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Vanya on 42 Street [Blu-ray]
(Louis Malle, 1994)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Channel Four Films
Video:Criterion Collection - Spine # 599
Region: 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 45,887,097,174 bytes
Feature Size: 35,323,809,792 bytes
Video Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps
Case: Transparent Blu-ray case
Release date: February 28th, 2012
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
English (SDH), none
• 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 (35:42 in 1080P)
Description: In the early nineties, theater director André Gregory mounted a series of spare, private performances of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in a crumbling Manhattan playhouse. This experiment in pure theater—featuring a remarkable cast of actors, including Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore, Brooke Smith, and George Gaynes—would have been lost to time had it not been captured on film, with subtle cinematic brilliance, by Louis Malle. Vanya on 42nd Street 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.
A table, some chairs, many shadows reaching out into the unseen depths
of an abandoned theater, and a long night of truth-telling.
The actors and spectators for "Vanya on 42d Street" make their
entrances casually, drifting into one another at the New Amsterdam
Theater and making idle conversation. That chitchat has evolved into
Chekhov almost before a movie audience is ready to notice. By the time
the viewer fully apprehends the grand, cavernous scale of this crumbling
theater or the naturalness of the actors, the performance is under way.
This is bare-bones Chekhov, though it is hardly Chekov without cachet.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The film is sparse and the image quality - thick, rich and grain-infused. Vanya on 42nd Street looks wonderful on 1.66:1-framed Blu-ray for those who can appreciate textured, authentic, film-like visuals. Colors are frequently seen as bold pastels. The low-level lighting does not produce extensive noise - although it exists. This Blu-ray has consistent, appealing 16mm (shot on Super 16) visuals that you easily become accustomed to. This probably looks exactly like the film Vanya on 42nd Street and it advances handily beyond SD - for those who can recognize and appreciate the prevalent grain and flat, glossless image.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Criterion supply a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 2304 kbps. As you could appreciate the film-cum-play has no effects worth noting - and 'dialogue' is the name of the game. This vérité audio is occasionally scattered, flat, unremarkable but exports minor depth in a couple of instances. In short it seems faithful to its limited roots. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked - like all Criterion BD discs to date.
Supplements consist of a Criterion-made documentary from 2011 entitled Like Life: The making of Vanya on 42nd Street 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. It runs 35-minutes in 1080P covering the rehearsal process, playing for an audience, Louis Malle and the 'end process'. There is also a trailer and the package contains a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Steven Vineberg and a 1994 on-set report by film critic Amy Taubin.
February 26th, 2012
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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