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Monday, February 4, 2013

'A Star Is Born' Blu-ray: The Sublime Miss S Rocks Out

Star Is Born, A (1976) (BD Book) Blu-ray
Evaluating the audio and video quality of the Blu-ray edition, which is being released on February 5, 2013,  of the 1976 Barbara Streisand/Kris Kristofferson remake of  "A Star is Born" is easy. The sound is very crisp and the picture is incredibly clear.

Further, Warner Brothers includes great photos and background information in the bound booklet in which the Blu-ray is encased. The Streisand narrated special feature on the wonderfully dated '70s fashions from the film is also great fun.

The bottom line is that "Star" is a classic and that fans of the '70s and/or Streisand will enjoy it if only for the music and the groovy fashions. The film is additionally notable for the Oscar-winning soft rock uber-hit "Evergreen" that Streisand and legendary song-writer Paul Williams co-wrote and that Streisand flawlessly performs.

Evaluating the film itself is tougher and requires treading very lightly on Faberge eggshells. The quasi Ike and Tina Turner plot of an aging self-destructive rocker experiencing a vicious cycle (this is hilarious to anyone familiar with "Star") who falls in love with an unknown and then launchs said unknown into stardom as he dramatically sabotages his own career makes for good cinema. 

Additionally, the 1954 Judy Garland/James Mason version of "Star" is a very tough act to follow. This one belongs on any list of top 100 films.

Streisand's effort to make this great story relevant in a time that classic '70s rock, easy listening hits, and disco were converging was a challenging undertaking. Additionally, any effort to modernize a classic tale is always risky.

It is equally important to remember that Streisand is incredibly talented. Her film roles show that she can handle screwball comedy as deftly as drama. 

Those roles, and her recordings, further demonstrate that no can belt out show tunes or sing ballads any better. "Star" simply was one of Streisand's efforts that slightly lowered her world-class batting average. However, even a not spectacular Streisand film is pretty darn good.

Streisand's ironic effort to modernize the "Star" story is a victim of her trying to control every aspect of the production. A simpler way of stating this is that one theory of cinema is that someone who tries to do more than one or two things in a production ends up not doing any of them particularly well.

Streisand stars, produces, writes music, and provides her personal clothing for "Star." (It is unknown if Streisand also cooks for the cast and crew and builds sets.) She even essentially states in her commentary for the special feature on the film's fashions that its good to be king in reference to her behind-the-scenes roles allowing her to control her fellow actors.

At the incredible risk of incurring the wrath of Streisand fans everywhere, this effort to make the film all about Barbara has a negative impact.This is unintentionally reflected in having the initials of Streisand's character Esther Hoffman Howard spell EHH.

It seems that miscasting hard-living country singer Kristofferson as both hard-living and hard-rocking John Norman Hoffman was designed to avoid diverting focus from Streisand. On my making that observation, my friend who watched the film with me commented that Greg Allman  of the Allman Brothers would have been a good choice.

Further, Kristofferson is one of Streisand's few leading men with whom she lacked chemistry. They are both strong performers but did not convey the love, the passion, and the frustration that their characters experienced.

Streisand went further by robbing Kristofferson of any truly strong moments. This extended to Kristofferson's final scene, which should have been all about Kris.

Streisand's biggest (and most amusing) mistake was trying to perform rock and disco music. Her wearing the androgynous slacks and blouses that the Woody Allen character Annie Hall made fashionable (and that Ellen DeGeneres rocks today) while getting down with her bad self did not play particularly well. 

I really tried to be kind but could not resist commenting "Mrs. Kotter rocks out" (You Millennials can Google it.) on seeing the mid-30s lanky Streisand strut her stuff and frantically bob her head decked out in an Annie Hall outfit. 

As stated above, "Star" was not a total car wreck (which is also hilarious to anyone familiar with the film.) It simply was a case of  Streisand initially experimenting in an area that did not play to her strengths, taking a role that was better suited for a younger actress, and compounding things by playing too large a role backstage.

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