Vanya on 42nd Street

October 19th, 1994







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more trailers Vanya on 42nd Street

Plot
New York actors rehearse Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" in a rundown theater.

Release Year: 1994

Rating: 7.2/10 (2,225 voted)

Director: Louis Malle

Stars: Wallace Shawn, Phoebe Brand, George Gaynes

Storyline
An uniterrupted rehersal of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" played out by a company of actors. The setting is their run down theater with an unusable stage and crumbling ceiling. The play is shown act by act with the briefest of breaks to move props or for refreshments. The lack of costumes, real props and scenery is soon forgotten.

Writers: Anton Chekhov, David Mamet

Cast:
Phoebe Brand - Nanny
Lynn Cohen - Maman
George Gaynes - Serybryakov
Jerry Mayer - Waffles
Julianne Moore - Yelena
Larry Pine - Dr. Astrov
Brooke Smith - Sonya
Wallace Shawn - Vanya
Andre Gregory - Himself
Madhur Jaffrey - Mrs. Chao

Release Date: 19 October 1994

Filming Locations: New Amsterdam Theater - 214 West 42nd Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA

Gross: $1,746,050 (USA)



Technical Specs

Runtime:



User Review

Four Layers

Rating:

There's no shortage of intelligent work in film. But here we have one of the most complexly referential things I've ever seen. Simple self-reference points to itself. Common self-reference points to the viewer defining the experience.

But Mingus used to say why have three threads when you can have seven? Here, some of the most adventurous thinkers in film give us four threads, actually four and a half.

We have the Chekhov play and the Mamet wrapping. Make no mistake that this is not an editing or a translation, but an annotation. We have two perspectives simultaneously. Add to that the notion of the play not as a play for an audience as intended, but an event conducted regularly by the performers for their own sake. This is a creation orchestrated by Gregory, the third thread. One can clearly see in some scenes neither Chekhov nor Mamet but artists collaborating in dialogs. The inner eyes and the outer eyes differ.

Fourth, we have Malle's creation which introduces us into the equation with deliberately shaky and sometimes misframed camerawork. We aren't part of any prior experience, but the actors do include the camera in their collaboration, as an independent thread. Watch how Andre works the camera.

And finally, we have the framing of the artists in real life. This is not simultaneous with the others and in any case excludes the filmmaker.

I recall seeing Paul Newman in the Color of Money in the first scene, acting on three levels simultaneously. It took my breath away. Here, the purpose of the whole contrivance is to challenge the actors (and the viewers!) to participate in a jazz ensemble of acting where the layer of reality is constantly shifting. They chose Uncle Vanya as the base for a reason, because his evershifting foci of love and hate in pairs provide cues for levelshifting.

Shawn really plays on this. His skill wasn't apparent to me on first viewing, especially in the first scenes, where all players are on stage and the non-focus actors have to be invisible. But on repeated viewings one can see his mastery, his shifting forehead! Maybe he could have been a Dostoyevsky. The two young women should be celebrated to the heavens for what they do together. I never believed so many giggles and gasps and stutters and excited silences could be so finely woven, tossed so lightly.

This is really, really good stuff, very smart. So far as an intelligent construction you won't see a superior. I never expect to see four levels at once again in film at least centered in the acting.









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