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Les visiteurs du soir (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 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, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • 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, Blu-ray, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
    • Language: French
    • Subtitles: English
    • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray 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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B008CJ0JRK
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,713 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

    Customer Reviews

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    Top Customer Reviews

    Format: VHS Tape
    As a huge fan of the works of Marcel Carne and Jacques Prevert, it is unfortunate to learn that other than 'Children of Paradise', none of their works are available on DVD. However, it is at least some consolation when you find that they are still in print on VHS. Considering that one of the finest films of all time, 'L'Atalante' by genius Jean Vigo has gone out of print on video, and that no one has bothered to put it back on the shelves, I must say that for such old French classics such as this one to still be around is a fact worth commending.
    'Les Visiteurs de Soir' literally translates into 'The Visitors of the Evening', but the English world has taken the liberty of calling it 'The Devil's Envoys'. This remarkable gem, a remnant of the early 1940s, is French romanticism at its best. While the original tale is a fable that children will delight in, the film-making team also saw the story as a way to make a point about the political establishment at the time. Marcel Carne has repeatedly won my respect as a film-maker, and though his crowning glory remains 'Les Enfants du Paradis', this little known film remains perhaps his most sly attempt at movie-making. Almost every sentence is a statement of political defiance, and every frame of the film is bathed in the unnaturally brilliant light that Marcel shot his movies in.
    'Les Visiteurs de Soir' looks older than it actually is. Perhaps this has something to do with the horrendous transfer that this particular edition is inflicted with. There are patches where it seems the film has burned away - gaping holes and scars are evident, which leads one to wonder what condition the master film is actually in.
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    Format: VHS Tape
    A relatively little-known but fascinating movie. Made during the German occupation of France, the film is set in the Late Middle Ages and deals with two envoys of the devil, Gilles and Dominique (Alain Cuny and Arletty, wonderful both) that arrive posing as wandering minstrels at the castle of a Baron where preparations for an upcoming wedding are being made. Their intention is to create havoc by breaking the hearts of all involved. These envoys have extraordinary powers to achieve these goals, like slowing time to a stop so that they can work on their targets at ease. Eventually, the very devil shows up at the castle in disguise. One can argue that the devil in the movie stands for Hitler and the Nazis and so forth, but the film works even if you don't try to watch it as a metaphor for the contemporary events of the time. The movie is memorable and evocative, with many great scenes and a great ending.
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    Format: Blu-ray
    Les visiteurs du soir (titled The Devil's Envoys in America) was the fourth collaboration between director Marcel Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert, released a few years before their masterpiece Children of Paradise. Being a big admirer of that film, as well as their other collaborations Port of Shadows and Le Jour se Lève, I had eagerly awaited this film to receive a proper release and was pleased when Criterion added it to their collection this month. With the Nazi's occupying France during this timeframe, it's said that Carné set out to make a straight-forward film that would avoid any trouble with the censors. Upon its release the film was met with acclaim with many seeing it as an allegory for the Occupation, a charge Carné fervently denied. While memorable and beautiful to look at I find Les visiteurs du soir inferior to their other collaborations, possibly because of the constraints they imposed on themselves by purposefully and carefully making a film that wouldn't upset the censors. As a result, there seems to be less freedom than in their earlier and subsequent collaborations. Their films fall under the category of poetic realism, with the poetic nature coming largely from Prévert's knack for writing beautiful, poetic dialogue. Much of the poetry here comes from the images in the film rather than words.Read more ›
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    Format: Blu-ray
    "Could you be the cause of all these troubles?"
    "What do you expect? No-one loves me. I amuse myself as best I can."

    Overshadowed outside France by both that other Medieval romantic fantasy and its director's Les Enfants du Paradis but revered in its homeland as one of the great films of the war years, Marcel Carne's Les Visiteurs du Soir has been particularly hard for non-French speakers to see for years: not released on video and unseen on UK TV for three decades, it's only with Criterion's largely unheralded DVD and Blu-ray release that many will have got the chance to finally see his tale of demons and marvels. While it doesn't cast as magic or as poetic an ethereal spell as Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete, it's still an impressive fable whose added resonance for a Nazi-occupied population is easy to see even if Carne and co-writer Jacques Prevert always insisted that no anti-Nazi subtext was intended, the Medieval setting simply the easiest way to get around the German censors.

    The plot is simple: two minstrels arrive at a castle, whose occupants are celebrating the betrothal of the Baron's daughter initially unaware that the two visitors (Arletty and Alain Cuny) have been sent by the Devil to sow discord by loving and destroying them and leaving the Devil to pick up the tab. Not that they don't have plenty of raw material to work with: despite the jollity of the banquets and the lack of work for the executioner, the castle is almost underpinned by sadness.
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