Sydney Pollack was a remarkably talented and versatile filmmaker. He could successfully work in almost any genre, whether drama (Out of Africa, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?), western (Jeremiah Johnson, The Scalphunters), suspense (Three Days of the Condor, The Firm), or comedy (Tootsie). Twilight Time has now released a gorgeous Blu-ray edition of Pollack’s bittersweet 1973 love story, The Way We Were, starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand and featuring an Academy Award-winning score by Marvin Hamlisch.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 58 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayStandard Blu-ray Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 11/12/2013
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we were old? We’d have survived all this. Everything would be easy and uncomplicated, the way it was when we were young.
The film opens in New York City in 1944, where Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand) works at a radio station. Her boss, Bill Verso (Herb Edelman) has plans to take a woman to the nightclub El Morocco after work, but she has cancelled so Bill invites Katie to accompany him. When they arrive they are told that there are no tables available. Katie’s personality immediately becomes evident when she launches into a tirade because she and Bill are being prevented from entering the nightclub. Bill implores of her, “Can’t you leave your soapbox at home just once?”
Once inside the club Katie spots a young Navy officer dozing off at the bar, and she immediately recognizes him. He is Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford), who had attended college with Katie seven years earlier. She walks over to him and touches his forehead, but he does not respond. While gazing at him she has a flashback to her college days in 1937, where she is protesting the Spanish Civil War while president of the Young Communist League and Hubbell is the happy-go-lucky, handsome star of the college track and rowing teams. One day Hubbell, his girlfriend Carol Ann (Lois Chiles), and his friend J.J. (Bradford Dillman) attend a rally where Katie gives an anti-war speech. Many of the students who show up are there to mock her, but some of what she has to say apparently strikes a chord with Hubbell. She, however, has little interest in him, pegging him as a shallow young man who doesn’t take anything seriously. At one point she asks him, “Do you smile all the time?”
Katie’s opinion of Hubbell begins to change when their English professor praises a short story he has written, and then she learns that a story he wrote has been sold for publication. She begins to believe that he is more substantial than she initially thought, and her feelings toward him soften. They become friends, and he briefly (and silently) dances with her at the senior prom, a scene which demonstrates that eyes can sometimes tell us more than words.
We then return to the present day at El Morocco, and Katie snaps Hubbell out of his stupor. He is happy to see her, and she takes him home to her apartment for coffee. However, after vomiting in her bathroom he collapses on her bed, thoroughly exhausted. When he leaves for Washington D.C. the next morning, Katie gives him her phone number and advises him that hotel rooms are scarce in New York and he can always feel free to stay at her place. In the meantime, her political activism continues. Now she is promoting friendship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, countries which by this time are allies in the fight against Nazi Germany. When Hubbell makes a return visit to New York their friendship blossoms into a romance.
The remainder of the film takes place against the backdrop of the post-war efforts by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to purge Hollywood of Communists. The political climate strains the relationship between Hubbell and Katie. He admires her commitment to the causes she believes him, but he does not share that commitment. However, The Way We Were is not nearly as political as some people seem to believe. The story originally was intended to take a strong stand about the blacklisting of the Hollywood Ten and the intense pressure which was put on actors and filmmakers to inform on their colleagues, but ultimately the decision was made to focus on the love story. On that level the film works extremely well. Redford is at his best as Hubbell, and it is difficult to imagine anyone else but Streisand playing the pushy, outspoken Katie, a woman who is always ready with a snappy retort. The supporting cast is fine and features such well-known actors as Patrick O’Neal, James Woods, and Murray Hamilton. Sydney Pollack’s direction is mostly excellent, although there are some shifts in the plot during the second half of the film which seem to be abrupt. The cinematography by Harry Stradling, Jr. is wonderful, and Marvin Hamlisch won Academy Awards for Best Original Dramatic Score and for Best Original Song (that would be the film’s theme song, which Streisand sings over the opening and closing credits). The memorable lyrics to the theme song were written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
Memories may be beautiful and yet
What's too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget.
Sony has provided Twilight Time with yet another exquisite Blu-ray transfer. The 2.35:1 1080p image is properly framed and boasts vibrant, eye-popping colors. As case in point is the early scene at the El Morocco. As our resident expert Robert A. Harris points out, The Way We Were looks like a three-strip Technicolor film, but it was shot in Panavision with color by Eastmancolor. Readers are encouraged to read Mr. Harris’ comments about this impeccable transfer:
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
A Few Words About...™ The Way They Were -- in Blu-ray
Special note should be made of the production design by Stephen Grimes, which superbly represents the era in which the action takes place. I did notice one error, however. In the opening scene, as Katie is rushing to work at the radio station, she passes a movie theater and there is a large “FDR in ‘44” sign on the building. One of the movies on the marquee is Counterattack, starring Paul Muni and Larry Parks. Counterattack was not released until April, 1945. It is not mentioned in the commentaries, but I suspect that putting that particular film on the marquee was a nod to Larry Parks, whose film career essentially came to a halt when he admitted to HUAC that he had once been a member of a Communist Party cell and he was blacklisted.
The English 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is the equal of the picture quality. Every word of dialogue is clear, crisp and understandable. English SDH subtitles are available for viewers who need them. Marvin Hamlisch’s evocative score is given a wide and pleasing soundstage.
Audio Rating: 5/5
As usual, this Twilight Time Blu-ray disc includes an isolated score track.
Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
We are treated to two commentary tracks. First is a commentary by the late director Sydney Pollack, who provides many insights into the making of the film. If you ever wondered why the theme song begins with Barbra Streisand humming, Pollack explains it all here.
The second commentary track is by Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo, who provide important historical context for the film and go into some detail about the controversial decision to pare down the part of the story which deals with the blacklisting.
“The Way We Were - Looking Back” is a retrospective documentary which is shown in standard definition with an aspect ratio of 4:3. Robert Redford was unable to participate, but Barbra Streisand and Sydney Pollack talk at length about their film and their differing opinions about what was done with the blacklist angle (Streisand provided the deleted scenes which are shown in the documentary). Marvin Hamlisch, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, screenwriter Arthur Laurents and producer Ray Starks also participate. The documentary has a copyright date of 1999.
Also included in the original theatrical trailer, which is in very good shape.
An eight-page illustrated booklet contains an incisive essay by the always-excellent Julie Kirgo.
It would have been nice if the deleted scenes could have been included as an extra in anamorphic widescreen, but apparently Sony has not seen fit to do that.
The Way We Were is a memorable romantic film which never fails to pull at the heartstrings of its audience. It is virtually impossible to watch this film without finding yourself looking back on your own life. The Way They Were is a welcome addition to the library of Twilight Time Blu-ray discs. This is a limited edition release of just 3,000 copies, so readers interested in purchasing it should go to the Screen Archives website and verify that it is still available. It is not yet available through Amazon, but it also is being sold at the TCM Shop while copies last.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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