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Liliom [DVD] [1934]

Release Date:03/30/2004
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.
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    Liliom, Ferenc Molnar's bittersweet fantasy play, was first filmed in Hollywood in 1930, with Charles Farrell as ne'er-do-well carnival barker Liliom and Rose Hobart as his long-suffering wife Julie. While that version is not available for public viewing, the 1935 French-language version directed by Fritz Lang and starring Charles Boyer is currently being offered by several home-video warehouses--albeit in an undubbed, unsubtitled print. Boyer plays Liliom, who runs the carousel at a Budapest amusement park. He impulsively quits his job when he falls in love with mill-worker Julie (Madeleine Ozeray). A terrible husband and provider, Liliom panics when he discovers he's about to become a father. He enters into a get-rich-quick robbery scheme with his unsavory pal Alfred (Alcover), but the plan goes awry. Rather than allow himself to be arrested, Liliom kills himself, whereupon his soul is transported via an art-deco express train to the waiting room of Heaven. A celestial judge determines that Liliom will not get his wings until he returns to earth to do one good deed. Liliom materializes before his now-teenaged daughter, and tries to give her a star that he's stolen from heaven; when she panics, he impulsively slaps her. Considering himself a failure, Liliom wearily heads for Purgatory, but a coda shows that his visit has done a world of good for both his widow and his daughter. Liliom was later musicalized by Rodgers & Hammerstein as Carousel. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Madeleine Ozeray
      Madeleine Ozeray - Julie
    • Charles Boyer
      Charles Boyer - Liliom
    • Image coming soon
      Pierre Alcover - Alfred
    • Roland Toutain
      Roland Toutain - Sailor
    • Image coming soon
      Robert Arnoux - Strong Arm

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.