New spectacular French book and DVD about Normandie


Jun 23, 2006
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In France a new Normandie has just been published. It is called Normandie, Un Chef D'oeuvre Francais and was written by Frederic Ollivier. It looks great and has many new pictures in it as well.
Furthermore a new DVD has also just come out. It was largely filmed during the final voyage and is in full colour. Just amazing. The DVD is called A Bord Du Normandie and is also available via www.amazon.fr
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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The3 DVD arrived a few days ago, and if one can view a region 2 DVD and is a Normandie fan, it is worth the investment. It is easiest found at Amazon.fr under the name of Thalassa a bord du Normandie, and contains the best color footage I've ever seen of the ship.
 
Jun 23, 2006
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It really is spectacular eh Jim? ;-)The images are so fresh and clear and the fact that they were filmed during the final voyage makes them even more special.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Normandie: un chef-d'oeuvre francais, arrived today, and I must say that it is worth the expense and effort of ordering it through Amazon.fr.

I'll begin by voicing relief that it is not another coffee table book. It is profusely illustrated with beautifully reproduced, straight from the negative, crisp prints, but it is also heavy with text and-God be praised- avoids the irritating large type that makes so many liner books look like Third Grade primers.

The text is in French, but if one does not have a working knowledge of the language one can at least be content with the sheer number of illustrations.

With Arts decoratifs a bord des paquebots Francais,and Normandie: Queen of the Seas long out of print, this book is THE must-have for any Normandie collector. Although it falls somewhat short of Arts decoratifs in terms of interior views of first class, it is far superior to either book in terms of the variety of photographic subjects both internal and external, and in a class by itself in terms of quality reproduction.

A bonus is that the book comes with not only a full color fold-out reproduction of the 1935 cutaway, but also a detailed deckplan which, although hard to read in places, will scan and blow up well.

Another surprise is that it has a photo of the hull model for Normandie's aborted companion ship Bretagne, as well as profiles of her as both a one and two stack vessel. All I can say is: no loss. Bretagne took the less appealing external design themes from both l'Atlantique and Queen Mary and combined them into a ship that might mercifully have been described as "graceless." CGT's preferred design for Bretagne favored a chunky Europa/Bremen, while Yourkevich's design favored nothing seen before or, mercifully, since.

Most heartily recommended.
 

Jim Kalafus

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DVD Review:

A Bord du Normandie is a filmed record of the ship unlikely to be equalled or surpassed. Shot in Paris, le Havre, New York City and, of course, on board the Normandie, the footage serves as both an elegant "valentine" to the CGT flagship and a bittersweet technicolor record of, literally, the final week before the onset of WW2~ the end of "the old days," as it were.

Rather miraculously, the film has, for the most part, not deteriorated since 1939. Blues still register as blue, reds still register as red and the all-too-familiar pink 'wash' over whites that typifies the color shift undergone by film stock as it degenerates is not to be seen. Picture quality is good enough that, at one point, the reflection cast upwards by moving water is clearly visible playing along the underside of the curve of the liner's bow, and the film maker knew how to compose a shot~ literally every view of the ship seen onscreen could have been used as a CGT advertising image.

Shown oncreeen are a few minutes of footage of Paris in August 1939, and the CGT building featuring a Normandie themed window display. There is a brief segment of the boat train to leHavre, and an extended segment showing the lost Art Deco masterpiece Gare Maritime and the boarding process. The departure of the Normandie is shown from both land and aboard the ship. Interior views of the information desk; a first class cabin; a private dinner party in the Trouville suite; dinner in the First Class Dining Room; the Grand Lounge; the Grill Room Staircase; an elevator, and the Gallery connecting the Grand lounge to the Theatre are interspersed with deck scenes and footage of the bridge and mechanical areas of the liner. Not visible at any point are James Stewart or Erich Von Stroheim, the two biggest "name" celebrities on the final crossing. The passengers are beautifully dressed but there do not seem to have been very many aboard for a late summer crossing~ even at mid day portions of the deck seem all but deserted. When the Normandie arrrives in NYC, there are several nice color views of the skyline shot from aboard as she sails upriver, and some striking shots of the ship obviously filmed by a second crew aboard a nearby boat as she moves towards the French Line pier. The Brittanic or Georgic is shown at her berth, as well as one of the Albert Ballin-class HAPAG liners. Poetic, and quite sad actually, footage shows the Normandie moving under her own power for the final time as she docks, after which is shown a travelogue of NYC as it was in the final days of August '39 with excellent views of Times Square; Chinatown; Rockefeller Center; Harlem; Fifth Avenue and the Empire State Building Observation Deck from which a 'final' view of the Normandie was taken. Here is a spoiler: the view as shown could not have been obtained from 34th Street (the angle is all wrong) and was more likely than not filmed from atop Rockefeller Center.

The film is thankfully free of "padding." Present day footage is minimal and, with one exception, the dreaded "pan the camera across a printed image" device is not to be seen. Archival footage of the construction; launch; maiden voyage and fire are well integrated and, once again thankfully, the footage used is all first generation and therefore crisp and watchable. An unexpected "bonus" is some two-strip technicolor footage shot aboard a French Liner at some point in the 1920s showing deck games, a ballroom dance, and a harbor scene. The commentary offered is intelligent, but if one does not follow French by ear, or speak French, that aspect will be lost.

I give this 55 minute film an unqualified rave review (and you KNOW how often I do that
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) and if you are a Normandie buff, whatever expense it takes to purchase this DVD and have it converted to the US Standard, is well worth it!
 

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