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Vanya on 42nd Street (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1994)

Wallace Shawn , Julianne Moore , Louis Malle  |  PG |  Blu-ray
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

List Price: $39.95
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Vanya on 42nd Street (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + My Dinner with Andre (The Criterion Collection)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore, Brooke Smith, George Gaynes
  • Directors: Louis Malle
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Color, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: February 28, 2012
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0068CEH12
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,996 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio

New documentary featuring interviews with Andre Gregory and cast


PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Steven Vineberg and more

Editorial Reviews

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 (My Dinner with André). 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mamet and Malle make a winner! September 29, 2002
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I remembered loving this "small" film when I saw it in the theater, so I knew I'd be happy with the DVD, whether it had any extras or not (it doesn't). Although Julianne Moore has made it big since making Uncle Vanya ("Boogie Nights," "Nine Months," "The End of the Affair"), and her lovely face dominates the DVD cover, "Uncle Vanya on 42nd Street" is truly ensemble acting at its best. Wallace Shawn as the title character does a powerful job of holding the viewer's interest, even though his Vanya is riddled with smugness, envy, self-pity, and lethargy. There are things about his performance that make you wonder if Louis Malle wasn't thinking of "Uncle Vanya" as a sequel to "My Dinner with Andre" (especially since Andre Gregory plays the director who has gathered his troupe of actors to rehearse Uncle Vanya in the falling down New Amsterdam Theater in New York City). In both movies, Shawn plays a man facing a mid-life crises, plagued with self-doubt and floundering around, looking for reasons to go on.
What struck me on my recent viewing of the film was how timeless Checkhov's story really is. Like Jane Austen, he has a great ability to find the universal in the pettiness of highly-controlled domestic life. In comparing Mamet's rendering with Paul Schmidt's excellent recent translation, it seems Mamet did a good job of crafting speakable lines. He modernized the play without wrenching it from its original time or setting. Since the performance we see is a final run-through, not a dress rehearsal, we receive no visual clues as to when the play within the movie actually begins.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complete and total surprise September 14, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I have never been a major fan of art films. I literally stumbled onto this film while channel-surfing. Although it was in the middle of the film, and I only saw a few minutes at a time until I resumed channel-surfing, I always landed back on this unusual film, which looked like a group of people going through a rehearsal. Eventually I was intrigued, and went to find out more info (like the name). After a while, I checked out the film, and saw it beginning to end.
I was amazed by what I saw. A group of performers (Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore, George Gaynes, et al.) performing a classic Russian play in front of a small group of people, including the play's director, Andre Gregory. It looks like the group is really just rehearsing the play in their normal clothes, in an abandoned theater with minimal props. But NO! That's the actual performance they did! And by doing "Uncle Vanya" in this way, one can picture the events occuring any time, any place. I was astounded.
The biggest surprise to me was Wallace Shawn. Before I had seen him with recurring roles in "Murphy Brown" and "Star Trek: DS9," with my favorite performance as Vizzini in "The Princess Bride." Wallace Shawn as Vanya totally surprised me, and completely changed my perception of him as an actor.
I honestly believe that this film started me on a different path as to what films I watch now. I cannot recommend it enough.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tremendous feat of cinematic and theatrical imagination. September 10, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
Director Louis Malle, a decade or so after My Dinner with Andre, teamed once again with Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn to create Vanya on 42nd Street, and the second film is even more brilliant than the first. To help actors keep up their acting chops between jobs, Gregory staged recurring performances of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in a decrepit, abandoned Broadway theater (since renovated by Disney to accommodate The Lion King) and inviting selected guests to witness the proceedings. As filmed by Malle, this performance comes as close to smashing the barriers between film and theater as any films ever made (even Olivier's films of Henry V and Hamlet didn't succeed quite as well). Although the performances of Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore and other New York actors are uniformly impressive, the standout is Brooke Smith, an actress of whom I know little (save for a guest shot on "Law and Order"). This movie shows us what a genius we lost when Louis Malle died, much too young.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a delight September 19, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Director Andre Gregory has quietly been rehersing a group of superb actors in an abandoned theatre on 42nd street. None of the cast nor the director had any intention of performing the play; perhaps their activity would the equiavlent of calasthetnics for the rest of us. But Gregory did allow two or three close friends to occassionally come in and watch the rehearsal.
By means of this film, you can be one these friends, watching actors high in their craft perform one of Chekov's most challenging plays. The performance is compelling, the lighting and cinematography superb, and the entire concept brilliant.
I confess some predisposition to liking this film- I watched "My Dinner with Andre" fifteen times, and eagerly consumed Spaulding Grey's "Swimming to Cambodia", but on the other side, I saw a college performance of Uncle Vanya and considered it to be the worst play I had ever seen in my life.
Boy, was I wrong! This play is stunning. I highly urge your purchase of the video: here in Kauai, where there are so many other distractions, the two of us sat transfixed. You can even participate in the little refreshment break the actors have after Act II. A wonderful production, highly recommended!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I guess its better than nothing....
A fairly over-rated film. While it is no small accomplishment to film any Chekhov - plays or short stories - this film is more about what a certain, "cultured" strata of... Read more
Published 18 days ago by D. Hammerbeck
5.0 out of 5 stars Great American version of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya!
Wally Shawn is the best Vanya! Loved the spontaneity and setting of this version of Uncle Vanya. What fun to watch. Chekhov described his plays as comedies. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Cathy Thornton
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem!
If you liked My Dinner With Andre and The Designated Mourner, you will enjoy this Malle/Gregory/Mamet take on the classic Chekov play.
Published 7 months ago by Douglas
5.0 out of 5 stars great ny theatre
blue ray, great picture and sound. interesting approach to the play within a play. well acted, set and production suits play.
Published 15 months ago by john harrison
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting rendition of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya"
What a clever way to film a Chekhov play -- inside a theatre the rehearsals are filmed, so that makes the Chekhov project economically feasible, since there are no costumes,... Read more
Published 19 months ago by jesse vint
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent production of a classic play.
There is nothing not to like. The view is as good as the movie, which is in turn an excellent way to enjoy a great production of the classic Uncle Vanya.
Published 19 months ago by Guillermo Rubio
4.0 out of 5 stars Great contemporary translation of the original!
After having read Uncle Vanya, and having watched the BBC version, I wasn't sure what to expect with a contemporary re-do. Read more
Published 21 months ago by T. Burke
5.0 out of 5 stars Chekhov At His Best
Vanya on 42nd Street is a jewel of a film, combining the adaptations of Andre Gregory (Vanya)and David Mamet's adaptation of this great Chekhov play. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Edward Nagel
5.0 out of 5 stars Just gorgeous. Thank you Louis, Wallace and Andre.
If you aren't willing to sit through Chekov, stay away but otherwise, find this and feast!! It is so moving and wondrous. Beautiful performances abound and it is just terrific. Read more
Published on September 16, 2010 by R. Mathes
2.0 out of 5 stars What are you people thinking?!
I think the only reason this is given such high reviews is owing to the fact that it is such a great play. Read more
Published on May 3, 2009 by Tim
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