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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Hester Street [Blu-ray]


(Joan Micklin Silver, 1975)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Midwest Films

Video: Kino Lorber



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:29:12.388

Disc Size: 23,530,264,467 bytes

Feature Size: 23,140,958,208 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.99 Mbps

Chapters: 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 17th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1829 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1829 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



• Burned-in English for infrequent Yiddish dialogue



• None





Description: Carol Kane (Annie Hall, TV's Taxi) stars with Steven Keats (Death Wish) Doris Roberts (TV's Everybody Loves Raymond) in Joan Micklin Silver's (Chilly Scenes of Winter) touching tale of Gitl (Kane), a young Jewish woman who comes to America in the 1890s, only to discover that her husband, Jake (Keats), has given up the ways of the old country, and taken up with a new girlfriend, and a new life. By turns heartbreaking, comic, and sharply observed, this remarkable film garnered Kane an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in 1975, and launched director Joan Micklin Silver's career.



The Film:

Among the first releases in the new wave of independent films of the 1970s, writer/director Joan Micklin Silver's portrait of turn-of-the-century New York is also important for its unflinching look at women's issues. Russian Jewish immigrant Gitl Carol Kane joins her husband Jake Steven Keats in New York after he has gone ahead to establish himself. Jake has quickly assimilated many American customs, much to the dismay of Gitl, who clings to her Old World ways. Gitl's discovery of how Jake was able to finance her trip to America leads to more tension, and Gitl is soon on her own with few resources on which to draw. Although the film performed modestly at the box office, it was a sign of changing times when Kane's quietly assured performance was nominated for an Academy award, a rare recognition by Hollywood of a film made outside the studio system.

Excerpt from Barnes + Noble located HERE


There is nothing very original about "Hester Street" except its loveliness.

Literally, it is a small movie about the struggles and transformations of the Jews who settled in the Lower East Side and tried to reconcile the ordered values they brought along with the unmarked opportunities they found.

The immigrant theme, with its anecdotes, its incongruities, its mixture of comedy and pathos, has been played through any number of stories, novels, memoirs, films. How, then, can this film be so good?

Partly, it is because movies are performances as well as creations. The effect of seeing "Hester Street" is that of seeing a familiar play—"A Midsummer Night's Dream" as done by Peter Brook or "The Wild Duck" as done by Sweden's Royal Dramatic Theater—lit up by an intent and flowering mind.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Lesser-known Hester Street arrives on Blu-ray from the Kino-Lorber label.  The black and white image shows a bit of softness, but I suspect this was inherent in the production to accentuate the period 'feel'.  The NY Times columnist stated "There is a defect in the picture, although it is not a major one. The street scenes are too fully packed with color..." and there is no color scenes in the film on Blu-ray - but he may have simply been referring to the 'colorful activity' as opposed to literal color scenes. This is standard single-layered with a very high bitrate for the 1.5 hour film and I expect this is as good as Hester Street has ever looked on digital. Grain is present to varying degrees and the contrast wavers a bit - also dependant on the scene - it can look pale/faded. This is in the slightly bastardized 1.78:1 aspect ratio and some minor depth is visible at times. Overall it is pretty solid with only a couple of instances of noise. This Blu-ray provided a decent, not stellar, presentation - obviously superior to SD.




















Audio :

Kino-Lorber use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1829 kbps. Hester Street is largely dialogue with some street scenes of economic activity. There is a score by cornet soloist Herbert L. Clarke that follows the period and, frequently, somber mood. There are burned-in English subtitles when there is Yiddish dialogue and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

None - not even a trailer. I think the film deserved something, perhaps an interview with Carol Kane?


NOTE: Eric tells us "The old, Out-of-Print Image Entertainment US DVD release had a commentary, documentary excerpt, and interviews (including Carol Kane)."



I can echo most of the sentiments about Hester Street. There is a lot here to like, even beyond Kane's Oscar-nominated performance. I enjoyed the film - when I wasn't expecting to. The Kino-Lorber, bare-bones, Blu-ray. is a great way to see the film - one I may revisit. But value, even for this entertaining film, seems a bit lacking in the overall package. 

Gary Tooze

March 3rd, 2015


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.

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Gary W. Tooze






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