Written by: Michael Den Boer on December 24th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1971
Director: Elaine May
Writer: Elaine May
Cast: Walter Matthau, Elaine May, Jack Weston, George Rose, James Coco, Doris Roberts, Renée Taylor, William Redfield, Graham Jarvis
BluRay released: December 5th, 2017
Approximate running time: 102 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Olive Films
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.95
Synopsis: A playboy’s extravagant lifestyle, brings him to the brink of poverty. Not wanting to give up the lifestyle he has become accustomed too. He takes out a loan from his uncle, who forces him to put up his remaining assets as collateral. With only six weeks to raise the money he has borrowed from his uncle. He devises a plan to marry a wealthy spin tress, who he has every intention of murdering, once he has gained control of her fortune.
A New Leaf was the first four films that was directed by Elaine May. The Other three films being, The Heartbreak Kid, Mikey and Nicky and Ishtar. The screenplay for A New Leaf was adapted from author Jack Ritchie’s short story The Green Heart.
By the early 1970’s Hollywood cinema was in a transitional period, due to ever shrinking audiences. And needing a shot in the arm, the major studios would give a handful of first time filmmakers unprecedented freedom to create.
Unfortunately for many of these filmmakers, this would prove to be a cautionary tale. And Elaine May is a filmmaker whose career perfect fits into this scenario. It has been rumored that Elaine May’s original cut of A New Leaf was about eighty minutes longer than the version that was ultimately released by Paramount Pictures. And though it is unfortunate that Elaine May’s version will never be seen. The end result is a film that actually achieves the majority of its goals, despite the many obstacles that is has faced.
And nowhere is more evident, then in regards to the performances. With this film’s standout performance being Walter Matthau (The Fortune Cookie, The Odd Couple) in the role of Henry Graham, a man whose extravagant lifestyle has drained his inheritance. And note to be overlooked is Elaine May’s performance in the role of a wealthy spin tress named Henrietta Lowell.
Other notable cast members include, Jack Weston (Wait Until Dark, The Thomas Crown Affair) in the role of Henrietta’s lecherous lawyer, George Rose (The Flesh and the Fiends) in the role of Henry’s loyal butler and Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) in the role of Henrietta’s thieving housekeeper Mrs. Traggert.
Another strength of this film is how the visuals cleverly juxtaposition the film’s black humor. Standout moments include, a painful proposal scene where Henry accidentally kneels on broken glass, a scene where Henry researches ways to poison Henrietta while they are on their honeymoon and the film’s satisfying, albeit conventional ending.
A New Leaf comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The transfer for this release was sourced from new restoration from 4K scan of original camera negative. This new transfer from Olive Films is superior in every way, when compared to this film’s previous Blu-ray releases (including Olive Films 2012 Blu-ray release). With the areas of greatest improvement being image clarity and color saturation. Grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles have been included with this release. The audio is in very good shape, dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (1 minute 51 seconds), an interview with director Amy Heckerling titled Women in Hollywood: A Tragedy of Comic Proportions (7 minutes 1 second), an interview assistant editor Angelo Corrao titled The Cutting Room Floor: Editing A New Leaf (12 minutes 59 seconds) and an audio commentary with film scholar Maya Montanez Smukler.
Topics discussed in the interview with Amy Heckerling include, Hollywood and female directors, her own experiences as a director – most specifically her debut film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and her thoughts about Elaine May / A New Leaf.
Topics discussed in the interview with Angelo Corrao include, his origins as an editor, how he got the opportunity to work as an assistant editor on A New Leaf, how the film took six months to edit, how the film had negative preview screenings, what footage / scenes where removed and why, his thoughts about A New Leaf and collaborating with Elaine May.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, background information about Elaine May, Walter Matthau, A New Leaf, production related topics, The Green Heart – the short story that the film was adapted from, the impact that feminism had on 1970’s Hollywood cinema and information about various women director’s.
Rounding out the extras is a sixteen page booklet with an essay titled Ode on a Grecian Nightgown written by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and author Jack Ritchie’s short story The Green Heart. This extra can also be accessed on the Blu-Ray disc in the extras section.
Overall A New Leaf gets an excellent release as part of their Signature Series, highly recommended.
Note: This film is also being released by Olive Films on DVD.