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Criterion Collection: La Promesse [Blu-ray] [1996] [US Import]

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9741f2e8) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x972f051c) out of 5 stars A thought provoking, moralistic drama 1 Dec. 2012
By [KNDY] Dennis A. Amith - Published on Amazon.com
The Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, have created a good number of award-winning films.

From the 2002 film "The Son" (winner of the "Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Cannes Film Festival), 2005 film "The Child" (winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival), 2008 film "Lorna's Silence" (winner of "Best Screenplay" at the Cannes Film Festival) and most recently with their 2011 film "The Kid with a Bike", which won the Grand Prize of the Jury for "Best Film" at the Cannes Film Festival.

With films that are highly anticipated for their quality writing and direction, back in the 1980′s, the Belgian duo were known for their documentaries. And with their 1987 film "Falsch", the Dardenne Brothers had the opportunity to direct a major feature 1992 film, "Je pense a vous".

And the film didn't do well.

Suffice to say, the film would go against everything that the Dardenne Brothers enjoyed. Having to be on a tight schedule preventing key reshoots, budgetary inconveniences and not shooting a scene in order. The experience turned the Dardenne Brothers off and both discussed that if they do a film, they do things by their own terms, even if it means shooting a low-budget film.

So, in 1996, the Dardenne brothers worked on "La Promesse" (The Promise). A film in which they had complete control over. No need for expensive equipment, they will shot with a handheld camera. No need for spending a lot of money on talent, they would work with unknown talent. And no more having to shoot scenes in different order.

And with this film, it earned them a Cesar nomination for "Best Foreign Film" and winning the Brussels International Film Festival for "Best Belgian Film". So, when the Dardenne Brothers discuss their filmmaking, for films, "La Promesse" is their beginning and the way they have been doing their films ever since. They call the shots and do what they feel they need to do, to make a film. In other words, complete control over their films.

And "La Promesse" would be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.


"La Promesse - The Criterion Collection #620″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio). It's important for people to remember that this was a low-budget film and was filmed via handheld, so you are going to get shaky movements. But this is a cleaner version than the previous DVD release.

The Criterion Collection really went all out in cleaning up the video from any imperfections. I didn't notice any scratches or dust. In fact, I was pausing quite a bit because the film looks so clean. Picture quality has a good amount of grain and for the most part, the film does look good but you do see some softness at times. But by no means does that ruin one's viewing of the film. Colors look good and if anything, if you own the earlier DVD release, "La Promesse" on Blu-ray would be a major upgrade. The clarity of this film in HD is impressive!

According to the Criterion Collection, the transfer was supervised by director of photography Alain Marcoen, this new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm blowup interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction


"La Promesse - The Criterion Collection #620″ is presented in French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Once again, The Dardenne brothers went back to the basics with this film. Its dialogue is clear and there is a segment where Igor and Roger are singing, which is also crystal clear. But I notice no pops, hiss or any problems during my viewing of this film.

According to the Criterion Collection, the film was released theatrically with a 2.0 surround soundtrack. The disc, however, features a 5.1 surround soundtrack, remastered at 24-bit from the original LCRS magnetic masters used for the theatrical mix. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation.


"La Promesse - The Criterion Collection #620" comes with the following special features:

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne - (1:00:25) Conversation between film critic Scott Foundas and filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne shot in 2012 in Liege, Belgium.
Jeremie Renier and Olivier Gourmet - (18:33) 2012 interviews with Jeremie Renier (Igor) and Olivier Gourmet (Roger).
Trailer - (1:16) The original theatrical trailer for "La Promesse".


"La Promesse - The Criterion Collection #620" comes with a 16-page booklet with the following essay "One Plus One" by author Kent Jones.


"La Promesse" is film by filmmakers that the cineaste can truly appreciate.

Not only is it a film that goes against traditional filmmaking but it's a wise stand for the Dardenne brothers to denounce big film industry practices by creating a film, done their own way, their own style with no regrets. And most importantly, they are filmmakers who stayed true to that practice. And most importantly, there is a semblance of their style that is reminiscent of a hint of Italian Neorealism by capturing the lives of those economically challenged and not forcing one's economic pain through acting but through visual means.

The Dardenne brothers have done documentaries on this before. They know the troubles that people go through and they try to portray that in their films.

"La Promesse" is rather fascinating because it is a film that deals with a father and son who make their living by exploiting illegal immigrants. The son doesn't know too much about how his father is towards the workers, he just learns and does everything his father tells him. And because Igor deals with these people who rely on them quite a bit, because he is younger, he does have compassion for them because they don't have much money and are trying to survive.

But his life changes when he sees a man die in front of him. A man who asks him to watch over his wife and child, which Igor promises the dying man, that he would do. And this is the turning point of where he sees his father differently. His father is more concerned about himself, that he wouldn't rescue anyone. In fact, he would go so far to pay people to make things worse on other tenants that live in the apartment building. His father has no compassion and in some way, similar to the undocumented workers that he uses, in many ways, Roger uses his son Igor as well.

And we know this father and son relationship is quite odd. We see Roger taking out his son to have some fun and be around women, his son smokes and pretty much has not been able to live his young life, as his father tends to use him to do these jobs for these undocumented workers quite frequently.

But it's that conundrum of seeing a teenager, who saw a man die and his father trying to cover his death up by burying him under cement. Igor can't forget, even if he wanted to, because the dead man's wife is always trying to look for him. And while Roger tells her that he disappeared possibly because of debt, we see her using guts from a chicken to tell her where her husband is. And inside, she feels that he is nearby. And for Igor, the pain he sees his wife in, as she tries to find him and raise a baby is too much for boy to handle.

And we then see Igor starting to have compassion, the opposite of his father, who has little. It's money, business for him and it starts to eat away at his son.

"La Promesse" is a moral tale, or of a moral awakening. This is a film that does not try to sugarcoat things, nor is it a film meant to have answers. But it's that documentary style that the Dardenne brothers are known for that leads "La Promesse" to its efficacy. The outstanding performances by Jeremie Renier and Olivier Gourmet seems natural.

As for the Blu-ray release, for those who owned the older DVD release of "La Promesse" will be happy to know that this film looks very good on Blu-ray considering that this is a low-budget film. There are some people who may not like the handheld camerawork but a low-budget and the Dardenne brothers willingness to get away from major costs by eliminating a lot of major equipment during a film shoot was important to them. But still, the film looks and sounds very good on Blu-ray and is worth upgrading to. And there are two special features with interviews plus a trailer and essay booklet included.

Overall, "La Promesse" is a film that showed the world that the Dardenne brothers have true potential but also earned the respect of cinema fans for their stand against what they don't like about big-budget filmmaking and following rules that inhibit their own personal style. So, they went about making their own film with a low budget, non-popular talent but making the film feel real to the audience. It's what they are excellent in doing for their films to this day!

A thought provoking, moralistic drama that introduced the world to the Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne and the "Dardenne Style" of filmmaking. "La Promesse" is highly recommended!
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x972f0924) out of 5 stars Coming of age boy developing conflicts with father 9 Sept. 2012
By Araquém Silva - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Superb coming of age film in which a pause, driven by rising consciousness, leads a young boy to develop conflicts with his father, and to engage in autonomous decision-making of right over wrong. The film is devoid of sentimentalism or saccharine actions. Reminds of Jerzy Grotowski's poor theater in which the set is stripped of ornamentation. The camera is always moving, keeping close contact with the diverse characters. Great film with impeccable acting and directing.
HASH(0x972f0d5c) out of 5 stars Truth is something you have to feel… 23 April 2014
By Andrew Ellington - Published on Amazon.com
The gritty world of the Dardenne brothers is one that often takes simple situations, familial situations, common occurrences and then spins them out of control in a panic as the central characters begin to make questionable decisions. ‘La Promesse’ is no different. At its core, this is a sharply drawn out morality tale that raises questions of loyalty, morality and conscience in a way that feels imbedded in humanity and delivers a truly heartbreaking blow to the audience.

The film tells the tale of Igor, a young and impressionable boy who harbors some secrets for his father, Roger, who runs an apartment complex he rents out to illegal immigrants in an effort to use them for cheap work. Roger is constantly on edge, awaiting an inevitable bust, and because of this his son is unable to fully function because he is always at his father’s beck and call. When a building inspector causes panic amongst some illegal workers, an accident happens and a worker is found dead. Roger is not ready to divulge the depths of his governmental deception, so he hides the body and lies to the deceased’s wife in order to make it all go away. Igor knows the truth though, and his conscience begins to ware on him, especially when he starts to form a bond of sorts with the dead man’s widow.

The film is unforgettable, really. It manages to ask so many questions and delve so deeply without ever once resorting to manipulating or force feeding us values. Instead, we simply observe, and it all falls into place. Jeremie Renier is exceptional as the young Igor, full of diluted innocence, but it is Olivier Gourmet that really steals the show as the corruptible Roger. His earnestness pervades the entire film and lingers long after the film has finished.

This morality tale is well, well worth your time.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x972f066c) out of 5 stars la promesse 14 May 2013
By james brown - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I,like this movie,even thought I throught it was sad.It delt with people who come from third world countries,looking for a better life.But instead are taken advantage of.All their life they have been used by the western nations.Exploted for resources and low paying jobs.
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