• The Way We Were



    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: November 12th, 2013.
    Director: Sydney Pollack
    Cast: Barbara Streisand, Robert Redford
    Year: 1973
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Sydney Pollack's 1973 epic (back when films rarely approached the 2 hour mark) is famous for three things. The first is its resonant love story, the second is its award-winning score and the third is its exquisite use of its two somewhat problematical stars.

    In the 1970's Robert Redford had achieved serious popular stardom but unlike his friend Paul Newman he faced some skepticism from the industry that had made him rich. Many considered him a bit of a lightweight and something of a "pretty face" coasting on his looks and unwilling to take the risks of a Jack Nicholson. Streisand ironically had the opposite problem - perhaps unfairly she was seen as strident and difficult to work with though possessed of great talent. Her singing and acting ability was not in contention but her looks were considered "unconventional" by many.

    Which brings us neatly to THE WAY WE WERE.

    Framed in flashbacks and a sometimes labyrinthian structure the film tells the period story of passionate political activist Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand). We first see her at a radio station in 1944. Her boss is taking her out to a club as a treat for her hard work but when they encounter a slight problem getting into the establishment and Katie gets argumentative we see how difficult she can be. At the club Katie runs into a drunk at the bar that she went to college with - Hubbell Gardiner. He's a very good-looking but slightly vapid happy go-lucky guy with some writing ability. We get a flashback here to Katie at a campus anti-war rally from the 30's where she is protesting the Spanish civil war and Franco's brutalities. Hubbell is there as well but when Katie meets him she dismisses him as a frivolous young man. She softens a bit after learning he is a gifted writer who has been published however. The two even share an intimate dance at college graduation before parting. After college, Katie remains highly politically active and is leaning further left as time goes on. She is promoting strong relations between the United States and the Soviet Union as they both battle the Nazi threat during WWII. Katie ends up taking Hubbell home after their bar meeting but not much happens. She tells him to come look her up the best time he's in NYC. When he does just that later a romance begins to develop.

    Sydney Pollack was very much an "actor's director" since he started as one. He met Redford on the set of a film in 1960 and the two became friends. Pollack had a terrific relationship with the star and brought out the best of Redford in their seven films together. Playing a shallow but likable guy who coasts through life even though he is navigating some of the most turbulent times in American history, Redford (as sailor/former big man on campus Hubbell Gardiner) shines in a role that flirts with some of the admittedly unfair stenotypes he suffered in the business. Streisand does equally well with a potentially off-putting character more prone to snappy comebacks than genial conversation. She's sassy but earnest. As the majority of the film plays out against the events of the anti-communist HUAC hearings and the rising tide of McCarthyism we see just how complicated the romance is. Katie doubts Hubbell's strength of character and Hubbell admires Katie's convictions but doesn't agree with many of them. But yet they love each other.

    As a love story THE WAY WE WERE is perfect. As a testament to history it is also quite effective. The script nicely acknowledges some of the flaws with the leftist rhetoric of the day while also highlighting the evils of the red baiters. This complex material is handled astutely. With a sweeping narrative, strong supporting cast including a young James Woods, and terrific score this film is a classic of its kind.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    There is very little to say here except that this is a superb transfer. Whatever materials Sony provided to Twilight Time for this 2.35:11080p framed production were in almost flawless condition. Color is full bodied and rich. Details are strong and intricate - clothing texture and facial features in particular. Black levels? Ebony. DNR and digital tampering? Nowwhere to be seen. Print damage? Nope. This is a beautifully organic transfer.

    Audio is a very nicely rendered English 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that had no obvious flaws. Surround is strong but not overbearing and dialogue is clear and centered. The score sounds terrific as well.

    The extras begin with 2 great commentary tracks. The first is director Pollack who has great stories and tells them well. His pride in the film is obvious and this is an engaging and informative track that entertains as well. The second audio commentary features Twilight Time founder Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo and this focuses on the historical aspects of the movie. This one is well worth a listen for history buffs and those interested in studio politics (let's just say the money guys didn't want a film that they thought was "too" political).

    There is also a long documentary clicking in at over an hour about the making of the film in standard definition from 1999 that features Streisand and Pollack discussing the film with participation from screenwriter Arthur Laurents and producer Ray Starks as well as others. It's an interesting piece that includes deleted scenes that the studio had trimmed that dealt with the HUAC material.

    There is also an isolated music track and original theatrical trailer included.

    The Final Word:

    Highly recommended for anyone into quality filmmaking, historical dramas or fans of the stars involved. THE WAY WE WERE will probably be best loved by those who are moved by an intelligent romantic film however.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!