A Time To Love And A Time To Die (Blu-ray) (Eureka! Entertainment) (Masters of Cinema)

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A Time To Love And A Time To Die

Masters of Cinema: #65 (Blu-ray)

Eureka! Entertainment / Douglas Sirk / 1958 / USA

Genre: Drama / War

Running Time: 132 minutes (2:11:52)

Region Code: Region B (Locked)

Certificate: PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (Original CinemaScope Aspect Ratio)

Codec: AVC

Image: Colour

Video: 1080p High Definition 

Audio: English Linear PCM 1.0 (Dialogue Track) / English Linear PCM 1.0 (Music and Effects Track)

Language: English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH (On/Off)

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Leaving his native Germany in 1937 due to political beliefs, and the fact that his second wife, actress Hilde Jary, was Jewish, the Hamburg-born filmmaker Douglas Sirk (changing his name from (Hans) Detlef Sierck) would eventually arrive in Hollywood shortly before 1942. Though initially directing a series of lesser known thrillers, noirs and dramas, including the anti-Nazi war drama, ‘Hitler’s Madman’ (1943) (for the exiled German Producer Seymour Nebenzal) and the 1946 biographical drama ‘A Scandal in Paris’ (a Napoleonic-era biopic of the life of the reformed French criminal-turned-Prefect of Police, Eugène François Vidocq), Sirk would later go on to be one of the undisputed masters of the Hollywood melodrama.

In 1958, with such Technicolor masterpieces as Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), There’s Always Tomorrow (1956) and Written on the Wind (1956) behind him, firmly cementing his status as one of the industry’s finest filmmakers, Sirk would return to the subject of his native Germany for the passionate war drama, ‘A Time To Love And A Time To Die’, one year after his noirish, black and white aviation drama, The Tarnished Angels (1957), and just one year prior to what is now widely considered his finest work – the searing 1959 melodrama ‘Imitation of Life’ – his powerful examination of race, gender and class, which would sadly prove Sirk’s Hollywood swansong, with the director returning back home to Europe shortly after where he would never make another feature film.

An adaptation of German author and World War I veteran, Erich Maria Remarque’s moving 1954 novel ‘Zeit zu leben und Zeit zu sterben’ (translated as ‘A Time To Love And A Time To Die’), Douglas Sirk’s Golden Bear-nominated film (1958 (8th) Berlin International Film Festival, eventually losing out to Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries or ‘Smultronstället’) is ultimately  a very passionate, personal and highly moving affair, and though carried out on a stage of great expanse, surges with a powerful amalgamation of great intimacy, repressed emotion, significance and depth.

Watching  ‘A Time To Love And A Time To Die’, one can only imagine what wonders Sirk would have achieved with an adaptation of Remarque’s most famous work, the psychological 1929 novel, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ – Remarque’s controversial study of German soldiers’ extreme physical and mental stress during World War I (and their subsequent detachment and struggle to readjust to civilian life upon returning home from the front).

Horrified by the hardships of war and granted a rare furlough after two straight years stationed out on the Eastern (Russian-German) Front in 1944, German soldier Ernst Graeber (John Gavin) returns to his Hamburg home only to discover that the city he once knew now lies shattered in rubble.

Desperately searching for his missing parents in a city destroyed by air-raids – now bearing very little resemblance to the familiar one he grew up in and left behind – he soon falls in love with the elegant daughter of his parent’s long-serving physician, Elizabeth Kruse (Liselotte Pulver), whose father is now being held by the Gestapo in a concentration camp.

Their mutual isolation and desperation to be reunited with their families propels their romantic relationship along as they attempt to survive and find comprehension in a hostile world racked with antagonism and destruction.

Sirk was always known for drawing some of the finest and best-realised performances from his actors, and  ‘A Time To Love And A Time To Die’ is no different, featuring top-quality performances from a large ensemble cast of lesser known American and German talent (Erich Maria Remarque himself has a brief cameo as Professor Pohlmann, and there is an uncredited early performance from Klaus Kinski as a Gestapo Lieutenant).

American actor John Gavin (who would later be appointed United States Ambassador to Mexico in June 1981 by President Ronald Reagan) and Swiss actress Liselotte Pulver (who didn’t make a great deal of English-language pictures) lead the cast with fine performances as Ernst and Elizabeth, the wholly-relatable lovers at the centre of the piece, and they receive terrific support from a large, sturdy ensemble featuring the likes of Thayer David, Jock Mahoney, Don DeFore, Keenan Wynn, Dorothea Wieck, Kurt Meisel, Agnes Windeck and Charles Régnier, amongst others.

Looking at the film from a technical and creative perspective, the film bursts with aesthetic quality, from Alexander Golitzen and Alfred Sweeney’s Art Direction and Russell A. Gausman’s Set Decoration, to the superb, flowing Technicolor cinematography of Russell Metty (who would win the 1961 Academy Award for Best Colour (or Color) Cinematography only three years later for his work on Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Spartacus’), Costume Design of Bill Thomas, Editing of Ted J. Kent, Academy Award-nominated Sound Mixing of Leslie I. Carey (Best Sound, 1959) and the stirring orchestral score from the great, multi-award-winning Hungarian composer, Miklós Rózsa.

A visceral and strikingly realistic work of great power, personal emotion, intimacy and meaning, ‘A Time To Love And A Time To Die’ is undoubtedly amongst Sirk’s finest, most assured and most heartfelt achievements.

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Presented in the original CinemaScope aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Eureka! Entertainment’s AVC encoded 1080p High Definition world premiere Blu-ray release is, in a word, excellent, and presents significant upgrades from the 2009 Eureka! / Masters of Cinema DVD release.

Watching the new blu-ray release and then going back to the old DVD the first thing that immediately strikes is the distinct difference in the overall colour of the image. We are presented with a much more authentic image than the DVD release, which appears slightly darker and greener in comparison to the cold, crisp whites and greys and rich reds and blues seen in this release. Skin tones also appear much more natural and overall contrast levels are excellent, from the aforementioned crisp snowy whites, to the dark inky blues and blacks.

Clarity and definition are generally very strong, offering significantly increased levels of fine detail and image depth, and there is a strong layer of distinct grain present throughout.

Overall we are presented with an incredibly clean and very immersive visual presentation, with no noticeable signs of any debris or damage to report.

The original English Linear PCM 1.0 mono audio mix is beautifully restored, presenting strong, clean dialogue, crisp effects and a superb presentation of Miklós Rózsa’s excellent score, which rings out with enhanced levels of strength, emotion and overall quality. The disc also features an isolated music & effects track which further enhances the quality of the score, effects and overall sound design.

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Special Features:

Optional isolated music & effects track.

OF TEARS AND SPEED: ACCORDING TO JEAN-LUC GODARD – A 2007 video piece by Nicolas Ripoche using still images and film clips to annotate a spoken narration of Jean-Luc Godard’s allusive 1959 Cahiers du cinema review of ‘A Time To Love And A Time To Die’, which appears in full in the accompanying booklet. (12:29)

OUT THERE IN THE DARK: WESLEY STRICK – A 19-minute video interview with Wesley Strick, screenwriter of Scorsese’s Cape Fear and author of the novel Out There in the Dark , a roman- à-clef based upon Sirk’s life in Hollywood and his relationship with the estranged son who took a starring role in Hitler Youth propaganda. (18:40)

IMITATION OF LIFE [MIRAGE OF LIFE]: A PORTRAIT OF DOUGLAS SIRK – a 51-minute film portrait from 1984, directed by Daniel Schmid and photographed by Renato Berta, of Douglas Sirk and his wife Hilda in conversation, and reflecting, from their apartment in Germany, back upon their lives in Hollywood. (50:57)

THEATRICAL TRAILER – The original trailer for the film, from the time it retained the provisional title of simply “ A TIME TO LOVE “. (02:45)

36-page booklet containing the complete text of Jean-Luc Godard’s essay on the film, writings from critic Tag Gallagher on the film and Sirk’s career in general, and an assemblage of notes that includes excerpts from Sirk’s reflections upon the film, remarks upon visual motifs inside the movie, the CinemaScope process used to photograph the picture, and more.

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Overall:

An extraordinary work of great passion, emotion, intimacy and power, Douglas Sirk’s remarkable ‘A Time To Love And A Time To Die’ is wonderfully enhanced in every aspect courtesy of Eureka! Entertainment’s superb new ‘world premiere’ blu-ray upgrade! An essential addition to any good film collection!

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Release Date: 23 September, 2013

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Original Theatrical Trailer: