Coeur Fidele (Masters of Cinema) DVD+Blu-ray
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Directed by Jean Epstein
Produced in 1923
Main Language - Silent
Leon Mathot, Gina Manes, Edmond Van Daele
Remarkable visions of longing and foreboding fill this melodrama on the injustice of love. It anticipates the great French poetic realist films of the 1930s, says Graeme Hobbs.
Balancing somnambulist visions of longing and foreboding, downbeat realism and swirling carnivalesque rhythms, Jean Epstein's Coeur Fidele - the very first of Epstein's films to be released on DVD in the UK - is a tale of thwarted love set around the docks of Marseille. Epstein said of it that he wanted to create 'a melodrama so stripped of all the conventions ordinarily attached to the genre, so sober, so simple, that it might approach the nobility and excellence of tragedy'. It does. This is a pared-down story told through sequences of strong and remarkable images: a woman checking her face in a pocked fragment of mirror by the glinting sea; a wedding celebration on a fairground carousel - the woman numbed, the man eyeing her as prey while the air around them trails with streamers and confetti; the trembling disbelief of an illicit, long-desired union, a couple's hands turned into tender feelers, itching and inching across the other's body, the couple not quite believing that they are in the same room at last; a man dying next to his child's cot.
Coeur Fidele anticipates the contours and content of the great French poetic realist films of the 1930s, and even, in certain lights and angles, has its own Jean Gabin-esque leading man in the lovelorn Léon Mathot, whose thoughts of orphan girl Marie (Gina Manès) combine with those of the sea into visions of boundless love and possibility. Alas, a rival, the swaggering drunkard Petit Paul (Edmond Van Daële) is on the scene, and he has already arranged with Marie's bar-owning foster parents to take her away from their less than tender care.
The words scrawled in chalk on the wall of the bar where Marie works - for ever - will hold true, just, but they take their toll. All are scarred in this lyrical film about the injustice of love.
Graeme Hobbs on 20th May 2011
Author of 276 reviews
Jean Epstein's Coeur Fidele established the great French filmmaker as one of the most inventive directors of the art form. A pared-down tale of a barmaid oppressed by an exploitative foster family who attempt to push her into the arms of an unscrupulous regular-about-town, Marie's heart belongs, as far as she's concerned, to the tenderly blank Jean.
Coeur Fidele drives its simple story (which, with its infamous and exhilarating 'carousel sequence', helped pave the way for the narrative tradition of such Murnau masterworks as Sunrise and City Girl) on into the realm of what might be considered an early incarnation of French poetic realism — all while still anticipating Epstein's magical, post-surrealist, later works.
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 85 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Cat No: EKA70033
Format: DVD+Blu-ray B&W
- 2 discs
- Beautiful new high-definition transfer of the film, officially licensed from Pathé. Presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, via a 1080p AVC encode on the Blu-ray, and now running at its true speed and length
- New score composed and performed by Maxence Cyrin
- Original French intertitles, with newly translated optional English subtitles
- A gallery of rare photography from Cinémathèque Française
- A 44-page booklet containing rare production photography, and writing about the film by Jean Epstein, Henri Langlois, René Clair and more.