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Funny Girl / Funny Lady DVD

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Like giant monuments to good old-fashioned star quality, Funny Girl (1968) and Funny Lady (1975) hark back to the golden days of American vaudeville, while essentially celebrating one of the great, egotistical show-business talents of all time. Viewed end to end, these two films, which tell the story of Ziegfeld comedienne Fanny Brice, run for almost five hours. That's a lot of biopic. But with the greatest of respect to Brice, undoubtedly a formidable star of her time, the talent really in the spotlight here belongs to Barbra Streisand. Streisand created the role of Fanny Brice in the 1964 Broadway stage musical and her performance for the big screen is a tour de force, fully deserving the Best Actress Oscar which she received. As a biopic, Funny Girl is superior fare, full of sumptuous production numbers. Brice's glory days are explored against the background of her turbulent private life with her flawed playboy husband Nicky Arnstein (a sympathetic performance from Omar Sharif) with considerable attention to the details of her inner turmoil. More rambling and less cohesive, Funny Lady finds Fanny divorced but still in love with Arnstein (Sharif also revisiting his role), drifting into marriage number two with uncouth songwriter and impresario Billy Rose (the excellent James Caan), her successful career again juxtaposed with a less than happy personal life. Combined, both films measure Streisand's rise to greatness. In Funny Girl, the bravura of the performance as a whole masks occasional gaucheness, while if Funny Lady is the less impressive picture overall, it still marks how far she has developed as a screen actress. The rough edges are gone, replaced by a sophisticated poise and the sense of a talent that has come to terms with itself. And of course throughout she is superb in the musical numbers, which include her theme song "People" and the classic belter "Don't Rain on my Parade", as well as Brice's classic torch song, "My Man". On the DVD: this package of tremendous, old-fashioned entertainment takes the viewer back to pre-multiplex days when going to the cinema was an event you might dress up for. Funny Lady's soundtrack includes a pre-picture "Overture" to give you time to unwrap the chocolates. You really need some plush velvet curtains to swing back across the television screen. Then, guaranteeing a twinge of nostalgia, there's an intermission break. Both films are presented in their original widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Dolby Digital 5.0 (Funny Girl) and LCR (Funny Lady) soundtracks do justice to Streisand's lung power. The first disc offers the most interesting extras, including a couple of featurettes about Streisand. Both discs provide standard filmographies and song highlights so Streisand addicts can skip between numbers to their hearts' content.--Piers Ford

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Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 or region free DVD player in order to play

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