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Fox Lorber presents

The Directors: Norman Jewison (1999)

"I've always offered to make less money, but please give me total artistic control."- Norman Jewison

Stars: Norman Jewison
Other Stars: na
Director: Robert J. Emery

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for but contains violence in the Rollerball excerpt and sexual situations in Best Friends; probably about a PG or PG-13.
Run Time: 00h:58m:30s
Release Date: 2000-02-29
Genre: documentary

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+D+C D

 

DVD Review

The continuing series, The Directors, sponsored in part by the American Film Institute, here turns its sights on Norman Jewison. He has always seemed to me to be one of the best directors that most people haven't ever heard of; Jewison is enormously under-appreciated even though he has made such classics as In the Heat of the Night, Fiddler on the Roof, A Soldier's Story and Moonstruck. He and his films have been nominated for many Oscars® over the years.

We are given several lengthy interview sessions with Jewison himself (taped during the 1995 filming of Bogus), as well as brief clips of interviews with stars Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Whoopi Goldberg (listed in the titles as Whoopie), James Caan, Sylvester Stallone, Goldie Hawn and others. Clips from over a dozen of Jewison's movies are included. In addition to those listed above, we also have elements from The Cincinnati Kid, The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!, the original The Thomas Crown Affair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Rollerball, F.I.S.T., Agnes of God and others. Unfortunately, only three of the films are presented in widescreen formats (presumably the original aspect ratio): Superstar, Rollerball and—ironically, since it is available on DVD only in full frame aspect—Moonstruck It is a serious affront to the featured directors to give their films in this butchered form, and is the major drawback of this volume.

The film clips are all well-selected; I wished that there were more and longer clips to really get a nice sampling, but they do the job well. Most of the interviewees have useful content to give, and aren't just talking about how great Jewison is (though Stallone gets sidetracked into a discussion about how great Rod Steiger is, which should have been edited out of the program).

The program is quite brief, but information-filled. The disc is full of terrific anecdotes and film history and quite intriguing. For instance, we are given the tale of how Jewison attempted to explain to the studio executives that they might want to reconsider asking him to direct Fiddler since he wasn't Jewish, despite his name. We also hear how the anti-violence Rollerball was understood in Europe, but was taken as a glorification of violence in America.

I would find this a more satisfying experience if the disc contained two or more programs. As it is, we have a disc with slightly less than an hour of programming which just seems wasteful.



Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer


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 One Two
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame na - na
Original Aspect Rationo no
Anamorphicno no


Image Transfer Review: The interviews tend to have a pastel flavor to them. While the film clips all appear to be undamaged and clean, some of them do have a washed out and grainy appearance (especially In the Heat of the Night and Thomas Crown). The montage sequence from The Cincinnati Kid, by comparison, is bright and vibrant and quite crisp. Overall, the image is acceptable, except for the use of Pan & Scan film clips for most of the movies (which garners an F, lowering the overall grade). That is nothing less than an outrage. Jewison should have been treated better than this.



Image Transfer Grade: D+
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The sound is generally quite good for DD 2.0 (although Henry Rollins, Jr. keeps banging the microphone, making his interview quite noisy and obnoxious). The sound in the film clips is variable, depending on the quality of the source material. Overall, it is decent for a television program but certainly not a model of clarity or any kind of demo material.



Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single
Layers Switch: na

Extras Review: The only extra is a two-screen filmography of Jewison as a director; no filmography is provided for the numerous films where he has acted as producer, although a few of them are noted in the program itself. This skimpy treatment of extras just makes the disc seem like even less of a value.



Extras Grade: D
 

Final Comments

This is an interesting disc that is certainly worth a rental for film lovers. Heck, a documentary that makes me want to watch F.I.S.T. has got to have something going for it! The lack of extras of any kind and the presence of only one hour of programming limit its appeal seriously, as does the presentation of numerous clips in full frame instead of the proper widescreen ratio.

Mark Zimmer 2000-04-18