9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
beautifully restored Criterion DVD version of Carné's «Les Visiteurs du soir»,
This review is from: Les visiteurs du soir (Criterion Collection) (DVD)
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 to resolve itself), becoming overly talky and a bit tedious in the process. However, the ending is so iconic that much of this can be forgiven.
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.