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Lonesome [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.19:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: LPCM 1.0; Dolby Digital LPCM 2.0 (commentary track)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Run Time: 69 Mins.
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: August 28, 2012
  • List Price: $39.95

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

Hungarian director, Pál Fejös (AKA Paul Fejos), had a brief Hollywood career that straddled the end of silent movies and the beginning of the “talkie” era. Lonesome, his best known film, deals with the subject of young people on their own in the Big Apple. The plot is simplicity itself. Mary (Barbara Kent) is a telephone operator while Jim (Glenn Tryon) mans a steel machine press.  Both lead rather humdrum and lonely lives in drab apartments until fate brings them together during a holiday outing at Coney Island. Although Lonesome was technically a silent film, a music track and sound effects are added to give it more pizazz. In addition, there were three dialogue scenes incorporated, something unusual for 1928. Of even greater interest are the special camera effects that Fejos employed like the visual superimpositions seen in the switchboard and Coney Island scenes. In spite of the technological limitations of the film industry of the era, viewers get a real feeling of the atmosphere of the occasion, with the huge crowds, confetti-littered promenades, and the intimacy of two young people who are about to discover the magic of falling in love.

Video Quality

[Rating:3/5]

In spite of Lonesome’s age, a spritely 84 years old, it appears that the working print has held up well and the restoration team at Criterion Collection has certainly done their best to make it presentable. Given the inevitable streaking and grain throughout, there is still a lot of visual pleasure in this charming little movie. The camera work is constantly engaging and moves the action along quite well with little need for title screens. Just take one look at the roller coaster sequence to get a sense of cinematography at the cutting edge for its time.  As previously mentioned, there are some other innovative touches, including image superimposition, and tinting.

Audio Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]

Remembering that Lonesome was intended as a silent film, the compressed music and sound effects can be a bit tiring as many of the themes keep recycling while the sound effects are somewhat jarring.  That aside, the interpolated dialogue scenes seemed almost at odds with the effects so well conveyed by the expressions and actions of the silent actors. Understanding that this was a gimmick to create extra interest in this film, I felt it to be more of a distraction than enhancement of the proceedings.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]


We are in luck, as Criterion Collection has given us two other Fejos films :

  • The 1929 Last Performance with Conrad Veidt
  • The reconstructed sound version of the 1929 musical Broadway

Other extras include

  • Fejos Memorial: a 1963 visual essay produced by Paul Falkenberg with Fejos’s wife, Lita Binns Fejos
  • Audio excerpt about Broadway from an interview with cinematographer Hal Mohr.
  • Booklet containing essays by film critic Phillip Lopate and historian Graham Petrie, along with an excerpt from Fejos’s autobiography on Lonesome.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

Film-lovers should be grateful for companies like the Criterion Collection that have taken the time to resurrect nearly forgotten minor masterpieces like Lonesome. It is sublime in its directness and lack of guile, interesting in its presentation of film techniques that were ahead of their time, and, in this superb restoration, eminently watchable.  If this were not enough, we actually get a triple-feature with the addition of nearly full-length restorations of two of director Fejos’s other hits both of which will be revelations to film history buffs.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Lonesome [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Purchase Lonesome [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles on Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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