Stroszek (1977)

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Released 7-Jan-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-with Director Werner Herzog and Norman Hill
Theatrical Trailer-in German with no English subtitling
Trailer-Umbrella Entertainment trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 103:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:09) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Werner Herzog
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Bruno S.
Eva Mattes
Clemens Scheitz
Wilhelm von Homburg
Burkhard Driest
Clayton Szalpinski
Ely Rodriguez
Alfred Edel
Scott McKain
Ralph Wade
Michael Gahr
Vaclav Vojta
Yuecsel Topcuguerler
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Chet Atkins
Sonny Terry


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Stroszek is often rated as among the best of Werner Herzog's many films and documentaries. I believe that this film and Bruno S.' other film with Herzog, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser are equal to Herzog's more noted films done with another similar idiosyncratic actor, Klaus Kinski, namely, Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo. They may not be as well known simply for the fact that Bruno S.' roles in The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser and Stroszek are not as emotionally intense as Kinski's performances in Herzog's films, nevertheless, Bruno S.' naive and simple acting style fits in well with Herzog's penchant for making films with and about eccentric characters.

    The film stars Bruno S. as Bruno Stroszek, an institutionalised man who has just been released from 2 years served in a Berlin prison. On his way out he is advised to give up on drinking, this he reacts to by immediately visiting a bar and taking in a prostitute who is down on her luck, Eva (played by Eva Mattes) into his apartment. Unfortunately, Eva's pimps pay Bruno a visit and the outcome is not good, faced with the dilemma of been threatened by standover guys, Bruno and Eva, together with his elderly, similarly eccentric neighbour, Scheitz (Clemens Scheitz), decide to emigrate to Wisconsin in the United States.

    This ode to the great American dream sadly soon becomes a parody of the great American nightmare as Bruno becomes depressed after realising that America is not a land of opportunity as he had thought, especially if you can't speak English well. He begins to drink, thus alienating Eva who returns to her old ways to get a living. Scheitz, in the meantime, convinces Bruno that life in the United States is a great conspiracy so the two of them hold up a bank, only to find it closed, so they rob a barber instead. Scheitz is arrested, Bruno buys a turkey and beer with his little money, just before setting his truck on fire and leaving it to drive in circles. Bruno crosses the street, then starts up some coin-operated attractions of animals dancing to music, and then catches a ski-lift (also going in circles) before we hear a loud shotgun noise. Is Bruno dead by the end of the film? Presumably, but what is it with this symbolic imagery of the American tradition of thanksgiving at the end of the film, when Bruno buys a frozen turkey and also passes by a Cherokee Indian. Also, what about the chicken dancing in circles in the fairground attraction and Bruno himself going on a chairlift in circles? I wonder if Bruno's love of musical street entertainment in Germany in the beginning of the film is ironically parodied in the the final scene with the dancing chicken?

    Ian Curtis, of Joy Division, apparently viewed this film prior to his suicide, and English playwright Sarah Kane's final play prior to her suicide features the lines "the chicken's still dancing/ the chicken won't stop." Indeed, the chicken does seem to just keep on going prior to the final fadeout, set to Sonny Terry's harmonica music, this scene will stay with you forever, you won't forget it!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The Region 4 Umbrella Entertainment release is an identical port of the Anchor Bay Region 2 release.

    The aspect ratio is 1:66:1, 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. On a widescreen television this unique aspect ratio will actually have very narrow vertical bars on the extreme left and right of the main video image.

    The video transfer is slightly soft. There are instances of film grain evident, even though the main transfer has an average bitrate of 7.37 m/b per sec.

    Colour is distinctively bold and strong, even though the contrast is slightly muted.

    There are no significant film artefacts in the transfer which is excellent for a low budget film of the nature. (Apparently the movie was shot in Berlin and Wisconsin for about $US390000)

    Subtitles are provided for German dialogue only, the English parts of the film are left unsubtitled.

    The RSDL change occurs at 71:11 during a scene change. It is not very noticeable at all.

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

Audio

    Even though there are three main soundtracks for this release, the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are not significantly better than the original Dolby Digital mono track. Essentially the main soundtrack was mono, with a lot of sequences in the film dedicated to dialogue.

    There are three main soundtracks. They are all in German with some English. The first track is A Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track encoded at 192 kbps, the second track is a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfer encoded at 448 kbps and the final track is DTS 5.1 encoded at 768 kbps.

    Dialogue is clear and audio is synchronised.

    Music is manly confined to Bruno S.' performances on accordion and piano and some blues-inspired music for the scenes shot in America.

    Surround Channel Usage is very limited, occasionally sound is mixed for the back speakers, but no very often.

    The subwoofer is not really used during the main Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks.

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

Extras

Audio Commentary - with Director Werner Herzog and Norman Hill

This audio commentary mainly features Werner Herzog recalling, with infrequent cajoling from Norman Hill, his experiences in making this film. His comments provide interesting background information on Bruno S., who retired from acting after this film, and the amount of attention required from the director for Bruno to perform, due to his having spent 23 years institutionalised. A lot of commentary centres on Bruno, but there are some other interesting notes on the standover men at the beginning of the film, the choice of locations in the United States and the resistance of the crew to be enthusiastic about the story line and scenes of the film. Many of the trivia entries on this film's IMDb entry have been derived from Herzog's commentary on this DVD.

Theatrical Trailer

The original theatrical trailer has no subtitles and gives away many spoilers to the plot.

Umbrella Entertainment Trailers

Four trailers are included for Werner Herzog's other films released by Umbrella; Fitzcarraldo, Where the Green Ants Dream, Cobra Verde and My Best Friend, Herzog's documentary on his friendship with Klaus Kinski.

R4 vs R1

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

    Stroszek has been released by Anchor Bay in Region 1 in the United States and in Region 2 in the United Kingdom. The Region 2 release is identical to the Region 4 release. The Region 1 version of Stroszek has the same extras, with additional production notes and a biography on Herzog. It contains only the original Dolby Digital mono track. The image is presented on a single-sided DVD disc, despite this the Region 1 is actually slightly sharper and has less grain and compression issues than the Region 2 and Region 4 versions, despite an average bitrate of 5.11 m/b per sec.

Summary

    Written in four days by Werner Herzog specifically for Bruno S., as compensation for offering the main role of Woyzeck to Kinski, this film is unique and odd, but memorable. Think of it as the antithesis to the great American Dream. The iconic final scene will leaving you wanting for more and Bruno S.' naive performance will make you empathetic to the contribution he makes to his eventual outcome.

    Although this Region 4 release by Umbrella Entertainment is not as sharp as the Region 1 Anchor Bay release, the difference in quality is minimal and it doesn't really warrant getting it instead of the Region 4 version. Overall, this is a must-have for fans of New Wave German Cinema or of classic cinema in general, there are so few films like it. The burning truck going in circles and the dancing chicken, also going in circles at the end of the film, will forever frustrate those who detest unresolved endings in movies, but there is something new to be gained when your re-visit Stroszek with each additional viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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