The Shapiro Files

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Netflix Weekend Wrap-Up #9

Previous installments: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8

At long last, I finally had a chance to watch something from my Netflix queue that isn't just another of the many films from 2005 I missed:

The Trial (1962) - The result of the final time Director Orson Welles maintained 100% creative control from beginning to end of a project and a film I've been wanting to see for years now. I'm pleased to report that The Trial is a brilliant merging of Franz Kafka's famous novel/parable with Welles' unique visual style. In terms of the later, it's absolutely breathtaking, with every single shot a work of art. The camera placement, deep focus (depth of field), set design, and stark lighting used throughout are all examples of what made Welles such a genius. And of course, the film is much more than just a collection of incredibly imagery. In terms of content, this film captures the spirit of Kafka's surreal narrative extremely well. It's been years since I've read the novel, so I can't talk to how faithful an adaptation this is. But it certainly gets the nightmarish quality down perfectly. The film is also very well-cast with Anthony Perkins giving a great leading performance along with a whole bunch of excellent supporting players (including Orson Welles himself).

I should note that this is very much an "art film" and is not going to suit everyone's tastes. But for fans of Kafka and Welles, you can't do any better than this (well, I suppose except for Citizen Kane, which is downright mainstream compared to this film). On a final note, my Netflix rating below is for the film, not the DVD. Despite an accompanying mini-documentary talking about the film restoration methods used in making the DVD, I thought the video looked like a bad second (or third) generation analog video tape transfer (with bad artificial sharpening to boot) than anything you'd normally find the digital domain. And just as bad, the audio was muffled (not to mention out of sync) and I found myself straining (and frequently rewinding) to hear all the dialogue. So anyone seeking out this film, just know that unless it gets re-released by Criterion (or another reputable home video production company), some of Welles's brilliance will be lost in translation. My Netflix rating: 5 stars


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