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on 7 December 2011
I agree with TheSilence's review of Coeur Fidele - the bluray renders this film in astonishingly fresh detail and the musical score is perfect. I've been a fan of most of the silent masters, but this is the first Epstein film I've seen. The camerawork is excellent and inventive, the actors perfect for this kind of film including his sister Marie who plays a crippled lodger who facilitates meetings between the lovers. Superb use of location photography - the docks at Marseille - betrays the influences that were being absorbed by him as well as his admiration for Abel Gance. What is also amazing is that Epstein wrote the scenario for this film in one day. Recommended for lovers of the silent era. Marie Epstein - one of the few female pioneers in film - is also the film's assistant director and script writer. She went on to collaborate as co-director with Jean Benoit-Levy.
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on 8 July 2011
Jean Epstein's 1923 film 'Coeur Fidele/True Heart' is - on the surface - a simple tale of a lonely, oppressed woman brutalised by her family and forced into the arms of the abusive 'Petit Paul', a local drunk. The love that Marie shares with the simple Jean is all that holds her fragile world together, but after a violent confrontation between Paul and Jean forces them apart, Marie's mental state begins to unwind - thrillingly exemplified in an astonishing sequence aboard a carousel. This landmark and influential film looks absolutely astounding on Blu-ray, and has been restored with incredible affection and respect for the original film source. Clarity and fine detail are frequently jaw-dropping for a film 90 years old, as are the perfect inky blacks and crisp whites, and without any digital scrubbing, keeping a lovely light filmic grain intact. Perhaps even more impressive is the brand new score by Maxence Cyrin, a truly beautiful and emotive piece of work that complements the film perfectly, and arguably even improves it. If you are lucky enough to have seen the fabulous City Girl [Masters of Cinema] [Blu-ray] [1930] in the same 'Masters of Cinema' series, you will have some idea of what you can expect from the MoC team, but this release now sets a new benchmark for the treatment and restoration of Silent film. Hands down, the most impressive Blu-ray release of the year so far and the crown jewel in the Masters of Cinema series. Here's hoping that they keep these classics of silent cinema coming!
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As its writer-director Jean Epstein readily admitted, the plot of Coeur Fidèle - written in a single night - is pure melodrama, the kind of thin story and archetypal characters you could almost expect from an early Mary Pickford film, but in his hands it’s a melodrama filmed as an experimental and dreamlike art movie. As the English title, True Heart, underlines, Gina Marès’ heroine is like every Mary Pickford cliché rolled into one, a harshly brought up foundling given by her adopted parents to Edmond van Daële’s local thug Petit Paul, her true love Léon Mathot sent to prison for stabbing a policeman even though it was van Daële who struck the blow. Released from prison he finds her in poverty with a child and married to van Daële, with the local gossips setting the scene for another violent confrontation. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a crippled neighbour (Marie Epstein) for good measure, and plenty of social criticism of the demon drink and malicious scandalmongers a la early D.W. Griffith.

Epstein set out to transcend the melodrama by adopting a ‘desired, studied, concentrated banality,’ but in doing so also helped create many of the clichéd reductive images that would colour people’s perceptions of foreign films. His two main characters are reduced to mannequins, rarely mobile, rarely expressive and never happy even before they’re torn apart. Mathot is a sympathetic blank while Marès goes through almost the entire film with her face locked into that solemn stare off into the distance as her only means of escaping her everyday torment that would become such a cliché of parodies of foreign movies. You never really believe in them as a couple or as ever being in love because even when together Epstein makes them entirely without joy (something only other characters experience, and often when indulging their baser pleasures) as if the only thing the poor ever do in their life is look catatonically miserable about their plight. Epstein’s intention was to merge romanticism and symbolism, but they’re simply too one note to invest in. They feel like moral examples of the importance of suffering for the good of the soul rather than flesh and blood.

It’s the supporting characters who provide the shade, most notably van Daële: in the early scenes he seems too lost in a dream of his own – one he’s enjoying – to notice how unhappy Marès is let alone care (not that he would) while in the later he’s a thoroughly convincing drunk. It’s nuanced enough to seem believable and most of all alive, something reserved only for the ‘bad’ characters (Madeleine Erickson’s woman of the port draws a real joie de vivre from her malice). Ironically, for a director who derided ‘mechanical’ films like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari for being all about the sets, ‘all its living elements having been killed by strokes of the brush,’ he falls into a similar trap via a different route by turning his characters into symbols so that you come away humming the technique and the imagery but not caring about the characters.

Yet the film remains consistently watchable and never bores because of the filmmaking. Strikingly modern in style despite being shot in 1923 and anticipating the poetic realism movement of the 30s, at times it exists in a dream state (the carnival scene with its rapid flash cutting, the shot of the sea superimposed over the lovers’ bodies but not their surroundings), at others in a drunken stupor (at one point the camera seems to get right inside van Daële’s head as it assumes his viewpoint and thought process) and at times opts for brief documentary-like social realism for its scenes of daily life at the bottom of the heap. It’s primarily visual storytelling, with few of the intertitles that Epstein regarded as punctuation marks and few needed (though when they come they’re not exactly classics of the title card writer’s art), the kind of film that wouldn’t work half as well with sound. And it does work as an exercise in style and occasional tone poem even if it’s emotionally unconvincing. That tends to limit its modern audience to those interested in the development of early cinema or as a handy rejoinder for those who regard silent filmmaking as primitive (it’s notable that even in 1924 Epstein was complaining that the proto-MTV rapid cutting he employed had already become an overused cliché through indiscriminate use by other directors).

Eureka’s Masters of Cinema Blu-ray/DVD combo features an impressive restoration by Pathe with a mostly appropriately minimalist piano score, brief stills archive and excellent booklet with essays by Epstein and appreciations of his work from his contemporaries (notable for their criticism of the way the ‘Cahiers du Cinema crowd’ that would spawn the nouvelle vague ignored or dismissed him during his lifetime).
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on 23 July 2013
The PQ for this movie is the most impressive of any Silent movie in my collection. The next disc I watched was Murnau's "Sunrise" but this raised the bar too high in terms of clarity and depth.
The movie itself also left a lasting impression. The actors come across with great sincerity and it was easy to just sit back and lap it all up.
On top of all that the direction and cinematography were full of innovation!
A beautiful movie to have in any collection.
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on 8 September 2015
This review refers to the 2011 dual-format edition which (according to the producers) improves on the 2007 DVD by presenting the film at its original running speed and aspect ratio. The image and sound quality are excellent and the pack includes a useful little booklet with background information about Epstein and the film.
As for the film itself - well, it's an early silent and a melodrama, so expect long, soulful gazing into space, overdone anguish and unsubtle moral messages. But it's also clearly well ahead of its time in its creative cinematography, such as the screen-filling close-ups of faces and hands and the famous carousel scene where the world spins dizzyingly around the camera. The story couldn't be a lot simpler, beautiful girl with troubled history falls in love with the good guy but gets landed with the bad guy instead, but it's satisfying enough if you just suspend your disbelief and accept it for what it is. In all, an excellent presentation of an important slice of cinema history, well recommended.
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on 3 February 2012
Ver hoy en día 'Coeur fidèle' es asombrarse con un cine mudo de vanguardia, con fabulosos primeros planos, transparencias, una profundidad de campo increíble, y una revolucionaria secuencia en un tiovivo. Los planos finales de Gina Marès y Léon Mathot en el carrusel parecen filmados por algún director de la Nouvelle Vague, pero 40 años antes. Cine puro. Simplemente una maravilla desconocida. ¡Gracias Masters of Cinema!
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on 9 April 2015
Excellent presentation of a classic silent film. Great price and service.
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on 8 November 2015
Great movie
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on 15 December 2014
Terrible story and acting but good usage of close ups and superimpositions.
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