The Way We Were - 4K Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
An extended edition of the movie that restores two critical scenes and a gorgeous 4K UHD transfer with Dolby Vision HDR make The Way We Were well worth revisiting on its 50th anniversary. Though this period romance alternately excites and exasperates, the chemistry between Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, lush production values, and Oscar-winning music score and theme song distinguish director Sydney Pollack's film and keep us coming back to it. Solid audio and all the extras from the 2013 Blu-ray complete this definitive presentation of a beloved motion picture. Highly Recommended.
Screen legends Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford make movie magic as the captivating star-crossed lovers, Hubbell Gardiner and Katie Morosky. Theirs is a classic love story sparked by the attraction of opposites, played out against the backdrop of American life during times of foreign war, domestic prosperity and McCarthy-era paranoia in Hollywood. Winner of two 1974 Academy Awards (Best Song "The Way We Were" and Best Score), this special 25th Anniversary Edition of the THE WAY WE WERE has been digitally remastered so you can enjoy this romantic epic the way it was meant to be seen and heard.
- Featuring both the original 118-minute Theatrical Version and an all-new 123-minute Extended Version
- Both versions remastered in 4K resolution from the original camera negative
- Dolby Vision/HDR presentation of the film
- Presented in high definition on the Blu-ray
- 5.1 audio + original mono for the Theatrical Version
- Director's Commentary (Theatrical Version Only)
- Making-Of Documentary "Looking Back"
- Theatrical Trailer
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
"Mem'ries...light the corners of my mind; misty, water-colored mem'ries of the way we were."
It's rare for a theme song to eclipse the film that spawned it, but "The Way We Were" is a prime example of such a phenomenon. Impeccably performed by the movie's star, Barbra Streisand, and distinguished by a haunting Marvin Hamlisch melody and indelible lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, this passionate ode to a failed relationship soared to #1 on the Billboard pop chart in 1974 and won the Academy Award for Best Song. (It also later won a Grammy Award in 1975 as Song of the Year.) Simple, lilting, and brimming with emotion, "The Way We Were" is an instantly recognizable and timeless tune that easily overshadows its cinematic namesake. This is not to say director Sydney Pollack's period romance is in any way an inferior picture. On the contrary, The Way We Were is a literate, elegantly produced, and sensitively acted drama that has helped keep the tissue industry thriving for a half-century. It's got warmth and heart and a bit of spunk...but it just can't compete with that immortal song.
Spanning about 15 years, from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, The Way We Were recalls the lush, heartbreaking love stories of the same era as it evokes the innocence, traditional values, and sense of duty and morality that defined the nation during the World War II period. Arthur Laurents' uneven script, however, also plants the seeds of rebellion that would fully flower in the 1960s and sets up a rocky romance between Katie (Streisand), an outspoken, driven advocate for action, and Hubbell (Robert Redford), a passive, easygoing pretty boy content to coast on his looks and laurels. To complicate matters further, she's Jewish and he's a WASP; he's a blue-blood and she's distinctly middle class. Though the odds are stacked against this odd couple, we hope against hope love will conquer all.
Opposites certainly attract, but the main problem with The Way We Were is the two protagonists are so diametrically different their union appears doomed from the start. Both Katie and Hubbell seem to realize this as well, yet for some unexplained reason she refuses to let him go and he's too spineless to slam the door in her face. So what we have here, with apologies to Cool Hand Luke, is not only a failure to properly communicate but also a protracted and agonizing march to the relationship graveyard. And the only good thing about that is it brings us the ultimate reward of one of the finest farewell scenes in movie history, one that rivals the emotional adieus of Rick and Ilsa and Scarlett and Rhett. The term bittersweet takes on new meaning as we watch Streisand and Redford interact in front of New York's famed Plaza Hotel.
Yet one scene does not a movie make, and unfortunately for The Way We Were, its guts were gutted after its first preview when Pollack decided to severely truncate the political plotline concerning the investigation of Hollywood in general and Katie in particular by the House Un-American Activities Committee and focus more on the love story. Audiences embraced the change and made The Way We Were a blockbuster hit, but for a film to have staying power over the course of time it needs substance and requires its characters to remain consistent. Without outside events conspiring against Hubbell and Katie, which in turn magnify the inherent ideological conflicts that continually plague their relationship, only a nagging shallowness remains, and the fate of this couple ends up being decided by nothing more than a clichéd plot device. Talk about taking the wind out of a movie's sails...
But, wait... Fifty years after its premiere, The Way We Were returns to the way it was supposed to be. Thanks to the perseverance of the indomitable Streisand, two important scenes that more tightly stitch the story's political overtones into the romance between Katie and Hubbell and make their break-up more believable have been restored to the film in a special extended edition that adds a scant five minutes to the running time. (The theatrical version remains intact and is a viewing option on the disc as well.) Not everything that was cut has been restored (in an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir in the current issue of Vanity Fair, Streisand recounts in detail her tireless efforts to reconstruct The Way We Were and how she only wanted the most vital elements reinserted to preserve the film's integrity), and while the deleted material absolutely improves the narrative, it doesn't solve all of the inherent problems that dog it.
As a glossy romance, The Way We Were is good old-fashioned entertainment, a they-don't-make-'em-like-that-anymore love story that harkens back to Hollywood's Golden Age. Even as the movie drives you crazy with all its bickering, break-ups, and make-ups (one solid scene is often followed by two that incite eye rolling and cringing), it exudes a cozy warmth and galvanizing spirit that makes it eminently watchable. The astute direction, lush cinematography, classy production design, and that Oscar-winning Hamlisch score and theme song all combine to create a glamorous movie experience, and though Streisand and Redford look as mismatched as their characters, the sparks they generate are impressive.
I run hot and cold with Streisand as an actress. In Funny Girl, she's perfection; in A Star Is Born, not so much. Yet here, Streisand combines the insecurity and sensitivity of Fanny Brice with the forcefulness and stridency of Esther Hoffman to craft one of her finest dramatic performances. It's obvious Streisand, who was honored with a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her work, identifies deeply with Katie and the gusto with which she portrays her makes it impossible to concentrate on anyone else while she's on screen. Rarely does she overact and only occasionally do a couple of patented Streisand mannerisms creep into her work. Without question, Barbra carries this film and takes it to the highest possible plane.
Redford is good, too, using his easygoing charm, matinee idol looks, and quiet conviction to their best advantage. Though the 36-year-old actor doesn't make a very believable college student early in the film, he turns in some of his best work as the more mature Hubbell later on. Bradford Dillman, Lois Chiles, Patrick O'Neal, and Viveca Lindfors supply competent support and film buffs will spot James Woods, Susan Blakely (billed here as Susie), and Sally Kirkland in small, early roles.
Many of us fondly remember The Way We Were, but like the misty, water-colored memories alluded to in the theme song, what we recall are fleeting moments, not the film as a whole. Fifty years later, those moments still resonate, yet Pollack's romantic drama fails to ignite the same degree of passion that stoked audiences upon its initial release. The unsatisfactory story - even with the misguided cuts restored - doesn't possess the depth we crave and even stellar performances can't salvage the frustrating narrative, despite that humdinger of a denouement. In the end, it's the chemistry between Streisand and Redford we will remember, whenever we remember - or should I say, if we remember - The Way We Were.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Way We Were arrives on 4K UHD packaged in a standard case inside a sleeve. A four-page photo montage and leaflet containing the code for the Movies Anywhere digital copy are tucked inside the front cover, as well as a standard Blu-ray disc. Video codec is 2160p/HEVC H.265 with Dolby Vision HDR and default audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.
The press release for the 50th anniversary edition of The Way We Were touts a transfer "remastered in 4K resolution from the original camera negative," but what it doesn't state is when the remastering was done. This looks to be the same source that was used for Twilight Time's high-quality 2013 Blu-ray, and there's nothing at all wrong with that. The 2160p/HEVC H.265 transfer with Dolby Vision HDR beautifully renders Harry Stradling Jr.'s Oscar-nominated cinematography, which looks more vibrant, crisp, and lush in 4K UHD. The natural grain structure remains intact, with only a couple of scenes exuding excessive texture. Marvelous clarity and contrast, inky blacks, well-defined whites, and sumptuous color combine to produce a lovely film-like image that honors the movie's period setting and romantic nature. Reds especially pop; take a gander at Streisand's lipstick and nail polish, both of which make a bold statement, while the verdant landscapes and crystal blue sea and sky add panache to the picture. Costume fabrics are distinct, patterns are rock solid, and razor sharp close-ups highlight Streisand's creamy complexion and Redford's ruddiness. Shadow delineation is excellent and not a single nick, mark, or scratch dot the pristine print.
The 1080p Blu-ray comes surprisingly close to equaling its 4K UHD counterpart. Hues are a bit bolder and more vivid on the UHD disc, thanks to Dolby Vision, and fine details are just that much more discernible, too, but watching the standard Blu-ray - especially on an upconverting TV - is not at all a subpar experience. I certainly recommend upgrading if you're a diehard fan of The Way We Were, but the Blu-ray holds up quite well. Though the 4K UHD disc is still the clear winner, the margin of victory isn't as substantial as one might think and hope.
The same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that graced the 2013 Blu-ray has been recycled here. (The film's original mono track, also presented in DTS-HD Master Audio, is included on the theatrical version only.) The track delivers solid sound, but it isn't much of a surround mix. The rears remain largely quiet, except when Marvin Hamlisch's Oscar-winning score kicks into high gear, but distinct stereo separation across the front channels widens the soundscape and adds a bit of sonic interest to the talky drama. Ambient effects are a tad muted, but crisp interior accents perk up many scenes. Dialogue, of course, is the main attraction and all conversations are clear and easy to comprehend.
Streisand's theme song comes across well, thanks to a wide dynamic scale that handles her sublime vocals with ease. Even during the song's most passionate portions, distortion never rears its ugly head, while Hamlisch's score benefits from fine fidelity and nice tonal depth. Music is a major player in this production and no surface noise, hiss, or static disrupt its purity. Though this track won't test the limits of your system, it complements the film well and provides a seamless listening experience.
The biggest added extra is of course the extended cut of the film that restores two critical scenes late in the picture that tie the narrative's romantic and political threads together. Other than that, all the extras from the 2013 Blu-ray have been ported over to this 4K UHD release. (Note: the audio commentary is only attached to the theatrical version of the film.)
Audio Commentary – The late Sydney Pollack recorded this thoughtful and reflective commentary in 1999 and it's a worthwhile listen. In a forthright, conversational manner, Pollack covers a wide variety of topics: the film's unique structure (short prologue followed by long flashback); the careful integration of the now-famous theme song; his philosophy concerning title sequences; the difficulty of merging romance and politics; uncredited script revisions that added more substance to Hubbell's character; conflicts with producer Ray Stark; and, most importantly, the controversial deletion of a couple of key political scenes that sucked out some of the movie's guts. Pollack also recalls Redford's unhappiness during shooting, the casting of James Woods in his film debut, working with composer Marvin Hamlisch on the score, how the idea of a sequel that would reunite the lovers years later spawned three screenplays, and how The Way We Were firmly established Redford as a romantic leading man. Those looking for dirt on Streisand won't find any here; the director has nothing but praise for the actress and states she gave a tour de force performance. It's a shame Pollack is no longer with us, but he's very much alive in this great commentary.
Documentary: "The Way We Were: Looking Back" (SD, 62 minutes) – Redford is strangely absent from this retrospective piece, but all the other major players - Streisand, Pollack, screenwriter Arthur Laurents, composer Marvin Hamlisch, and lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman - are all on hand to share their "mem'ries." The biggest selling point of this sober, substantive 1999 documentary is the inclusion of several deleted scenes, which - had they been included in the original cut - would have made The Way We Were a much better film. Streisand admits she was "heartbroken" over the excisions, which added more of a political angle to the story, but Pollack defends his decision to remove the material, claiming there's a "cleaner" emotional line without them. The second half of this look back focuses on the title song and score - how they were conceived, constructed, and employed - and Hamlisch praises both Pollack and Streisand for their input and support. Though a bit long and talky, this collection of interviews holds our attention and lends vital perspective to this beloved film.
Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 minutes) – The film's original preview, which endlessly hypes the pairing of Streisand and Redford, is also included on the disc.
The Way We Were enjoys a devoted following and remains one of the most beloved romantic films of the 1970s, yet despite an enduring theme song and classic final scene, this glossy, nostalgic love story has lost some of its luster over the past half century. The star power of Streisand and Redford has not diminished, but the story's palatability has. The reinsertion of about five minutes of cut material helps the movie immeasurably, but doesn't solve all of its problems. Sony's 4K UHD presentation with Dolby Vision HDR isn't a huge step up from the 2013 Blu-ray, but combined with the restored snippets, excellent audio, a couple of noteworthy supplements, and classy packaging, this 50th anniversary release is certainly worthy of an upgrade and stands as the definitive edition of a film that lights the corners of many moviegoers' minds. Highly Recommended.
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