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Les visiteurs du soir (Criterion Collection)

4.3 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

A work of poetry and dark humor, Les visiteurs du soir is a lyrical medieval fantasy from the great French director Marcel Carné (Children of Paradise). Two strangers (Children of Paradise’s Arletty and La dolce vita’s Alain Cuny), dressed as minstrels, arrive at a castle in advance of court festivities—and it is revealed that they are actually emissaries of the devil himself, dispatched to spread heartbreak and suffering. Their plans, however, are thwarted by an unexpected intrusion: human love. Often interpreted as an allegory for the Nazi occupation of France, during which it was made, Les visiteurs du soir—wittily written by Jacques Prévert (Children of Paradise) and Pierre Laroche (Lumière d’été), and elegantly designed by Alexandre Trauner (Port of Shadows) and shot by Roger Hubert (Children of Paradise)—is a moving and whimsical tale of love conquering all.

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration
  • L’aventure des “Visiteurs du soir,” a documentary on the making of the film
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Arletty, Marie Dea, Fernand Ledoux, Alain Cuny, Pierre Labry
    • Directors: Marcel Carne
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
    • Language: French
    • Subtitles: English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
    • Studio: Criterion Collection
    • DVD Release Date: September 18, 2012
    • Run Time: 121 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B008CJ0JPW
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,285 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    This now 70-year-old French film by the great Marcel Carné has undergone a meticulous digital restoration for its début on DVD, and one can again fully appreciate the superb black and white cinematography. The soundtrack has had an impeccable 24-bit remastering, and the new English subtitles are well translated and easy to read on the screen. Also included in the new DVD package is an informative 2009 French documentary on the making of this film in 1942 under Nazi occupation and the Vichy government. In addition, there is a booklet with seven pages of text by film critic and author Michael Atkinson and seven pages of photographs from the film.

    As for the film itself, a romantic fantasy set in medieval France and based on legend, I felt I should dock it a star because it so obviously suffers in comparison to its successor, Carné's ultimate masterpiece, «Les Enfants du Paradis» ("The Children of Paradise"). After a brilliant start (through the whole banquet sequence), the film gets progressively bogged down in its convoluted plot (that takes too long in resolving itself), becoming overly talky and a bit tedious in the process. However, the ending is so iconic that much of this can be forgiven. Also worth noting is the comment by the renowned French film critic Georges Sadoul regarding «Les Visiteurs du soir» (with which I would concur): that some of "the fantasy is rather forced." However, for appreciators and students of French cinema, this is a film that should not be missed, given its historical context. It launched a trend of other notable French films under the Occupation that, beneath a veneer of ostensibly escapist fare that eluded the Fascist censors, contained a subversive subtext of a yearning to be free from the forces of oppression.
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    In my view, this is a psychological metaphor, not a political one. The documentary included in the disc even says that this was meant as an escapist romantic fantasy set during the 1400s. And the idea that the two minstrels/visitors were spies for a competing feudal lord sent to take down a castle using their charms, I think distracts from the real story which seems to me, at least, to be about the struggles narcissists have to love or trust. The female narcissist, Dominique, clearly has given up all hope on love and has a severe case of coldness and contempt for all people (ie: a victim of parental psychic incest or "a deal with the devil"). About half way through the movie, the male narcissist, Gilles, lets go and allows himself to fall in love for the first time with a kind woman. He becomes vulnerable and asks her to teach him how to love. At this moment, his old memories appear (ie: the devil appears or what some have called a "negative therapeutic reaction") and he is turned into stone (ie: petrified with fear). The movie offers an inspirational ending which countless love songs are all about. If you need a reminder of what life is like without love, I think this film does a terrific job of it. Even the character who plays the personification of the devil admits that he does what he does only to distract himself from the pain of having never been loved.

    The movie has a meditative, rhythmic, and slightly poetic quality to it. The dialogue and English subtitles are very crisp and clear. The costumes are spot on and they alone will make you feel that you've escaped to another time and place.
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    Verified Purchase
    The Criterion Collection specializes in classic films that are very hard to find. La Belle Et La Bete was the first one I purchased, and now, Les Visiteur Du Soir, a French film that pre-dated La Belle Et La Bete, and is just as sumptuous and entertaining. It's also harder than hen's teeth to locate before Criterion released it. As a student of the French language, and as a film enthusiast, I can highly recommend it.
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    By Kya on December 16, 2012
    Verified Purchase
    Just gorgeous. Loved this movie. The black and white was dazzling, story somewhat predictable, but a pleasure, and the acting fine, although Arletty's acting style seemed identical to her protaginist in "Children of Paradise" (a later Carne film). The young Cuny instantly recognizable (see "la Dolce Vita" and "Satyricon"). I'm so happy that Jean Marais did not get the Gilles character part; I do not like his acting when he has a romantic scene with a woman. He plays to the camera or audience not the woman (see "Beauty and the Beast"). I liked the stark castle interiors and the courtyard shots. The devil quite lively and what a dandy. Amazing what the production crew was able to accomplish. Yes, I also was able to pick the director Resnais out of the extras provided for the banquet scene. Haven't picked out Simone Signoret yet.
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    The Carne-Prevert pattern of Quai des Brumes translates here into fantasy, reminiscent of La Belle et la Bete, which is not completely successful. It lacks the superb performances of the earlier films, and those of the forthcoming "Les Enfants du Paradis" and its leisurely rhythms fail to engage the attention adequately. But it is an essential element of French twentieth century cinema and of European history of the time.
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