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People on Sunday
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • English PCM Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Region B
  • Two vibrant scores by leading Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin and the experimental Icelandic group múm
  • Eine Fahrt Durch Berlin (A Trip Through Berlin, 1910, 6 mins): a ride through the streets of Berlin, from the bustling Friedrichstraße and Leipziger Straße to the city seen from the Spree
  • Weekend am Wansee (Weekend at the Wannsee, 2000, 31 mins): Gerald Koll’s documentary about People on Sunday, featuring interviews with star Brigitte Borchert and writer Curt Siodmak
  • Beside the Seaside (1935, 23 mins): Marion Grierson’s beguiling picture of the British seaside, with a commentary written by WH Auden Beside
  • This Year – London (1951, 28 mins): documentary by John Krish following the adventures of Leicester factory workers on their staff outing to London
  • New audio commentary by critic and author Adrian Martin
  • **FIRST PRESSING ONLY** Fully illustrated booklet with new essays by Amanda De Marco and Sarah Wood and full film credits

People on Sunday

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer
1930 | 73 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: £19.99 | Series: BFI
BFI Video

Release Date: June 17, 2019
Review Date: June 16, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

A tale of five young Berliners – a taxi driver, a travelling wine dealer, a record shop sales girl, a film extra and a model – on a typical Sunday. In this vivid snapshot of Berlin life, a trip to the countryside reveals the flirtations, rivalries, jealousies, and petty irritations common to any group outing. All too soon it is the end of the day, and the prospect of Monday looms, and the return to the weekday routine.

One of the key films of the Weimar era, People on Sunday marked the start of the film careers of six cineastes who would go on to great international successes: Billy Wilder, Robert and Curt Siodmak, Edgar G Ulmer, Eugen Schüfftan and Fred Zinneman


PICTURE

BFI presents Robert Siodmak’s and Edgar G. Ulmer’s People on Sunday on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The film is presented on a dual-layer disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode, and makes use of the same 2K restoration from 2010 that was used for Criterion’s 2011 Blu-ray edition. This restoration was constructed from what elements could be recovered, with big portions of the film still missing. This disc is locked for region B.

The only real difference between BFI’s presentation and Criterion’s is that the BFI delivers a progressive 24hz presentation while Criterion’s offers an interlaced 60hz presentation. This actually isn’t too big a deal as Criterion only inserted interlaced frames here and there to adjust for the framerate, so interlacing was never an issue while watching in motion. BFI has managed to pull off 24 frames-per-second and it looks fine. Jumping back and forth between the two didn’t show any obvious differences.

I also can’t say I saw any differences in any other areas. The film has had a rough life and only portions of it survive across multiple sources. The restoration team had to gather all of these elements and piece it back together as best they could, recreating the intertitles (which are presented here in German with English subtitles). Considering all of this it shouldn’t be a surprise that the elements are still in rough shape, and they can vary from shot to shot. For the most part the film has excellent contrast and grayscale, with some sharp looking blacks, but other moments can either look too dark or even blown out. Damage is still heavy with scratches, splices, debris, stains, tram lines, and more, which can be heavier in some scenes compared to others. It’s easy to see that a lot of restoration work was still put into this, but I feel it’s so severe at times that it was just not possible to get everything without harming the image in other ways.

That all said the digital presentation is exceptional. Despite any issues with the source the image is surprisingly sharp and crisp, delivering excellent details and textures, and film grain (which can get heavy) looks natural and clean. It looks like a film presentation.

I can’t say it’s any different in comparison to the Criterion edition, neither better nor worse, but that’s fine since the Criterion presentation looked solid. It’s an exceptional looking encode that manages to help alleviate issues still visible in the source print. All things considered I still think it looks great.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

People on Sunday is silent but BFI gives the option of two scores: one by Elena Kats-Chernin and another by múm. The Kats-Chernin track is a more traditional sounding one and is probably the one most will want to use (and surprisingly it doesn’t sound to be the same one as what is found on the Criterion disc). The múm is experimental, with a more industrial/electronic sound (I guess you can say), which did little for me. But since both are newly recorded they sound great, with excellent depth and range, and no background noise or damage.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion’s edition was light on special features, only featuring a documentary from 2000 on the film along with a short film by People on Sunday’s director of photography, Eugen Schüfftan, called Ins Blaue hinein. BFI packs more material onto their release, starting with an audio commentary by Adrian Martin. As always Martin’s commentary is well researched and packed full of information about the film’s production, release, and influence. The film was of course the launching pad for a few directors that would go off to do bigger things (Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer, and Billy Wilder) and Martin states early on one probably shouldn’t watch the film as just a foreshadowing of things to come, but also admits it’s hard to do so when paying attention to framing and construction. On top of looking at the stylistic choices and complicated editing (along with the mix of documentary and fiction) he also talks about reactions to the film at the time of release, from audiences and critics alike, and also addresses how modern critics and filmmakers have reacted to the film. The track is a bit dryer than other Martin commentaries I’ve listened to, but it is packed with well researched material and makes for a breezy listen.

Like Criterion’s edition this release also features Weekend am Wannsee, a 31-minute documentary featuring interviews with writer Curt Siodmak (brother of the director, Robert), actress Brigitte Borchert, and film restorer Martin Koerber. Siodmak and Borchert recall the production, which was limited by a tight budget. Borchet talks about some of the sequences and the people she worked with and also mentions what happened to most of the performers after the film. Siodmak talks a little about his brother and the story, and if I understood him correctly, he doesn’t like the film. Koerber talks about the restoration, focusing on how he was able to put together the version we now have. Very strong documentary that decently covers the subject.

BFI then includes a handful of short films related in one way or another to People on Sunday. First is the 1910 silent short (running 6-minutes) Eine Fahrt durch Berlin, described as a travelogue through Berlin. And that is what it is, first taking us through the streets of Berlin using a first-person perspective, before stopping at a few landmarks. The film still features a lot of damage, but the high-definition presentation looks razor-sharp, rendering film grain perfectly and delivering decent fine-object detail, despite any issues with the source print. This is actually a really solid example as to why any film, no matter the condition, can still benefit from high-definition.

The next two films are English, though fit the subject of the main feature to an extent. The 22-minute Beside the Seaside is a 1935 documentary directed by Marion Grierson chronicling the journey of a number of Londoners to the coast during a heatwave. The early material, capturing various people and families starting the journey feel staged but the latter half just captures the events at the various beaches and resorts (which unfortunately includes a blackface minstrel show that was apparently popular at one of the resorts), until we conclude at an amusement park in the evening. It also comes in high-definition and looks really good.

This Year—London is a 25-minute short about work outing for the employees of a Leicester boot and shoe factory, focusing on the employees going and events of the trip. It’s a British Transport Film so it’s more concerned about the journey. It has the more “educational” vibe to it and lacks the playful of editing of the last film but it’s a solid inclusion as well. The film also looks fine but looks to be an upscale to high-definition.

BFI then includes one of their wonderful booklets to close things off. Amanda DeMarco first includes an essay on the film’s documentary style and its representation of Berlin and its people, followed by an essay by Sarah Wood on the film’s production and history (and how it was almost lost thanks to the war). BFI then reprints a 1931 interview with one of the film’s “stars,” Brigitte Borchert, on the film and her future as an actress (she doesn’t want to be one and never appeared in anything else), which is then followed by a reprinting of a poem she wrote for a 1992 video release of the film. There is then a reprint of a 1930 review for the film written by Hansjürgen Willer, and then notes on the scores and special features, along with details about the restoration.

A far more satisfying collection of supplements in comparison to the Criterion, with the Martin commentary being a big plus all on its own.

8/10

CLOSING

The video presentation doesn’t differ in any way that I can see between the Criterion edition and this one, despite the differing frame-rates. But BFI’s edition clearly blows away the Criterion edition with its supplements, offering more (including a commentary) than Criterion’s couple of features.




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