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Merchant Ivory Productions presents
Roseland (1977)

"I don't look in mirrors anymore. I gave it up years ago. I don't see anything good in them."
- Stan (Lou Jacobi)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: September 21, 2004

Stars: Teresa Wright, Christopher Walken, Geraldine Chaplin
Other Stars: Lou Jacobi, Don De Natale, Helen Gallagher, Joan Copeland, Conrad Janis, Lilia Skala, David Thomas
Director: James Ivory

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:43m:52s
Release Date: September 21, 2004
UPC: 037429198421
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- CB-C- D-

DVD Review

The most memorable dance movie of 1977 was unquestionably Saturday Night Fever, but those with more delicate constitutions probably didn't want Tony Manero's moves, nor his wardrobe, both of which have aged well only in the most kitschy sort of way. For a step back into the past, then, the trio of director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant, and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala offered up Roseland to the art house crowd, a chance to get your Glenn Miller on. It's a very self-conscious effort, and frequently spills over into the realm of the precious, but as ever, a Merchant Ivory production is capable of luring actors of the highest caliber, and there are some modest pleasures in this delicate little flower of a movie.

The movie is essentially a triptych, three stories yoked together by all being set in and around Roseland, the legendary dance hall on the west side of Manhattan. The stories even get cute little names. In the first, The Waltz, May, a widow, can't stop talking about her late husband, Eddie, and what a gentleman he was, and such a lovely dancer. Not holding a candle to him is Stan, a widower, coarse and a little clumsy. Stan can conjure up some magic for her, though—when they dance, May can see a younger version of herself in one of the wall mirrors, so she finds herself, despite her better judgment, in feverish pursuit of Stan as her dance partner. The metaphor made literal—looking back into the past—is asked to carry too much weight, and the telling of this one has a certain clumsiness; Lou Jacobi as Stan is right for the role, but he can't resist mugging. The best thing here is the lovely Teresa Wright as May; a sworn teetotaler, she starts swilling down brandy Alexanders, in the manner of Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses. Seeing Wright in advancing years is touching; she was a lovely young woman in movies like The Pride of the Yankees and Shadow of a Doubt, and wears her years well.

Next up is The Hustle, featuring Christopher Walken as Russel, a rent boy of sorts; he dotes on Pauline (Joan Copeland), an older woman who pays his expenses, and just what it is she receives in return is left unsaid, but it's not too difficult to draw your own conclusions. Russel meets Marilyn, played by Geraldine Chaplin, who has recently been jilted by her husband; she's sort of the Betty Schaefer to his Joe Gillis, though hers is a past as convoluted and full of disappointments as his, it seems. One of the great crimes of this story is that Walken isn't given more of an opportunity to dance; Pennies from Heaven and the Fatboy Slim video have it all over Merchant Ivory on this score.

Finally, in The Peabody, Lilia Skala plays Rosa, who is looking for the right partner for a competition, despite the possible adverse consequences for her health; her suitor is Arthur (David Thomas), and this one is even more of a memory piece than the first story. Perhaps it was intended as theme and variation, but they're similar enough, and tread on nearly identical emotional territory, that the impact of this one is diluted from having seen the first.

The movie is probably most interesting in watching the Merchant Ivory style develop, knowing how it would flourish in full maturity in movies like A Room with a Viewand Howard's End; but if it's a great dance hall movie you want, check out They Shoot Horses, Don't They?.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A new digital transfer has given some spark to the print, but the location shooting must have made this something of a cinematographic nightmare, and it shows; colors are muddy and uneven.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono track is frequently muffled; the dynamics aren't as problematic as they are on some other tracks, but occasionally the dialogue is just plain incomprehensible. Keep your remote nearby, and don't be bashful about turning on the subtitles.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. accompanying booklet with an essay on the film by Robert Emmet Long
Extras Review: Only chapter stops and subtitles on the disc; the accompanying essay is predictably fawning.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Three heartfelt but only modestly successful stories from the Merchant Ivory team, on a bare-bones disc.


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