• Husbands And Wives

    Released by: Twilight Time
    Release date: January 23, 2018
    Directed by: Woody Allen
    Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Judy Davis, Sydney Pollack, Juliette Lewis, Liam Neeson, Lysette Anthony, Cristi Conaway, Timothy Jerome, Ron Rifkin, Bruce Jay Friedman
    Year: 1992
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Middle-aged college professor Gabe Roth (Woody Allen) and his middle-aged magazine-editor wife Judy (Mia Farrow) are taken by surprise when their middle-aged best friends Jack and Sally Simmons (Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis) announce plans to divorce one evening as they’re all headed out for Chinese. And while the Simmonses bend over backwards to present the decision as an amicable one that will allow them both to “grow” as people, it knocks the Roths, especially Judy, for a loop. After all, they reason, if a couple as seemingly stable as Jack and Sally can split, how safe can their own marriage really be?

    Not very, as it turns out. As Jack strikes up an affair with a beautiful nitwit of an aerobics instructor (Lysette Anthony), Gabe begins entertaining impure thoughts about a student of his named Rain (Juliette Lewis). Not to be outdone, both Judy and Sally develop a case of the hots for Judy’s co-worker Michael Gates (Liam Neeson). The interaction among all these grownups makes for a sometimes funny, sometimes harsh indictment of the human capacity for romantic commitment. Nobody involved here is very good at deciding what he or she really wants, and by the time it all shakes out, longtime friendships are damaged, broken, and reconfigured (while one marriage makes it and one doesn’t).

    Husbands and Wives easily ranks among the best of Allen’s work. The writing is sharp, and the performances are flawless. Shot in a faux-documentary style in which the characters pause now and then to explain themselves (think TV’s Modern Family), it sits stylistically somewhere between Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage and Paul Morrissey’s New York Trilogy (Flesh, Trash, and Heat).

    Critics at the time almost universally praised the film, and it made about $10 million in 1992 box office dollars. It was also, as it happened, the last Allen film made before the dissolution of his relationship with Farrow in favor of her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi. Critics and commentators at the time had fun speculating on the similarities between the script and real-life events, but most of those speculations seem pretty forced in hindsight. Less an autobiographical showcase than a reflection on the transitory nature of marriage, Husbands and Wives is a class act deserving of repeat viewings.


    Twilight Time brings Woody Allen’s masterful Husbands and Wives to Blu-ray via an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. As this represents Allen’s transition away from his Ingmar Bergman phase, giving up a colorless palette in favor of a darker, more amber-hued look, he trades off-screen chiaroscuro for on-screen, low-light lamps for interiors while continuing his use of overcast days for exteriors. In part because of the lighting situation, detail is not hugely improved over the earlier Columbia TriStar DVD, though there’s moderate improvement, particularly in faces, which Allen loves to showcase (the film does contain ‘interview’ segments, after all). Viewers shouldn’t expect vibrant colors, however, as these were never a part of the film; the end product is grounded in browns, reds, and burnt sienna to achieve an autumnal look (the time during which the film is set as well as a symbolic reflection of the period in which the primary marital relationships have entered). Grain is mostly filmic and foundational, though there are a few darker scenes in which the noise level is slightly higher than the rest of the picture. This is never too problematic. Some viewers will note that the image is at times shaky, which has everything to do with Allen’s use of a handheld camera to create an intimate portrait of familial bonds and the intrusive emotions that threaten them.

    For the primary audio track, Twilight Time has opted for English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. The rare musical digressions tend to be related to specific songs that reflect the mood of a given scene rather than an attempt by Allen to manipulate his audience. In all other instances, music is either pressed into the background or nonexistent, with Allen preferring the facial expressions, body language, and vocal intonations of his cast to invoke raw emotional reactions in the viewer. Dialogue is clear and crisp and mixed well with ambient sounds and sound effects. English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired are included, and per their standard, Twilight Time includes an isolated music and effects track.

    The only non-aural extra is the original theatrical trailer. All of this is housed on a single BD50, resulting in the film being spread out over plenty of disc space. There are no issues with compression artifacting or print damage, and dirt and debris are kept to a minimum. This doesn’t look like a recent transfer, but it certainly isn’t terrible.

    As with virtually all of Twilight Time’s titles, and most definitely the Woody Allen releases, Husbands and Wives is limited to 3,000 units. There are also perceptive liner notes by Twilight Time historian Julie Kirgo in the form of an 8-page booklet.

    The Final Word:

    Husbands and Wives is one of Woody Allen’s greatest films, an engaging and very human look at interpersonal relationships involving love and sex. Per the director’s wish, Twilight Time brings the film to Blu-ray sans extras other than the theatrical trailer. The image has an amber-hued look and is slightly shaky at times in reflection of Allen’s directorial choices. With the image spread out over so much space, there are no issues related to compression, and Allen’s color schemes and framing remain as intended.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2018.

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