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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/5/02

Hannah and Her Sisters
1986 (2001) - Orion (MGM)

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Hannah and Her Sisters Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/C/D+

Specs and Features
107 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English, French and Spanish (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Ranking as one of Woody Allen's best films, the often hilarious, often frightening Hannah and Her Sisters is one of Woody's most personal films. If you're aware of his very public personal history, Hannah almost serves as a cinematic look back into his life at that period, and the various sub-plots almost certainly give a glimpse into his mind.

Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her two sisters Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Dianne Weist, in an Oscar winning role) have grown up together and are still quite close. Hannah is currently married to Elliot (Michael Caine, also an Oscar winner here), a professor who's looking for dependency in a lover, and hasn't found it in Hannah. Lee is currently living with an introspective artist (Max von Sydow) who despises all people except for Lee. With his cold attitude towards life, and his indifference to her, Lee finds the love that she requires in Elliot, who in turn finds dependency in Lee.

But the feeling leaves Elliot, and he decides to leave Lee, because he doesn't want to hurt Hannah, and he needs her much more than Lee. But Lee's dependence on Elliot only grows, and this once happy co-dependence has only become complacent. Meanwhile, Holly, formerly a struggling actress, has turned to screenwriting, and her first screenplay about a love-lost woman who sleeps with her sister's husband hits a little too close for Hannah, who has recently been feeling that Elliot has been completely honest with her. Can the successful and controlling Hannah snap her life back into shape, or is her family's envied hatred of her going to tear the family apart? Are are you still with me after all that?

Hannah and Her Sisters is uneasily funny. While you find yourself laughing at the awkward situations and the comic interior monologues, you know that there is a certain level of hatred lying underneath the surface whether the characters realize it or not. Both Lee and Holly are very unhappy, and it seems to have started back when they released that Hannah was their parents' favorite. This is a cutting film about familial relationships and the desire to be loved and acknowledged, and it rightfully won a third Oscar for Best Screenplay.

The DVD release for this film contains a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer. I didn't notice any distracting edge enhancement halos or compression artifacts. The colors seem a little soft and, I dare say, not saturated enough. But the blacks are as deep as they probably can be. And with little grain or scratches on the print, and a nice level of dimensionality, this is not a bad transfer for a Woody film.

The audio is in 2.0 mono and, unlike most of Woody's films, the music actually seems to overwhelm some of the dialogue (although for the most part it's passable, like most of his film sound). An anamorphic trailer is also provided by way of extras.

Like most other Woody films, this DVD is nothing to really test your system with, but fans of this film will definitely want to own it. If you're looking for an intelligent, thought provoking comedy that really isn't a comedy, then the superb Hannah and Her Sisters is one you might want to check out.

Graham Greenlee
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