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This review appears direct to the web courtesy of THE CINEMA LASER.

A MIDWINTER’S TALE

I am a big fan of Kenneth Branagh, and I have to admit I’ve enjoyed almost every one of his films. A MIDWINTER’S TALE ($35) is another delightful addition to his directorial resume. A MIDWINTER’S TALE is an intimate little comedy about a backwater production of HAMLET, produced for the benefit of an old church. Michael Maloney is Joe, the director and star of the piece who finances the production out of his own pocket. It is Joe’s hope that this production of HAMLET will nourish his spiritual needs as an actor, and hopefully get him some real work. Of course, with such a minuscule budget and limited run, only true theatrical eccentrics are attracted to the production.

A MIDWINTER’S TALE is a delightfully daft comedy about the theater, Shakespeare and about actors in particular. I found myself laughing out loud at many portions of the film, but then again I do have some theatrical insight. Many of the more subtle nuances of the film may be lost on the casual viewer. The rest of the cast includes Joan Collins, Richard Briers, Hetta Charnley, Nicholas Farrell, Mark Hadfield, Gerard Horan, Celia Imrie, Julia Sawalha and Joan Sessions. Every member of the cast is engaging; their performances are typically British and perfectly eccentric. Kenneth Branagh’s direction is right on the money. Branagh may have looked upon A MIDWINTER’S TALE as a preparation for the daunting task of producing, directing and starring in his own film version of HAMLET. With the critical acclaim Branagh’s HAMLET has received, A MIDWINTER’S TALE does make the most intriguing companion piece.

Columbia TriStar has given A MIDWINTER’S TALE a very impressive Letterboxed transfer which restores the proper 1.85:1 theatrical framing. A MIDWINTER’S TALE was produced in black and white which is intentionally bleak looking at times. Still, the black and white images feature deep blacks and wonderful contrast, especially during the performance sequence.

The digitally encoded Dolby Surround soundtrack has a very limited mix, with the stereo and surround channels used sparingly for dramatic effect. The sound quality is quite good, with the dialogue always remaining crisp and well focused. The Sony DADC had only some modest speckling.

I have to recommend A MIDWINTER’S TALE because it is the type of Laserdisc release that is very rewarding, yet tends to be overlooked by collectors who are overwhelmed by the blockbusters in the racks at their local Laserdisc emporiums.

 
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Laserdisc reviews are Copyright 1997 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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