen to listen to this.

Theatrical Trailer (3:13)

    An interesting trailer.

Other Madman Trailers

R4 vs R1

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

    On the basis of the issues with the Criterion edition's print as outlined in the DVD Beaver comparison above, this edition can be discounted. This means we should compare this local release against the Optimum Region 2 release. They have the same transfer so it comes down to extras. We have the commentary while the Region 2 has an introduction to the film. I would say buy the local edition.

Summary

    A really well made and distinctive classic psychological thriller from France.

    The video quality is quite good for a film of this age and seemingly the best available globally.

    The audio is good.

    An audio commentary by an Australian academic is included.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Friday, February 12, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS708H upscaling to 1080p, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE