Alice Review

The story:

Alice (Mia Farrow) is having a midlife crisis. She's been married for almost 16 years and is very wealthy; her husband (William Hurt) is kind and caring but their marriage seems to be running out of steam. She is finding herself to be quite unhappy in her role as a house-mother. However, she's met an interesting divorcee (Joe Mantegna) whilst picking up her children at school - but having an affair is really not something she feels she'd be able to do... Quite by accident she gets recommended to an acupuncturist - Dr. Yang (Keye Luke) - who's supposed to be able to do wonders for painful backs... However, he also seems to be quite into alternative medicine and gives Alice some herbs that have magical powers that will change her life...

Woody's problem over the years is when he decides to make a dead-pan serious film it just doesn't work - Interiors was, by his own admission, a failure with little intrinsic redemptive value; when he attempts a comedy without himself in front of the camera (Celebrity, Sweet and Lowdown), the comedy levels tend to drop unbearably low. Alice however falls in between those two chairs and is all the better for it - it's not an out-and-out comedy nor is it a self-conscious hand-wringing drama - it's a perfect in-between. Unsurprisingly, Manhattan, Hannah & her sisters and Radio days also fall into this hallowed category and they were arguably his best.

Although not hitting the heights he achieved with Hannah in his savant mix of tragedy and comedy, he does manage to keep us interested in Farrow's character throughout... Carlo di Palma, Allen's usual director of photography, keeps with the general low-key ambiance of the movie and the acting and direction follows suit. The plot, although arguably a little thin, features Allen's usual obsessions: morality, God and New York; Allen for once seems to be in quite a contemplative mood and doesn't unnecessarily savage the moral aspirations of his characters - in fact he is surprisingly uncynical almost as if this film was meant as an antidote to his previous one: Crimes and Misdemeanors. All in all, a very interesting piece from Allen - maybe not a cornerstone but an entertaining addition to his immense body of work.

The DVD:

The image:
The image suffers a little from some specks and is a little too soft at times but overall the transfer is problem free. Some grain is often apparent on close inspection but doesn't really get in the way. The rendered colours are not as vibrant as I expected them to be but the transfer is anamorphic and correctly framed which seems to be a standard occurrence on all of Woody's DVD escapades. Not a stunning transfer but an above average one...

The sound:
Like most of Woody's films, this was filmed in mono and it remains so on this DVD - the day Woody releases a 5.1 remix, I'll change my name to Bonzo! The sound is nice and clear with the dialogue and the music blending perfectly together... As most of the recordings used in this film are from the 30s-40s (as usual handpicked from Woody's record collection), they were recorded in mono in the first place so really nothing is lost. We also get a French, German and Spanish dub of the film and a horde of subtitles including English.

The menus:
Made up of stills from the film, these are unanimated and basic. One is made to choose between English, French, German or Spanish menus when the DVD starts up.

The extras:
The only extra we are given is the theatrical trailer which is presented in an anamorphic transfer and seems to have been nicely transferred. Woody won't watch his films after release so a commentary is certainly out of the question. Given his bitter split with Farrow, I wouldn't expect her to be too willing to contribute anything to the DVD either. So that's how we end up with no extras to really talk of!
It's a shame however that MGM don't make a little more of an effort with these releases as I think that an exclusive interview with Allen would be a worthwhile addition - he will openly discuss his films as long as he doesn't have to watch them and will always have something either interesting or amusing to say about them...


Despite being given a slightly indifferent release by MGM, it's nice to see Woody's back-catalogue being released onto DVD as many were getting very hard to find on video. Although a little more low-key than his habitual work, this a worthy effort from Allen although probably not one I'd choose to watch over and over again.

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out of 10

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