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Image Entertainment presents
Steven Wright: When the Leaves Blow Away (2006)

"My problem is I was reincarnated without ever being alive the first time."
- Steven Wright

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: April 25, 2007

Stars: Steven Wright
Other Stars: Sandi Carroll
Director: Michael Drumm, Steven Wright

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, thematic material)
Run Time: 01h:17m:49s
Release Date: April 24, 2007
UPC: 014381361223
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB-B+ C

DVD Review

Deadpan standup comedy is pretty tough to accomplish on any kind of sustained basis, but Steven Wright is an amazing master of the form. This DVD collects a live stage show as well as a short film by Wright, and as a result the disc is packed with laughter from beginning to end.

The first 42 minutes of the program consists of a live show filmed in Toronto, which features some great material delivered in Wright's trademark style. From feeling put upon by modern technology (with more than a little "tinfoil hat" attitude) to conjectures about theology (such as what did Jesus ever do for Santa on his birthday), Wright is endlessly creative and hilarious. On occasion he even manages to pierce his own morbid growl, cracking himself up briefly and forcing him to collect himself back into his vaguely suicidal, depressive persona.

Much of Wright's humor comes from his inimitable delivery, but there's an enormous amount of imagination on display as well. Much of his material incorporates joyful wordplay, from "mail order bridesmaids" to "Pulitzer Prize fighting," with a penchant for taking an extremely literal view of common phrases. The attitude is underlined by Wright's nervous pacing, which gives the performance an even more edgy character. The show is clever from start to finish and all too brief. I don't laugh out loud at much, but Wright had me in stitches at virtually every line.

The second half of the disc is devoted to One Soldier, a grainy black-and-white short by Wright, featuring him as a civil war veteran obsessing about the meaning of life, as well as questions of death and suicide. The counterpoint to his morbid character is the soldier's wife Becky (Sandi Carroll), who becomes increasingly frustrated by his self-destructive obsessing. The short expresses both the darkness behind his comedy and the dangers of thinking too much, while still being morbidly funny.

One Soldier is certainly in a more serious vein, but it's nonetheless packed with Wright's cockeyed observations, set in a more timeless milieu. There's only one bit that repeats between the two sections of the disc, a wistful discussion of stars as musical notes. Even though it's lower key and not quite as rapid fire as the live show, it's still absorbing and worth examining closely.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: For a live stage show, the first half of this anamorphic widescreen presentation looks quite good. The color is bright and vivid and the black levels are surprisingly solid. Detail is understandably a bit limited, but texture and the pinstripes on his suit look very nice. One Soldier is intentionally very grainy, and the resolution of DVD can't handle that too well without being sparkly. One significant issue with the disc is that it appears to be improperly flagged for progressive playback; on cuts the line structure is frequently evident and combing is visible.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Both 5.1 and stereo tracks are offered. The 5.1 is preferable, since it has more presence and gives a better sense of being surrounded by the heartily laughing audience. The audio is clear and crisp and has no significant problems.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The sole extra is a brief two-and-one-half minute recording of Wright performing live back in 1988. His style hasn't changed much in the intervening twenty years, though his timing is certainly more assured today. It helps that he's the right age to be curmudgeonly now.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

An excellent compilation of Wright's work. I want more.

 


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