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Vanya on 42nd Street

 PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   VHS Tape
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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This stirring 1994 work by Louis Malle brought the legendary French filmmaker into another collaboration with actors-writers-directors Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, scribes and stars of the great My Dinner with Andre. The situation here is that Shawn and Gregory were participants in a years-long, informal project remounting a production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya every few months for select friends and the general worthiness of the idea. Wearing street clothes and strolling to a crumbling New Amsterdam theater on Broadway, actors Shawn, Julianne Moore, George Gaynes, Brooke Smith, Larry Pine, Phoebe Brand, Lynn Cohen, and others would do a full run of the text (as sharply translated by David Mamet) while a beaming Gregory (the play's director) looked on. Malle--who died following this film--spent a few days transforming the theatrical experiment into a viable film that maintained the company's unusual purpose and spirit. The result is something between a narrative feature and a documentary about an acting workshop, and is both highly entertaining and cinematically enthralling. A terrific final note in Malle's distinguished career, this is a must-see for anyone who cared about his work or who has a passion for Chekhov. --Tom Keogh

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4.9 out of 5 stars
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful work Sept. 12 2006
Format:DVD
A rewarding film for theatre and film fans. The acting was top-notch. This movie came out quite a while ago, but has aged very well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, not great movie Oct. 23 2003
By Noakim
Format:VHS Tape
A well-conceived film with an overall enjoyable cast. The best performance belongs to Brooke Smith (kidnappee in Silence of the Lambs) who perfectly portrays the heartbreaking experience of a "plain" woman with a love unrequited. Wallace Shawn is also commendable, and the character roles of Nanny and Waffles are played superbly.
However, I give this movie 4 rather than 5 stars chiefly because I was not thrilled with the performances of Julianne Moore and Larry Pine. Moore doesn't quite exude/possess enough charm and attraction to match that of her character who supposedly turns the existence of those around her upside down. And her repeated laughs seemed unnatural. Pine's Dr. Astrov likewise failed to invoke the reverence that the female characters attribute to him. He was a bit too "Bogart" and dated.
The film does have enough to stand up to repeated viewings.
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5.0 out of 5 stars See this Vanya June 10 2003
Format:DVD
This film removes the old stigma surrounding Chekhov and allows audiences of all ages and backgrounds to access the brilliance, pain, laughter, and humanity of his work. It may even motivate some viewers to seek out more of his writings. The direction by Louis Maller, the translation by David Mamet and all of the performances are the most gripping, realistic, entrancing I've ever seen of "Uncle Vanya". It shows what can be achieved with no set, no costumes, just great actors, with a great script, doing what they do best.
SEE THIS FILM!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mamet and Malle make a winner! Sept. 29 2002
Format:DVD
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Less is so much more March 12 2002
By S. West
Format:VHS Tape
Modern dress, an emprty, crumbling theatre, and an incredibly brilliant ensemble bring David Mamet's "loose adaptation" of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" to the screen, under the direction of Louis Malle. According to the script, it's the first full run of the play. It's so simple, so clean, so clear, and absolutely riveting. Each role is played to the fullest, with Julianne Moore a stand-out in a beautifully subtle, detailed performance. Those who feel Chekhov doesn't speak to today's world need to see this film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Less is so much more March 12 2002
By S. West
Format:VHS Tape
Modern dress, an emprty, crumbling theatre, and an incredibly brilliant ensemble bring David Mamet's "loose adaptation" of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" to the screen, under the direction of Louis Malle. According to the script, it's the first full run of the play. It's so simple, so clean, so clear, and absolutely riveting. Each role is played to the fullest, with Julianne Moore a stand-out in a beautifully subtle, detailed performance. Those who feel Chekhov doesn't speak to today's world need to see this film.
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