Assignment: Paris Blu-ray Review


Cold War Journo

Looking back at Assignment: Paris is like experiencing what journalism should still be. A local New York paper features an office run out of Paris, with reporters sent around the Earth chasing international stories. That doesn’t happen anymore. The Jimmy Race’s of the world were sacked by budget cuts.

This isn’t a movie lost to time. Assignment: Paris deals directly with press suppression under political regimes – in this case, Budapest, Hungary prior to the Hungarian Revolution. The Stalinist policies see reporters disappearing or worse, as newspaper men chase down the truth under Hungary’s regime. Pushing 70-years old, Assignment: Paris doesn’t always feel like historical fiction.

Pushing 70-years old, Assignment: Paris doesn’t always feel like historical fiction

The rest though pokes through a 1950’s veil, including Race’s (Dana Andrews) aggressive courting of a female reporter (Marta Toren) that looks like assault through modern eyes. An overall, anti-communist tenor likewise comes from the Hollywood Blacklist period, drawn crudely with inarguable good/evil playing their sides.

On the underside, Assignment: Paris deals with typical genre trappings. Mysterious, unexplained absences, sneaky information hand-offs, coded messages, and a litany of dangerous circumstances. Tension hits its marks, even if Race is an improbable clean-cut hero with no chance of being permanently silenced.

Dialog takes its barbs at Communist regimes, speaking at an audience in the haze of the Cold War and fears of Soviet Union influence. This is less a story of journalism, ethics, and breaking news than it is a narrative brawl against social paranoia of the time. Wartime anxieties press down on this story, creating a slightly stocky pace as the need to push against Soviet fears overrides basic storytelling.

Still, this is effectively done, with enough mood to conquer, say, a tedious scene of Hungarian officials splicing interviews together for their benefit. Race, even down to his name, plays like a cliché, but is eventually caught up in a series of spy games that give him the intellect and gusto to become an enriched screen hero. That doesn’t apply to anyone else – especially the dry George Sanders as the international editor – but Assignment: Paris has someone to lean on for its heavy-handed plotting.

Decades of journalism cinema undeniably leave Assignment: Paris in the background; it’s a historical document from a different time. Not irrelevant given the current pressures on news media and individual journalists, but (as of today) a period piece with the occasional noir vibe. Entertaining, passable entertainment from a fearful period of history.

Video

With the exception of optical dissolves, this is a gorgeous presentation. A high-res source finds plenty of detail to extract from this print, and with minimal damage at the worst. Soaking up location shooting in Paris, landmarks display as much definition as close-ups flush with facial definition.

Superlative gray scale gives Assignment: Paris depth with brightness and darkness forming a firm visual foundation. Black levels just miss full black, if not enough to cost this disc depth.

Grain persists, on the heavier side of 35mm, and Mill Creek’s encode doesn’t have the full bitrate needed. Assignment: Paris is shoved between two other films on the same disc in the Noir Archive set. That shows with small signs of banding and a less filmic than digital veneer. Where it counts though – visible detail – Assignment: Paris survives.

Audio

Crisp, pure vintage audio jumps from this DTS-HD track. Freed from any typical signs of age, all instances of hiss or popping evaporate. That leaves behind pure dialog, always audible, if mixed low overall.

Pieces of the score sit fine in their mid-range safe zone. Little challenge is posed by a quiet, even underlying composition.

Extras

Nada, as it goes for the rest of the Noir Archive Blu-ray set.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Assignment Paris
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Assignment: Paris comes from a different time of Cold War paranoia, but the assault on journalistic values give this noir modern presence.

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