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La Roue: A Film By Abel Gance [1923] [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Abel Gance    DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £25.75
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La Roue: A Film By Abel Gance [1923] [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] + J'Accuse [DVD] [1919] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Product details

  • Directors: Abel Gance
  • Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Flicker Alley
  • DVD Release Date: 8 Dec 2009
  • Run Time: 273 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • ASIN: B00174YBQ2
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,022 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars La Roue - a lost masterpiece 8 May 2010
This has been a lost masterpiece - previously only seen in drastically cut-down versions. This DVD brings together all available scenes and episodes to make up a 4 hour epic of breathtaking enjoyment.
Abel Gance has deservidly been seen as one of the greatest cinema directors and innovators - his use of montage, moving camera, outdoor units, multiple exposures - but never losing sight of the story, character development and emotional engagement of the audience. This is a lesson in film making for many of our modern directors who allow special effects to swamp their modern tales.
This film was released in 1923 - a silent film with orchestral accompaniment- do not let this put you off! - this a wonderful film - the silents have a wealth of entertainment and engagement to offer. This is one of the best.
Once you are hooked into this film - as I as sure you will be - then seek out Gance's other masterpiece - Napoleon - then look for Pandora's Box (GW Pabst), Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Weine), Intolerance (DW Griffith), Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein), Metropolis (Fritz Lang)- see what all the fuss was about - why these films are considered to be so great. In doing so you will see echoes of La Roue.
Abel Gance had flair, imagination and inventiveness that make his films so riveting to watch and revisit - many of his filming techniques seem to have been lost - time to reinvent them and make our modern films as engaging.
Highly Recommended
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The APEX Of Silent Cinema. 3 May 2008
By Chip Kaufmann - Published on
Finally after 40 years I can see what Kevin Brownlow was talking about in his groundbreaking tome on silent cinema THE PARADE'S GONE BY. French director Abel Gance IS a genius! His greatest work however is not his 1927 film NAPOLEON on which his fame today is based, it is his 1923 epic LA ROUE which is finally making it to the United States 85 years after it premiered in France. While NAPOLEON is the silent cinema's greatest technical achievement, it lacks the deep and profound emotional resonance to be found in LA ROUE. This simple story of a train engineer, his son, and the orphan girl he raises as his daughter while harboring secret desires for her becomes more than just a slice of life drama in Gance's hands. He raises it to the level of high art. In all my years of silent viewing I have never seen anything quite like this. The emotional impact of Victor Sjostrom, the visual quality of F. W. Murnau, the technical mastery of Fritz Lang, the epic quality of D.W. Griffith, it's all here and there's more. Originally premiered at 7 1/2 hours (spread over three nights) Gance himself reduced the film to 168 minutes for foreign distribution but that version never made it to America. This reconstruction which clocks in at 4 1/2 hours captures the scope and power of the original presentation. Despite the length I was engrossed from first to last thanks to Gance's amazing skills as a director and the tremendous performances from the three leads especially Severin-Mars (as the father) who died shortly after the filming was completed.

Special credit should be given to Robert Israel for his absolutely brilliant full scale symphonic score which complements and enhances the action perfectly. This release along with his 1919 anti-war epic J'ACCUSE (due out later this year) show beyond a shadow of a doubt that Gance was the silent era's greatest director and that his influence was even greater than that of D.W. Griffith. Although he made films in the sound era, Gance was like a penguin out of water, still worthy of our attention but much more awkward. Sound turned him from an artist of the highest caliber into a mere film director whose later efforts, though not without interest, are devoid of the poetry that make his earlier movies something special. Now thanks to Flicker Alley and the team of restorers who worked on LA ROUE and J'ACCUSE it is possible to see his 2 major silent efforts outside of NAPOLEON (which has yet to make it to DVD) and see what Kevin Brownlow was talking about all those years ago. NAPOLEON may astonish but LA ROUE devastates. If you love silent movies then you MUST see LA ROUE in order to experience what the art of silent film was/is capable of. It just doesn't get better than this.
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forward into the Past 18 Jun 2008
By Swifty - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Other reviewers have commented on the amazing quality of this restoration and the epic nature of Abel Gance's work, even when dealing with this anguished tale of the unrequited love of railroad engineer Sisif and his son Elie for Norma, the lovely "Rose of the Rails." Sisif rescues Norma from a train wreck when she's a baby, and raises her as his own daughter. When Norma grows into a beautiful young woman, Sisif is dismayed to realize that he desires her. "La Roue" plays out this melodrama of frustrated love and redemption with an absolutely dazzling array of cinematic devices: double exposures, irises, different compositional framing, a mix of crisp natural and expressive lighting, and the fastest editing on earth before the Soviet directors mixed cutting with Hegelian dialectics a few years after "La Roue's" release. There are also the symbolic visual leitmotivs of the locomotive, the violin, the snow, and the omnipresent wheel. In short, Gance nimbly uses all the visual and editing devices we are accustomed to seeing in an accomplished piece of narrative film-making. Even though "La Roue" was financed by Pathe, the exciting thing about this restoration is the sense it conveys to this viewer at being present at the moment of creation. Gance obviously takes extraordinary zest in discovering new cinematic possibilities for expression depending on the dramatic demands of a scene or the opportunities presented by a new location. There is an astonishing shot of Sisif almost at the end of Part One, when he goes into a cavernous railroad shed to bid farewell to his beloved locomotive. Gance stands his actor atop a huge locomotive-bearing wheel, which shunts cars from one track to another so they can be worked on. Sisif stands there like a working-man's Pierrot, and as the wheel slowly turns the background of the shed and the locomotives looming there glide silently behind our distraught unmoving hero. It's a virtuosic shot, made possible by the real (and metaphoric) possibilities of the location. It's all the more amazing when one realizes how difficult it was for directors during the 1920s to achieve effective traveling shots without the aid of bulky cranes. Moments like these show Gance at his experimental best. "La Roue" is worth seeing for treasures like these.

Gance and the novelist Blaise Cendrars set their story of the sad life of the railway engineer in the very railway yards stations and locations where real workers toiled on their trains. The documentary quality of these parts of "La Roue" is noteworthy. Whether for reasons of drama, or to save on production costs, or both, this "reality feel" of La Roue convincingly shows us the vanished world of French railroad life between the wars. At his best, Gance has a Dickensian love of character, and Sisif's comrade the stoker, as well as Norma's pet goat (!) have a charming way of stealing every scene in which they appear.

My admiration for La Roue is tempered by the clumsiness of the melodramatic scenario. Of all the directors who grew up in Griffith's shadow, Gance, (like Griffith), has the strongest predilection for Victorian sentimentality. That's during Gance's good moments: his bad moments are drenched in bathos. Gance has his own editing rhythms, and likes to juxtapose fast action sequences with slower lyrical scenes, but there is a marked tendency in "La Roue" to linger far too long on shots of the actors in varying stages of overwrought emotional meltdown. The irony of Chaplin or Lubitsch, the withering social analysis of Stroheim in "Greed," are all absent in "La Roue." Instead there is a cloying parade of sentiment for sentiment's sake, and some scenes of truly awful over-acting. (By contrast, watch Chaplin's sophisticated story treatment and restrained direction of "A Woman of Paris," made just a few years after "La Roue.") This viewer was left with the paradox of Gance as a great director who used innovatively all the visual and editing techniques of modern film-making, while telling a maudlin story which drags the movie as far into the past as his expressive techniques push it into the future. In this sense the viewers of "La Roue" are on the wheel quite as much as the bathetic Sisif.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest films of all time! 14 May 2008
By Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood - Published on
As more and more precious silent films are emerging from over 70 years of obscurity and appearing on DVDs - thanks to dedicated people like David Shepard and his hard-working colleagues - we are able to enjoy absolute cinematic masterpieces like this one - and what a remarkable gem of silent cinema it is! A creation by French genius Abel Gance, who has been best remembered for his epic "Napoleon", this very special film cannot fail to impress everyone, regardless of personal taste or knowledge of early cinema. The story itself is already emotion-charged and very powerful, focussing on a humble working family in the early days of the railway, but with a twist even modern filmmakers seem reluctant to tackle: the father suddenly finds himself in love with his charming adopted daughter, and later, when learning of the girl's adoption, the son realizes he is also in love with her! Along comes a suitor and finds the perfect material for emotional blackmail, but despite these complex issues, the story is beautifully told without obvious excess or melodrama, depicted by talented actors who convey their characters brilliantly, and photographed in settings with lighting and techniques only few outstanding directors have mastered so successfully. It is no wonder that Abel Gance's name stands alongside other legendary filmmaking pioneers such as D.W. Griffith and Eisenstein, with his use of various photographic effects and rapid montage sequences at just the right time to express thoughts and emotions, not merely actions and events. There are many such poignant moments in "La Roue" which are quite simply breathtaking, exhilarating or even gut-wrenching, but moderated so subtly with moments of gentle humour that the overall result is simply a masterpiece.

From the onset of this 4 1/2 - hour saga, "La Roue" grips your attention and puts you under its spell, despite the first half of the film being set in depressing surroundings of poor and dirty railway workers. In complete contrast, the second part was filmed in picturesque alpine surroundings with a completely different mood as the characters' lives slip further into tragedy. The images of people and their lives are so vividly portrayed that the viewer is swept away by them, drawn into the lives of the characters and carried to even greater emotional heights by the outstanding orchestral score. I'm sure that even those with little musical knowledge will not fail to notice the many varied melodies and instruments used for each scene and mood, and thus appreciate the great talent and skill required to give a monumental film like "La Roue" a fitting accompaniment. Robert Israel, already an accomplished musical score composer, has certainly excelled himself with this work, as did Abel Gance and no doubt everyone else involved in this project. This fact is highlighted some more by extra features such as a 16-page booklet about Abel Gance and the making of "La Roue" which gives further insight into the energy, enthusiasm and hard work put into this film, all of which makes it an even greater thrill and privilege to have this film available on DVD and experience the artistic and emotional heights only silent cinema can reach.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Movie To See Before You Die 15 Jan 2009
By njpaddy - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Simply put, La Roue (The Wheel) is one of the greatest films I have ever seen. The movie is just mesmerizing, from the cinematography, to the tragic storyline, to the actors, to the Robert Israel score. In fact, I can't think of another silent film where the film and score are more perfectly matched. Even at almost 4.5 hours, I was sad to see it end.

The Flicker Alley DVD includes 2 dvd's and a 16 page booklet.
Disc 1 - Part one of the movie (Rail yard near Nice) 161 min.
Disc 2 - Part two of the movie (Mont Blanc) 101 min. Disk 2 also includes an 8 minute behind the scenes film and a 3 minute video showing the original press book (in French).

The booklet contains 2 articles, "Abel Gance's Tragedy of Modern Times: La Roue" by William Drew and "Composing for La Roue" by Robert Israel. Both are very interesting.

For anyone looking for more information on Gance and La Roue, Kevin Brownlow devotes about 40 pages to Abel Gance and his movies in his book, "The Parade's Gone By". If you don't have that book, order it when you order this DVD. If you watch silent films, Brownlow's book, like this dvd, is a must have.

Now if someone would only restore and release Gance's Napoleon.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gance was great, and "La roue" is his best film 9 Jun 2008
By Sevisan - Published on
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Gance's films were eclipsed during decades for "Napoleon", the best know of them. At last, here we have "La roue", one of the most towering achievments in the art of silent movies, in my opinion the equal only to some films of Griffith or Stroheim.
Thanks, Flicker Alley. I am waiting for other Gance films: "J'accuse" (promised for next month) and "La dixieme simphonie" (when this one?).
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