Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|A Star is Born|
Actors: Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson, Gary Busey, Oliver Clark, Venetta Fields
The fire of Barbra Streisand. The magnetism of Kris Kristofferson. The reckless world of big-time rock 'n' roll. All three bring a new passion and timeliness to A Star Is Born, one of the screen's classic love stories (pre... more »
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"The world could end each night, with one more look at you"
Robert Johnson | Richmond, KY USA | 05/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A blockbuster at the time of it's original release (it was the second-highest grossing film of 1976), the third screen version of A STAR IS BORN has always divided critics and fans alike. The film open to scathingly negative reviews, however, $5.6 million-budgeted picture went on to gross over $150 million at the box office and won an Academy Award and five Golden Globes. It's not without some irony that Streisand's most commercially successful film would also remain her most controversial. For every ten fans who state that STAR is Streisand's best film, there are always ten more who claim it is the weakest film in her filmography. Although both sides have some merit to support their claims, it should still be noted that the seventies take on A STAR IS BORN remains one of the most touching and highly entertaining showbiz dramas that Hollywood ever produced. For my money, it's the best version of the often-told tale.
The film is solidly enjoyable and throughly absorbing. Changing the setting from the old Hollywood studio system to the competitive world of the music industry was actually a great idea, and the screenplay forges a realistic contrast between the characters' romance and their careers. This is the main area that the 1976 version of A STAR IS BORN actually surpasses it's classic predecessors. For example, the film is especially successful when depicting the clashing personal and professional difficulties during recording sessions and the never-ending phone calls that interrupt Kristofferson's songwriting attempts. This version of the story is also more believable in it's portrayal of the lead characters. For example, the female leads in the two previous versions were so virtuous and self-sacrificing that they came off as saints. On the other hand, Esther, the female lead in this version, is not only portrayed as being strong and passionate, but also flawed and conflicted. This makes her feel more real than the Janet Gaynor or Judy Garland characters felt in the previous films, and makes the story that much more effective.
The performances are all on target, even though the supporting characters aren't fleshed out enough. If you're looking for an actress/singer who can walk the fine line between tough and vulnerable without making herself seem like a script contrivance, Streisand is definitely the girl you want. She's one of the few film stars who can make even the most banal dialogue seem fresh and natural, and, as usual, she manages to make a strong emotional connection with the viewer. Simply put, her Esther is a fully-realized, three-dimensional human being. Kris Kristofferson may not get much respect now for his laid-back characterization, however, he's always interesting watch and displays a magnetic charisma here that he seldom displayed elsewhere in his career. Kristofferson actually received rave reviews at the time from Newsweek, Time, and even the New Yorker's usually vicious Pauline Kael. Gary Busey and Paul Mazursky also give believable performances, but both have a fairly minimal amount of screentime.
The film's soundtrack recording was also a massive success, hitting the #1 on Billboard's Hot 200 and selling over four million copies in the US alone. The Streisand-composed "Evergreen" (with lyrics from Paul Williams) is unarguably one of the most gorgeous songs in contemporary pop, brought to even-further life by an absolutely incomparable vocal performance from Streisand. The rest of the film's original songs (mostly composed by Williams and Rupert Holmes) are pretty good as well, and Streisand sounds fantastic - her live solo numbers remain in the memory long after the rest of the movie has faded. Streisand's vibrant performances bring "Woman In The Moon" and "With One More Look At You" to thrilling life, and make even sillier numbers like "Queen Bee" work far better than they have the right to. Kristofferson's solo numbers sound somewhat tuneless, however, that may have been intentional since he is playing a singer in decline.
Though naturally dated in some respects (it definitely does reflect the decade in which it was made), the seventies take on A STAR IS BORN still holds up remarkably well. The film is well-mounted and slickly produced, the chemistry between the leads is extremely powerful and always feels genuine, and Streisand has two emotional scenes near the finale that are both aching effective. In conclusion, A STAR IS BORN is not only entertaining and moving, but it also transcends all criticism.
DVD UPDATE (12-6-06): The A STAR IS BORN DVD is finally here after several delays, and it was worth the wait. The picture quality is well above average, and is very film-like. Sure, there are the usual tale-tale signs that mar all films from the seventies (namely grain and inconsistent sharpness), but the transfer is great for a catalogue title that is over the 30 years old. The 5.1 sound is exceptional even by modern-day standards.
As far as supplements, Streisand's commentary is informative and entertaining, although I would have loved to hear Kristofferson join her on at least some scenes. The wardrobe test reel is good fun, and the 12 deleted/alternate scenes are great to have. I wish that the promotional television special "With One Look at You" and Streisand's thrilling performance of "Evergreen" from that year's Oscar telecast had also been included, but perhaps Warner Home Video could not secure the rights. All in all, with great picture, exceptional sound, and a healthy portion of supplements, the A STAR IS BORN DVD was well worth waiting for.
Something's Coming, Something Good
Matt Howe | Washington, DC | 02/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Originally scheduled for a December 2005 release, A STAR IS BORN was delayed by Warner Home Video with no definite release date revealed. Streisand fans are well aware that, out of her film career, only A STAR IS BORN and YENTL remain unreleased on DVD. (YENTL will be released by Sony, which bought MGM/UA's library ... again, no official date set for that one).
On February 21, 2006, reps from Warner Home Video chatted online at hometheaterforum.com. Of the delayed STAR IS BORN disc, they said: "The approval process on the '76 STAR IS BORN is taking longer than we had anticipated, but it's happening and will be worth it."
So, there is still no official release date, but at least they acknowledge they're working on it! Warner Home Video always does an excellent job on their DVD releases -- A STAR IS BORN ('76) will certainly be no different. I am most excited to hear the 5.1 mix Dolby Digital mix of sound. (I reported alll of this over at my Streisand fan site, www.barbra-achives.com.)
By the way, isn't this summer the 30th Anniversary of STAR IS BORN? It was released summer 1976 ... and this summer is 2006. That would certainly be a good selling point."
A Star Is Born DVD More Than Satisfies
M. Iskowitz | 11/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I highly recommend the disc to Streisand fans who will relish Barbra's full-length film commentary, 16 minute of additional scenes (many previously unseen), and original wardrobe test footage. Of course, the movie itself in all of its remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack glory sounds and looks as vibrant and possibly even better than it played in cinemas. The musical numbers and theatrical lighting are exceptional and features some truly classic Streisand singing on stage. With the inclusion of Barbra's complete humming and acoustic guitar rendition of "Evergreen," we finally have the opportunity to enjoy an otherwise unused musical number. Even her commentary is enlightening, revealing that Kristofferson had a first shot at the song's lyrics but didn't submit them until just a few years ago when he sent Barbra a framed copy. Among the deleted footage is Barbra applying lipstick to KK in the bathtub scene where she admits being comfortable enough with him from earlier years to forego anything covering her chest. Indeed, she first met KK at L.A.'s Troubador club escorted by manager Marty Erlichman whose virtues she frequently praises in the commentaries. In her discussion during the film Barbra recalls being certain she wanted to become a film director during A Star Is Born's shooting, as she often made suggestions to KK between takes and thought the movie's director Frank Pierson cut the camera prematurely. After directing three films, Barbra recently declined ASIB producer Jon Peters's recent invitation to direct an upcoming ASIB remake. Her commentary also details her music composing resume back to "Ma Premiere Chanson," admitting that winning an Oscar for composing "Evergreen" is the biggest thrill of her career. She wants to release another set of unreleased songs, including recordings made with Leon and Mary Russell in their home. In the commentary Barbra identifies her antique clothes worn in the film and says "People look great in black...you listen to them better." Of course, her 2006 concert wardrobe is almost exclusively black. She also engages in thoughtful analyses of the importance for her of being in the moment when capturing performances on film, especially her singing. Barbra elaborates how choices were made for the film's finale and even calls attention to her runny nose quite candidly and humorously. Concluding, she remembers ASIB as "a satisfying work experience," and that's how I would describe this DVD, perhaps more than satisfying yet not completely satisfying. Missing is the excellent Barbra: With One More Look At You TV program on the making of the movie, copies of which have circulated among fan-collectors for years. The DVD would also be enhanced and appear more complete by a collection of photo stills, especially the famous Scavullo poster session, a staple on nearly all DVDs. Including the original 4-minute theatrical trailer for ASIB as well as those for the previous two Star films with Garland and Gaynor is a nice touch."
The Ultimate Wallow for Barbra-philes...Watch Closely Now as
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 11/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Thirty years after its initial release, the third version of "A Star Is Born" finally comes to DVD in a package that should please the most devoted fans of Barbra Streisand. That would include me since I just saw her in concert singing among other numbers, the feminist anthem "Woman in the Moon" from this 1976 film. Easy to dismiss, the movie's career-polarizing story is such a sturdy pile of Hollywood-style clichés that variations of it exist in other films including Streisand's own "Funny Girl". This time reset to the then-contemporary music scene, the timeworn plot follows self-destructive rock star John Norman Howard on his deep-dive career descent just as he meets club singer Esther Hoffman who is awaiting her big break.
Troubles dog their courtship from the outset, as John Norman (both names please) responds to grasping fans and bloodless DJs with random acts of violence (from which he inexplicably escapes prosecution). To John Norman, Esther represents his last shot at happiness, and in turn, she is drawn to the innately decent, creative musician underneath the façade. In the movie's most pivotal scene, he gives Esther her big break at a benefit concert, and her career takes off. Inevitably, he can't handle the failure of his career in light of her meteoric success, and if you are familiar with any version of this story, you know the rest. Directed by Frank Pierson (although Streisand's budding directorial talents are obviously on display), the film still manages to draw me in, even though I know it is shamelessly contrived and manipulative. It still has a certain emotional resonance despite its numerous flaws.
Although Streisand in her prime seems like the ideal choice to play a rising singing star, her screen persona is simply too strong and predefined to play Esther credibly. The same can be said for her performing style since the script seems to make allowances for her softer Adult Contemporary-oriented material to be accepted within the otherwise hardened world of arena rock. From the moment she pops her head up as the middle of the Oreos, she can't help but come across as an established star. I can forgive the lapse simply because she is an unparalleled vocal talent, but what becomes less forgiving is how she makes Esther more strident than poignant when John Norman's woes become overwhelming. This creates an oddly discomfiting dynamic in the last part of the film when it becomes less about what caused the climactic event than Esther's response to it. This is capped off by an uninterrupted eight-minute close-up of her memorial performance - great except when she regrettably mimics John Norman's style toward the end.
Kristofferson, on the other hand, gives a superb performance throughout, managing a level of honesty that grounds the film and makes palpable his concurrent feelings of love, pride and resentment toward Esther. He makes his vodka-soaked onstage growling work within this context. Otherwise, what always strikes me as strange about this version is how all the supporting characters are relegated to the background as if they didn't exist unless they were interacting with the two principals. The only ones who register are Paul Mazursky as John Norman's level-headed manager Brian and Gary Busey as his cynical band manager Bobbie. Veteran cameraman Robert Surtees provides a nice burnish to the cinematography though a level of graininess persists in the print. A big seller in its day, the soundtrack is a hodgepodge of different styles from the 1970's - some songs still quite good ("Everything", "Woman in the Moon", "Watch Closely Now"), some that have moved to kitsch ("Queen Bee", Kenny Loggins' "I Believe in Love") and of course, the inescapable "Evergreen".
The print transfer on the 2006 DVD is clean and the sound gratefully crisp thanks to digital remastering. Streisand's participation is the chief lure of the extras beginning with her feature-length commentary. She gives insightful information about the genesis of the film, the casting and the reportedly troubled production. She is also refreshingly candid about the megalomania of Jon Peters, her hairdresser boyfriend who became the movie's producer, and her dissatisfaction with Pierson as a director. I just wish she could have provided more scene-specific comments that directly relate to what is onscreen. She also tends to repeat the same anecdotes when the mood strikes her, e.g., it gets tiring to hear for the third time how the person playing the chauffeur was a friend of Peters. I think having a second commentator could have drawn out other nuggets from her.
There is a wardrobe test reel that shows some amusing 1970's clothes, especially Kristofferson's mixed-fabric poncho and orange polyester shirt. There are also twelve deleted scenes included with Streisand's optional commentary. One is a comic bread-baking scene which reminded me how much I like Streisand in farcical comedies. Another is an extended scene in which she plays "Evergreen" on the guitar in front of an awestruck Kristofferson who then falls asleep. The most interesting is an alternate take on the musical finale incorporating fast cuts, which I agree with Streisand should have been used. Fittingly, the theatrical trailers for all three versions of "A Star Is Born" are also included."