Yentl (1983)

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Released 13-Dec-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 127:49
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Barbra Streisand
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Barbra Streisand
Mandy Patinkin
Amy Irving
Nehemiah Persoff
Steven Hill
Allan Corduner
Ruth Goring
David de Keyser
Bernard Spear
Doreen Mantle
Lynda Baron
Jack Lynn
Anna Tzelniker
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Michel Legrand


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Hebrew
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I recall listening to several songs from Yentl years ago, before I ever saw the film, and imagining a vast fantasy plot involving a boy who learns to fly so that he can reach his dead father in the stars. When I finally did get to see the film, I was a little disappointed to have got it so completely wrong, but very intrigued by it all. In fact, I enjoyed it thoroughly and was completely caught up in the issues it attempted to address. I was very much looking forward to seeing it a second time for this review to see how it compared to my earlier impressions. Disappointingly, the film doesn't quite hold up for me any more.

    Yentl was Barbara Streisand's directorial debut and a project she had long championed since reading the original short story by Isaac Bashevi Singer, Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy. Streisand apparently had a difficult battle convincing executives her film would sell at all (Heaven's Gate had just become a very expensive flop) and, as one of only two female directors filming, her attempts to pull the film together reflected Yentl's own struggles. After her father dies, Yentl (Streisand), a Jewish woman who has being secretly studying the Talmud (study of sacred law was apparently forbidden to women), disguises herself as a man and joins a yeshiva (an Orthodox Jewish "seminary") in order to maintain her passion for knowledge. Calling herself Anshel, she is quickly befriended by Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin) who equally shares her love for study and debate. Yentl/Anshel quickly falls for Avigdor, who himself develops a deep affection for Anshel. When Avigdor's engagement to Hadass (Amy Irving) is broken by Hadass's father, Avigdor asks Anshel/Yentl to marry Hadass so that he can remain close to her. Yentl finds herself part of an awkward triangle in which Hadass begins to love Anshel, while Yentl struggles to conceal her feelings for Avigdor, who himself continues to pine for Hadass.

    Streisand, perhaps a little misguidedly, opted to make the film as a musical. The songs themselves are not bad at all: some are even quite beautiful (and stuck in my head...). On the whole, though, they feel out of place and in most cases interrupt the film fairly abruptly: they work much better as stand-alone or concert pieces. (It's also ironic that Streisand cast Mandy Patinkin without giving him a single note to sing). The film does tend to drag a little in the middle and bursting into song tended to generate groans rather than renewed interest. Yentl also suffers from Streisand's somewhat annoying and whining portrayal of her character and the feeling that the film takes itself just that little bit too seriously.

    Yentl appears to have been an opportunity for Streisand to address several feminist issues: as I mentioned above, Yentl's drive to be able to study and think independently as an equal to her male counterparts reflects Streisand's own determination to take on the male-dominated film industry on her own terms. Ironically, though, this call for equality is undermined by the narrative's insistence on heterosexuality as the only means of expressing love. Avigdor's attraction to Anshel/Yentl is not acknowledged until he discovers that Anshel is a woman, for example. As a feminist work, I don't think Yentl works as well as Streisand hoped it might.

    On the whole, Yentl is not a bad film at all and I imagine quite a few people have been waiting for it to appear on DVD. It didn't quite live up to my earlier impressions and is let down by only a few flaws and a misguided choice of music. You'll either love it or hate it, but it's definitely worth checking it out to see for yourself.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Yentl has received an excellent video transfer with only one major issue and a few minor flaws to let it down. It is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, but, and this is the disc's single major problem, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    Otherwise the transfer is great. The transfer is sharp and nicely detailed. There is quite a bit of film grain and low level noise (see for example the exterior night scene from 19:40 - 22:59), although it is handled very well without any noticeable occasions of macro-blocking. The level of grain also gives the transfer a much more film-like quality. Often, the film seems to have something of a sepia tint to it and colours appear to have been deliberately muted but have been transferred perfectly.

    I detected only a few MPEG and film-to-video artefacts: moire effect on lace curtains (98:10 - 98:33) and some minor posterization and pixelization on Mandy Patinkin's face at 114:45 were the worst examples I found. Film artefacts in the form of white specks appear fairly often but are practically unnoticeable.

    The disc includes an English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle stream and numerous other language options. The English subtitles omit a lot of what is spoken, particularly when dialogue overlaps, but generally convey what is being said fairly accurately and are easy to read.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change placed at 65:58. It is well placed as Mandy Patinkin pauses at the door and is barely disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is accurate and well mastered, although, as a mostly dialogue (and song) driven film, it probably won't knock your socks off. The disc includes an English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) track plus German, French, Italian, and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. I listened to the English track and sampled the others. Dialogue came across clearly at all times and audio sync was never a problem.

    Yentl's score was composed by Michel Legrand (with lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman). The score by itself integrates well with onscreen events although, as I mentioned above, the songs, even though beautiful on their own, tend to overwhelm the film.

    In surround mode, the surrounds are used mostly to support the score, but also carried ambient effects (such as insects chirping during the song "Papa Can You Hear Me?" at 19:40 - 22:59 and chatter in the yeshiva (35:35 onwards)) to good effect. The foreign language dubs, however, are much more focused on the centre speaker. If you prefer any of these dubs, listen to them in stereo mode. The subwoofer barely registers at all.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Yentl is being re-released in Region 2 on 28 November with exactly the same specs as Region 4. It replaces an earlier French release with almost identical language options, although only in Dolby Digital 1.0. Yentl has not been released in Region 1 and does not appear due for a release there any time soon. Both available releases are in PAL so there is no need to favour one over the other: go for whichever option is cheapest.

Summary

    Yentl didn't quite live up to my earlier impressions and doesn't quite work as a musical. It's still worth watching for yourself.

    The video quality is excellent, with very few flaws, and is let down only by its lack of 16x9 enhancement (for which I deducted an extra star).

    Audio quality is very suitable for the film, with some effective surround usage.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Atkinson (read my bio)
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S336, using Component output
DisplayLG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V357
SpeakersDB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Wait for the R1 in ?2006? - Allan M
Mandy Patinkin's Character - REPLY POSTED
new US release in Feb 2009 - 16x9 -