Vanya on 42nd Street (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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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.
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : s_medPG PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
- Product Dimensions : 6.75 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches; 4 Ounces
- Item model number : CRRN2103BR
- Director : Louis Malle
- Media Format : Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Color, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen, Surround Sound
- Run time : 2 hours
- Release date : February 28, 2012
- Actors : Wallace Shawn, Julianne Moore, Brooke Smith, George Gaynes
- Subtitles: : English
- Studio : Criterion Collection
- ASIN : B0068CEH12
- Number of discs : 1
Best Sellers Rank:
#89,783 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- #6,716 in Drama Blu-ray Discs
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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. Malle's light hand in this regard only reinforces the dubiousness of the distinction between theater/art and reality (a much discussed subject in "My Dinner with Andre").
The decision to film "Uncle Vanya" in the decaying New Amsterdam Theater was an inspired one. When Dr. Astrov (Larry Pine), the play's most forward-looking character, bemoans the cultural and spiritual devastation caused by deforestation and human indifference to the environment, one can't help but think of the plight of 42nd Street itself. The New Amsterdam's resurrection--thanks to Disney dollars--as the current home of "The Lion King" is not without it's ironies. As all of the characters in "Uncle Vanya" are painfully aware, our futures are always purchased at a very high price. And the losses we are likely to experience as we move towards those futures may be greater than any of us will be able to bear.
"Uncle Vanya on 42nd Street" is one of those great works of art, like Eugene O'Neill's "A Long Day's Journey into Night," that makes you stop and take stock of your life.