"These boys have been in combat, you fascist rope holder!"
If only all catalog films could receive transfer treatment at this level, the DVD community would be a lot better off (not mentioning any names, Paramount). In any event, The Way We Were is a film from the rather extensive bodies of work assembled over the years by the two stars (Streisand and Redford). As always, in the spirit of comprehensive coverage, here's a thumbnail synopsis.
Two college students, Barbra Streisand (Prince of Tides, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Funny Girl) and Robert Redford (The Horse Whisperer, Sneakers, Out of Africa), run across one another while at college. Though seemingly opposites in nearly every manner conceivable (politics, mannerisms, desires, goals, etcetera), they find, as years go by and they continue to meet and interact with one another, a romance developing.
While not reference quality, The Way We Were is, nevertheless, a solid transfer of a catalog film. Everything about this DVD indicates it was not a "take out of vault, ship to disc manufacturer" sort of process; there was a bit of time taken to ensure a disc consumers will be happy to own and enjoy.
The print itself is in pretty good shape for quarter-century old film; only minor grain is evident in the transfer. And, honestly, this is to be expected with any film over about fifteen years old, considering the technology changes Hollywood has gone through in its history. The color palette is a bit washed out, faded, but I think this is the print itself, and not a fault of the transfer process. Colors never waver, nor do edges shimmer; there's also no evidence of pixelation.
Though a romantic drama that isn't Titanic doesn't make much use of a full surround soundstage, the disc includes Dolby 2.0 and Dolby 5.1 sound options, and both are solid and enjoyable. English is the only soundtrack language available on the disc, but there are six subtitle options on the disc.
The key extra is a director's commentary with Sydney Pollack (Random Hearts, The Firm, Tootsie), paired with an hour-long "making of/looking back" documentary on the film. Pollack discusses things he was trying to achieve in certain scenes, mentions trivia about locations, and speaks about working with the actors. The documentary includes interviews with Streisand, the screenwriter, and Pollack (Redford is notably absent among the film's major players), and is a treat for fans.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While the commentary is good, Pollack also has a rather monotone voice, and there are periods of silence during the commentary. Also, the film soundtrack is tuned so far down it's difficult to follow the film while also listening to the comments; something that should have been looked at before releasing the disc. Additionally, the print could have stood a bit more cleanup; but again, it is in really good shape all things considered. There aren't any foreign language soundtracks available on the disc, which could disgruntle some.
Also, as a direct film comment, I think the casting of Redford and Streisand as college students was a bit much here. Streisand passes without much effort on the part of the audience, but Redford really didn't look like a fresh faced collegiate boy in this role.
The purchase of The Way We Were is a no-brainer for fans of Streisand and Redford. I also noticed a very young James Woods (The General's Daughter, Any Given Sunday, John Carpenter's Vampires) making an early film appearance. With the addition of the commentary and documentary, this is a disc well worth owning for any fans of the key actors, director Pollack, or of the genre.
All counts dismissed, court adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
• Director's Commentary
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