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A masterpiece - but beware the Vanguard Latino DVD
on 7 April 2005
"Marcellino, Pan y Vino" (1955) is a marvel. Simple but touching, beautifully acted and filmed, it captures that elusive mixture of logic and mystery at the heart of childhood. Ladislao Vajda's spare yet sensitive direction is mirrored by Pablo Sorozabal's masterful score, and by the child Pablito Calvo's marvellous portrayal in the title role.
This Spanish/Italian co-production came up fresh as paint in a recent Spanish-only release from Video Mercury Films (2002.) It gives me no pleasure to report that the 2004 Vanguard Latino issue - the only one currently available with English subtitles - is a travesty of the crisp original print. It claims to be "digitally remastered", but the Vanguard DVD is horribly bleached, blurred and blocky, with crumbly sound and laced with video artefacts. It is in fact well-nigh unwatchable. Presumably it was taken from a poor VHS copy, maybe of Mexican provenance (which might account for its attribution of the film to that country.)
The English subtitles are sparse and spiky - whilst the magical sung scene at the heart of the film is not subtitled at all! It's frustrating that the excellent Spanish issue has no subtitles, but anyone with even the barest smattering of Spanish should seek it out, rather than this appalling Vanguard Latino travesty, which defaces a cinematic masterpiece beyond repair.