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Vanya on 42nd Street(1994)
New York actors rehearse Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" in a rundown theater.
For more about Vanya on 42nd Street and the Vanya on 42nd Street Blu-ray release, see the Vanya on 42nd Street Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 15, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Julianne Moore, Lynn Cohen, Larry Pine, Brooke Smith, Wallace Shawn, Jerry Mayer
Director: Louis Malle
» See full cast & crew
Vanya on 42nd Street Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 15, 2012
Louis Malle's final film "Vanya on 42nd Street" (1994) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer and the exclusive new documentary "Like Life: The Making of Vanya on 42nd Street". The Blu-ray disc also arrives with a 22-page illustrated booklet featuring essays by writer Steven Vineberg and film critic Amy Taubin. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
A group of actors arrive in a rundown theater in the heart of New York City. For the next couple of hours, they are going to rehearse Anton Chekhov's play Uncle Vanya.
The actors gather around a small table placed in the middle of the stage and begin acting.
Uncle Vanya (Wallace Shawn, Nickel & Dime) has spent the majority of his life working for Serybryakov (George Gaynes, Police Academy), the snobbish husband of his late sister. For the modest amount of 500 rubles per year, he has carefully managed Serybryakov's estate, which the old man is now planning to sell.
Uncle Vanya is frustrated - but not only because Serybryakov wants to sell the estate. The old man has returned home with his beautiful wife, Yelena (Julianne Moore, A Single Man), whom Uncle Vanya loves. She knows about his feelings but has chosen to ignore them because she understands that having a relationship with another man after years of marriage simply isn't right. But Uncle Vanya has incorrectly assumed that Yelena is ignoring him because he is poor.
Uncle Vanya's sister, Sonya (Brooke Smith, TV's Grey's Anatomy), is also frustrated because she is madly in love with a man whom it appears she cannot have. The man is the charming and eloquent Dr. Astrov (Larry Pine, Minor Details), who lives nearby and regularly stops by for a glass of vodka. For years Sonya has tried to reveal her feelings to him, but he has remained cold.
Maman (Lynn Cohen, Manhattan Murder Mystery), Uncle Vanya and Sonya's elderly mother, knows exactly how her children feel, but has chosen to stay out of their lives.
Tensions rise after Serybryakov officially announces in front of everyone in the estate that he is going to sell it. Outraged, Uncle Vanya immediately confronts him. Then, he brings out his old revolver. Yelena and Sonya, however, finally warm up to each other. Later on, Yelena even offers to help Sonya with Dr. Astrov, who has arrived in the estate shortly before Serybryakov's announcement and already had a few glasses of vodka. But when she approaches him, he asks for a permission to kiss her.
Based on a script by the legendary stage director Andre Gregory and adapted into English by David Mamet, Louis Malle's Vanya on 42nd Street is a fascinating experiment that merges theater and film. It was completed in 1994, approximately five years after Gregory invited the film's brilliant cast to the not so friendly and largely abandoned Victory Theater on 42nd Street in New York City, where the actors started rehearsing Chekhov's play.
The film, like the play, is brilliant. The key conflicts in it are largely unchanged, but the Russian fatalism is replaced with contemporary cosmopolitan views which most Western viewers will find far easier to understand and appreciate. A lot of the dry sarcasm from the play is also replaced with subtle dark humor.
What makes this film so fascinating to behold, however, is the outstanding cast. There is a very real connection between the actors that transcends far beyond what is typically regarded as acting. The conflicts they are involved with are not staged, they are happening. The emotions are real, the reactions are authentic.
Vanya on 42nd Street was director Malle's last film. In 1995, a year after the film was completed, he died from lymphoma in his home in Beverly Hills, California.
Vanya on 42nd Street Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Louis Malle's Vanya on 42nd Street arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Supervised by director of photography Declan Quinn, this new digital transfer was created on an ARRISCAN film scanner in 2K resolution from the original Super 16mm camera negative A/B rolls and the 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using Image Systems' Phonix MTI's DRS.
Telecine supervisors: Lee Kline, Declan Quinn.
Telecine colorist: Joe Gawler/Deluxe, New York.
Editing and conforming: David Phillips."
The brand new high-definition transfer is very impressive. There are dramatic upgrades in quality in every single area we typically address in our reviews, from detail to clarity to contrast to color reproduction. Practically all of the close-ups in the film convey outstanding depth, while shadow definition - which was certainly problematic on the R1 DVD - is perfect. As the screencaptures offered with this review reveal, color reproduction is also enormously pleasing. The prominent browns, light reds and grays look notably fresh and stable. Furthermore, there isn't even a hint of post-production sharpening or problematic denoising. Unsurprisingly, a layer of very well resolved light grain is present throughout the entire film. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. Indeed, this is a very impressive, very competent presentation of Louis Malle's last film. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Vanya on 42nd Street Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original stereo soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm magnetic audio tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
Vanya on 42nd Street is a dialog-driven film with only a few small jazz solos that pop up before, during and after the rehearsals. Predictably, the loseless track has a rather limited dynamic amplitude. The dialog, however, is exceptionally, crisp, clean, stable, and easy to follow. There are no sync issues or audio dropouts either.
Vanya on 42nd Street Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Vanya on 42nd Street Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Vanya on 42nd Street is without a doubt the most impressive screen version of Anton Chekhov's masterpiece ever done. It is not for everyone, but it should be mandatory viewing for anyone even remotely interested in theater. Without the slightest exaggeration, the actors are magnificent. For the film's Blu-ray release, Criterion have struck a brand new high-definition transfer from the camera negative. Unsurprisingly, the Blu-ray represents a massive upgrade in quality over the old North American DVD release of the film. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Vanya on 42nd Street Blu-ray, News and Updates
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