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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 2.0 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New documentary featuring interviews with André Gregory, the play's director; actors Lynn Cohen, George Gaynes, Julianne Moore, Larry Pine, Wallace Shawn, and Brooke Smith; and producer Fred Berner
  • Trailer

Vanya on 42nd Street

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Louis Malle
Starring: Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore, Lynn Cohen, George Gaynes, Larry Pine, Brooke Smith, Jerry Mayer, Madhur Jaffree, Oren Moverman, Andre Gregory
1994 | 120 Minutes | Licensor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #599
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: February 28, 2012
Review Date: February 21, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

In the nineties, André Gregory mounted a series of spare, private performances of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in a crumbling Manhattan playhouse. These treasures of pure theater would have been lost to time had they not been captured on film, with subtle cinematic brilliance, by Louis Malle. In Vanya on 42nd Street, a stellar cast of actors-including Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore, Brooke Smith, and George Gaynes-embark on a full read-through of Uncle Vanya (adapted into English by David Mamet); the result is as memorable and emotional a screen version of Chekhov's masterpiece as one could ever hope to see. This film, which turned out to be Malle's last, is a tribute to the playwright's devastating work as well as to the creative process itself.

Forum members rate this film 8.3/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Louis Malle’s final film Vanya on 42nd Street arrives on Blu-ray through Criterion, presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 in a new 1080p/24hz high-definition digital transfer on a dual-layer disc.

The video presentation looks absolutely brilliant and I was just wowed by what we get here. The textures, the colours, just everything looks downright superb. Film grain remains intact and looks perfectly natural throughout the film’s entire running time. Colours look stunning, especially a surprise considering the film’s look (the setting is a theater that is “run down” to put it politely,) and blacks look particularly strong. The level of detail in every shot is also just incredible, from pores on the actors faces to the damaged areas of the theater, everything comes through with such clarity in both close-ups and long shots.

The film is grainy but it’s not heavy, and as I said looks natural. The print, as far as I could tell, has very little damage present, and there are no artifacts to speak of. Overall this is stunning presentation, incredibly film-like and pretty much perfect. A pleasant surprise considering the nature of the film.

10/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The lossless PCM stereo track delivers the film’s audio just fine. The film’s obviously talky and dialogue is sharp and clear with some strong range to it. The track is clear with no distortion or background noise. Not showy at all but perfect for the nature of the film.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

We unfortunately get a pretty light section for supplements. The only substantial supplement is a 36-minute making-of called Like Life: The Making of Vanya on 42nd Street. The piece gathers together theater director Andre Gregory, actors Wallace Shawn, Lynn Cohen, George Gaynes, Julianne Moore, Larry Pine and Brooke Smith, and producer Fred Berner who joins in a little later. The first half of the piece has Gregory and his cast talk about the project, which sounds to have started out as just a study of the Chekhov play using a modernized American adaptation written by David Mamet. The actors would get together and go over the play and build up the characters and performances, changing things as they went. Eventually it morphed and they started doing performances for a few invited guests over a couple of years, no more than 25 or so at a time. In the last half of the piece they then get into about how talk of doing a film version came up and how Louis Malle came to be involved. One of the more difficult aspects of making a film was that when the group did the nightly performances of the play for their small audiences the play would constantly change as the performers experimented, but while filming this had to be stopped over the two week shooting period so that the film would be consistent. Another interesting thing is that since Malle had to make it film friendly he’d have a heavier hand in the performances than what Gregory would have done with the regular performances as things had to be framed a particular way or have a more interesting look. A couple of the actors get emotional talking about their experience, which obviously was a great moment in their careers, and you can tell there was a real love and admiration for what they were doing. Though short it’s an excellent documentary offering a great look into this interesting project and film.

Disappointingly that’s pretty much it other than the film’s trailer, which I think only appeared on video. Amy Taubin then provides an essay in the included booklet that also goes into details about the project, the performances in front of small audiences, and then the film. I would have expected maybe some material on the actual play and possibly Mamet’s adaptation, maybe even a comparison of sorts, but alas you don’t get anything like that. The documentary we do get is excellent but it’s a pretty light release for the premium price.

4/10

CLOSING

Light on supplements but the documentary we do get is wonderful. Also, the transfer looks stunning, one of the more impressive ones I’ve seen. But even if I think it should be priced at the lower-tier of around $29.95 it still comes recommended to those that love the film just for the transfer alone.


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