14 April 2017 | BrentReid
Ann Harding's the star but everyone shines in this highly enjoyable early talkie
Many other reviewers inexplicably focus on how the 1935 adaptation of Enchanted April isn't faithful to the 1922 source novel by Elizabeth von Arnim or is somehow inferior to the longer 1991 version. Sadly for them, they're missing the point. Firstly, this is a work complete in and of itself, and neither enhanced nor diminished by specious comparison to a related work. Secondly, it isn't actually based directly on the novel, but the successful 1925 Broadway play that the novel inspired, hence this being a US as opposed to European-made film. A single viewing makes this fact abundantly clear. What's more, at a mere but adequate 95 minutes, the excellent 1991 version is not – and could not – be faithful to the novel either.
What we do have here is an utterly charming and concise little film that, despite its US studio-bound production, effectively establishes both mood and mise-en-scène, especially by clever use of rear projection, matte paintings and spacious, well-appointed sets. Even within the necessarily limited characterisations and plot development dictated to by its abbreviated running time of 66 minutes, it manages to squeeze in much humour, both subtle and slapstick, wry, witty dialogue and an unexpectedly powerful and poignant ending. Lastly, and perhaps most of all, it leaves you wanting more; what more could one ask of any film? Enchanted April is a masterclass in brevity and economy in its storytelling and filmmaking, and is highly recommended to all fans of early talkies.
As for actually seeing it, aside from infrequent TV airings, as of 2017 is via the only authorised home video release: a 2005 region 2 French DVD on the Editions Montparnasse label, titled Avril enchanté. It features a very clean print from an unconverted NTSC- PAL master, hence its unaltered running time, and optional French subtitles in a small yellow font. Additionally, there is an informative 2½ minute intro – in French, sans sous-titres – by film historian and restorer Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films. Just be careful to avoid the lesser- quality counterfeit Spanish DVD, titled Un Abril Encantado, on the Vértice Cine label.
You're in for a rare treat – enjoy!