on September 29, 2001
Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters" is the finest of the neurotic writer-director-actor's pictures. His prowess in weaving together complete characters and compelling storylines is as intricate as Altman, as artful as Renoir. Yes, those are "big movie terms," but are warranted in describing this bitersweet marvel.
Allen's command of the medium results in some terrific photographic shots, including the classic "camera-revolving-around-the-table" sequence featuring Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her sisters (Barbara Hershey and dynamite Oscar-winner Dianne Wiest), whose lives all seem to be going through very adult mid-life crises with their husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends, and families. Michael Caine's work in this film also shines, and Allen himself is in his prime. The ensemble cast in this film creates an atmosphere that has you really believing you're watching friends and family, and not simply actors acting, reciting lines, a problem even the better "ensemble films" often face.
All of the elements in this picture --- cinematography, classic jazz tunes, nearly-musical dialogue --- are on ample display in a film rich with human warmth and big laughs. Although Allen's films are not for all tastes, this is a film that should very easily be enjoyed by nonfans and especially film students who can get a chance to see a virtuoso talent at the top of his form, not conforming by traditional storytelling and filmic norms.
on November 14, 2001
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS was recommended VERY, VERY highly by a fine arts teacher when it was first released in '86. He couldn't say enough good things about how wonderful the casting, the story and the humor made the movie a real treat. 15 years and at least a couple dozen viewings later, I couldn't agree more.
This movie is like comfort food. I have connected with the characters, Holly in particular (played wonderfully by Dianne Wiest, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this role)so many times that they are literally like old friends. The themes are common to everyday life and family, which doesn't make them a cliche, but more meaningful every time I watch.
There are moments in the film you can replay in your memory time and again: my favorite is the taxi scene when Holly is ruminating over her awful "date" with her friend April (another great performance by Carrie Fisher) and the architect, David.
I think this is one of the most well-cast films made by anyone, American or foreign directors included. Michael Caine, Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Max von Sydow form a perfectly blended ensemble.
The DVD transfer is of average quality. The picture is crisp enough, but it doesn't look enhanced in the DVD format. It would be nice if the studio had included more than a skimpy essay on the film's production that is included as a two-page liner/note on the inside cover.
HANNAH AND HER SISTERS will make a great holiday gift for everyone, friends and family included this season!
on August 1, 2000
Without a doubt, this is my most favorite of Allen's works. This film is an American classic, and it needs to be on the list of the 100 greatest American films. I, too, lament that it is no longer available--but thanks to the glorious Amazon.com, I was able, last month, to purchase this in an online auction. I now own this marvelous film whose themes range from love (what else? it's Woody Allen), to general despair and the search for God in an ostensibly godless and hostile universe, to infidelity (why not?), and infertility giving way to miraculous pregnancies (the last line of the film is, after all, uttered by Weis's character: "I'm pregnant" she tells a confused and then moved Allen); and, of course, there is that famous question students of Allen's must ask: "Do we have the right to think we deserve more or that we deserve to be happy?" I'll let the film answer that for you.
A brilliantly comedic performance is given by Diane Weist who plays Holly, the most boisterous and fame-driven of Hannah's sisters, and who fights so comically with Carrie Fisher's April over architect David played keenly by Allen fixture Sam Waterston (see Waterston and Weis in Allen's "September"; they're breathtaking together). Mia Farrow is adequate as Hannah--mother, stage actress, and Thanksgiving hostess--and Barbara Hershey leaves us cold as the much sought-after Lee. Bergman icon and Allen hero Max von Sydow gives an obvious performance as the angst-ridden artist in the 20th century (this was the 80s...) Allen also gives a brilliant but by now familiar comedic performance as hypochondriac and god-searcher Mickey Sacks. And Michael Cain is superb as Hannah's wandering husband, Eliot.
The film revolves liturgically around the seasons and around the most Protestant of holidays, Thanksgiving--the scenes were filmed in Farrow's real-life New York apartment (she talks about it in "What Falls Away," available from Amazon.com). Sophisticated jazz tunes fill the house from Hannah's father, played by Lloyd Nolan, and Farrow's real mother, Maureen O'Sullivan (remember her swim with Tarzan?) plays the reminiscent and libidinous mother--"just a boozy old flirt with a filthy mouth." These Thanksgiving scenes are designed splendidly--around the other seasons of the year--to show us each character's progression (or lack thereof).
The soundtrack (which I also own on tape, not CD, unfortunately) is what makes this film so splendid. Melodies swell up from the true American composers and musicians--Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Count Basie. The film is haunted by two melodies serving as themes: "Isn't It Romantic?" and "Bewitched." These songs are woven seemlessly into scene after scene in moody and melancholy ways. This soundtrack is perfect for a rainy day.
If you ever find a copy of this film, snatch it up and treasure it forever!
I love this movie! In fact, 'Hannah and her Sisters' is my personal favorite of ALL Woody Allen's films. I was SO happy to hear it was coming out on Blu Ray and couldn't wait to buy it and watch it right away! All of my disc reviews are about the video and audio quality of the Blu Ray , leaving a description of the film to others. Just remember, I absolutely LOVE this movie!
Now for the question at hand:
Basically, is this is good upgrade for your current VHS or DVD and should you part with our hard earned cash to purchase this Blu Ray?
Unfortunately the sad but true answer is NO NO and NO! (phooey)
Where should I start? The one word that sums up this entire transfer (that I can post here on Amazon) is INCONSISTENT from start to finish. Outdoor scenes fare the best but with less perceived resolution than a recent viewing from HD Net Movies. Indoor shots are a grain festival and NOT the good kind of grain either. In fact ,the grain gets so thick at times that all shadow detail is lost along with whatever the camera is focused on. I am talking REALLY BAD here folks. Believe me, I would like nothing more than to tell you this transfer is up to or close to the 'Annie Hall' disc which , while not reference material, is still very good and satisfying to watch.
Colors are all over the place. At time they are "normal" looking, other times you get pink faces, amber faces, grain obscured faces, everything but NORMAL looking faces. Yes I do know this is a Woody Allen film but I would tend to think this is NOT what he had in mind for the look of his film.
If you still are not convinced and purchase this anyway, FF to the Thanksgiving scene at the end for an example and be prepared to be very disappointed in what you see. (muddy, murky, overly grainy with image details breaking up all around)
Please remember, this is my all time favorite Woody Allen film and I am not trashing the video for any other reason than to save you a few bucks. The DVD released a few years back looks better than this Blu Ray disc at least when it comes to uniformity in brightness/contrast levels.
THIS FILM IS SCREAMING FOR A PROPER REMASTERING!
There are moments where things looks GREAT and you pray they will just keep looking that way. Then they take a sharp dip and you are back in super dark grain infested murkiness again. ARGHHHHH!! I can not believe for one moment Woody Allen saw and approved this disc. It honestly looks like it was slopped together from more than one source. At times there is no grain what-so-ever which of course means the DNR has been liberally applied in those spots, then it reverts back to a high fiber diet! CRIKEY!
Good thing I kept my EPIX version on the DVR! MGM had it together for a lot of the HD transfers of Woody Allen's back catalog I have seen on TV lately. It is very unfortunate they were not involved in THIS particular release. As it stands, FOX has really messed this one up and I am so very disappointed with this transfer.
Ok, my opinion is the picture quality stinks at times (outdoor scenes not withstanding) but how is the sound?
Well, as is the case with ALMOST all of Woody's films, this one is presented in glorious MONO but at least it is lossless DTS. The sound is MUCH better represented that the picture portion of this Blu Ray. Nothing special but you can hear everything and it sounds like it always has sounded. Too bad the picture quality couldn't approach the same standard of quality that the audio has here.
NO extras to speak of, just the films trailer. So there you have it, the good (the film) the bad and the ugly (the video quality of this transfer) !!
Hannah and her Sisters will remain my favorite Wood Allen movie but this transfer is just not as good as it should have been! I can not fully recommend this Blu Ray and believe me I REALLY WANTED it to be good!
on December 3, 2003
There is a scene near the end of this film where Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her sisters Holly (Dianne Wiest) n"Lee(Barbara Hershey) meet over lunch and the camera slowly circles them as they engage in a heated emotionally charged conversation that is one of the most poignant moments I have ever seen on a screen. All 3 of these actresses are just outstanding in this movie. Mia Farrow has some scenes where her emotions are so vivdly expressed in her words and her facial expression that it is in my opinion one of the finest performances ever.
The secondary story line features Woody Allen as Hannah's ex-husband who is completely neurotic and obsessed with iiness and death. However Allen is able to twist this to great comic effect. The story weaves back and forth between the emotional upheaval in the lives of Hannah, her husband(Michael Caine) and her sisters to Allen and his character's search for spiritual fullfillment. All of the characters are fully realized people , none perfect, and yet basically well meaning. (with the possible exception of Caine's character).
I believe this is one of Woody Allen's finest films and have viewed it repeatedly over the years. The only weakness is the ending which is a bit contrived but that is easily forgivable in a film that is entertaining, thought provoking and funny at the same time.
on April 6, 2003
I am a self-proclaimed Woody Allen fan but even for those of you who do not take to his exaggeratedly stammering, quivering, uber-NY personality ...this is a must see-movie. There is much lesser of the typical Woody you are used to -- the neurotic vocal tics, the dry white whine -- and a lot more of story in this movie than others I have seen of him. This is also NOT your archetypic semi-comic semi-profound study of contemporary relationships (e.g., Manhattan, Crimes & misdemeanors etc) in terms of stylistic treatment, which is quite refreshing.
I hesitate to regurgitate the script as other reviews have done so already, but I can bet you'll leave with several enduring scenes from the movie, including one where Micky (Woody's character) ends up in a movie house watching the Marx Brothers and realising the value of life, or the depiction of his hypochondria (a trait not uncommon among most urban city denizens, esp. New Yorkers). Other brilliant moments emerge when Mickey vows to convert to a religion that provides him the answers to life's big questions such as "what am I doing here?". So he wavers through a wide range of options from catholicism (much to the chagrin of Jewish parents and his interludes with his father are hilarious) to Hare Krishas dancing in parks and airports (which he decides to give up for fears of handing out flowers with a shaved head).
The acting all-round is superlative and as others would confirm this is one flick where you'll get to see a Michael Caine behind the cold British veneer that he is typically associated with otherwise. His promiscuity between two women is outstandingly potrayed.
Most people familiar with Woody Allen would still rate Annie Hall as the pinnacle of Woody, or Manhattan as his most iconoclastic, but this is a charming, funny, deep and entertaining film and a close second/third to Annie. Highly recommended.
(And contrary to some reviewers, I absolutely love the ending. Why should every story have a feel-goody ending?)
on July 3, 2004
Woody Allen has never made a movie appreciably better than 'Hannah.' It may not be his single best (an honor I reserve for 'Manhattan'), but it's on the shortest of short lists.
My favorite moment in the movie, and maybe Allen's most insightful ever, is when neurotic Mickey (played by Allen) bursts out of the hospital, having just learned that he is cancer-free. He leaps and bounds down the street, joy overflowing, until, suddenly, he stops, paralyzed with a newly imagined anxiety. Yes, Mickey was delivered from cancer, but he wasn't delivered from himself. You could look long and hard and never discover another ten seconds of filmmaking that better capture what it means to be human. Life's vicissitudes alternately beat us down and lift us up, but in the end, we always revert to ourselves.
When Woody Allen is at his best, you can't help but feel he's writing about *your* life, or something very close to it. Who hasn't experienced Holly's rejection in romance, Frederick's anguish and regret over squandering a relationship, Elliot's clumsy giddiness as he falls in love, Mickey's obsessive anxiety about death? There's a recognizable moment from my experience in almost every scene.
'Hannah and Her Sisters' also boasts Allen's single-best-ever soundtrack. I dare you to watch this movie and not tap your foot. The soundtrack is not available on CD, so that's one more reason to crack open the DVD for the dozenth time.
If you haven't seen 'Hannah and Her Sisters,' now's the time. If you have, it can't hurt to revisit a bona-fide classic.
on October 20, 2002
My guy friends tend to give me grief that I include "Hannah and Her Sisters" in my top three "all-time best films ever" list-- and I'm not sure exactly what it is about this movie that keeps me watching it over and over.
Maybe its the wholesome sexiness of Lee (Barbara Hershey) and her dark-eyed brooding. Or it could be the Oscar-winning performance of one of my favorite actors: Michael Caine, who pulls off his career performance by delivering the travesty of adultery as a warm sweater that I slip into on a cold New York afternoon. As a general worshiper of women of all descriptions, I also can't deny that indulging in the intimate relationships of Hannah and her uniquely beautiful sisters is a pure pleasure.
The musical score serves as the most introspective character of this piece, Woody's typically perfect collection of classic melancholia-- Hannah's father plays a piano version of "You Are Too Beautiful" that makes me catch my breath.
I could go on and on. All of these elements are but a glimpse of a gestalt of sublime screenwriting, acting, and direction that brings me back to this film on a regular basis in order to fuel my emotional well-being.
For those building a library, this is the first film you should own by Woody Allen, as it will introduce his genius to you on a rich and familiar level that will only leave you wanting to see, hear, and feel more (Manhattan).
on January 29, 2013
This is Woody Allen's best film in an extraordinarily creative, accomplished career. Its blend of tears and laughter is perfect, with every scene hitting its mark with acuity. The remarkable cast portrays a group of New Yorkers that act like so many of Chekhov's characters (although Manhattan is the farthest thing from Moscow): miserable on the surface, but real swingers underneath. I won't go so far as to say Woody's inspiration was the play "Three Sisters," but I find a deep similarity in there somewhere.
I loved Roger Ebert's insight about the titles that precede certain scenes. He said that the reason Woody used this device was to demonstrate how much we want to organize our lives into neat chapters, but that life always manages to upend all our plans with the unpredictable. Many lives are indeed upended in Woody's brilliant story, and where they will all land is what keeps us engaged and fascinated by what is happening on the screen. This film has my favorite of all of Woody's endings, too.
I went back and forth for years debating whether this film or "Manhattan" was Woody's greatest. Now I'm sure. If you own only one Woody Allen movie, make it this one.
i think if you view this film along with the other two that they all hang together pretty well as romance in Manhattan. this is also the most upbeat of the three where everyone ends up as happy as they possibly can be in a woody allen movie. allen himself has a lead role as Hanna's ex husband. he also dates her sister holly. there are three sisters played by Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Diane Wiest. Hannah (farrow) has the most stable life of the three and is the most successful.
what was not criticized harshly when the movie was released was Hanna's husband's having an affair with her sister (michael caine and hershey). when allen's own scandal broke in the nineties by his dropping farrow for her adopted daughter, this film was harkened back to as evidence of incest and allen's being a pervert. some people who loved this film then began to hate it. in a strict legal sense, neither situation is incest. incest involves shared close blood and kinship and is taboo because the children will likely be defective. hanna's husband with her sister involves no shared blood and no risk to a fetus. likewise, allen's being with his girlfriend's adopted daughter involves neither kinship nor genetic risk. so there is nothng illegal about either situation. one's own personal morality principles come into play instead. now that public memory is dimming on all of this perhaps this film can again be judged again on its considerable merits.
perhaps the funniest part of the film is allen himself who is a huge hypochrondiac. he has to get many medical tests done because of loss of hearing in one ear. this throws his hyponchondria into overdrive and he is hotly in pursuit of a new religion thereafter. this whole sequence is one of the funniest things he has ever done.
i recommend you watch all three films some weekend for a wonderful mini film festival.
Visit my blog with link given on my profile page here or use this phonetically given URL (livingasseniors dot blogspot dot com). Friday's entry will always be weekend entertainment recs from my 5 star Amazon reviews in film, tv, books and music. These are very heavy on buried treasures and hidden gems. My blogspot is published on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.