When a Russian musician defects in Bloomingdale's department store in New York, he finds adjusting to American life more difficult than he imagined.
Back in 1984, director Paul Mazursky ('An Unmarried Woman', 'Down and Out in Beverly Hills') took a story from a student he was lecturing and made 'Moscow on the Hudson'. which follows a Russian Man defecting to the United States to be free. I know that sounds like a serious political drama, but that's not the case here, as Mazursky has cast Robin Williams in the lead role as Vladimir Ivanoff, a saxophone player for the Russian circus. Inspired by Mazursky's student's story of coming to America, the director has delivered a light-hearted video diary of sorts of Vladimir's first months in America with some comedic scenes of Vladimir learning English and working odd jobs.
What also plays out well here is the lack of a brutal or really any political message. Instead, this is just about a person who learns to adapt to a new way of life and find happiness, which is what we are all after, and of course Robin Williams plays the part to perfection. The story centers around Vladimir Ivanoff (Williams) in Russia, playing his saxophone in the circus. Their circus troupe is offered a show in New York City and to the big apple to perform.
Right before they had back to Moscow, the troupe is allowed to purchase some gifts from Bloomingdales, which is where Vladimir defects in front of supportive people and a news camera and crew. The security guard at Bloomingdales allows Vladimir to stay at his place while he gets on his feet and the cosmetics counter girl falls for Vladimir. From here, we see a basic day-to-day in the life of Vladimir as he searches for his happiness. Williams plays the part with a very nice and subtle comedic genius. He does not overplay his welcome in an over-the-top silly performance, but rather a very realistic man, who tries to make the best of his situation.
Williams even learned Russian and to play saxophone for this role. The other actors turn in solid performances as well with a wealth of young cameos throughout, which if you blink, you might miss them. Again, Mazursky wasn't trying to go for some political message here, which was a breath of fresh air in these types of films. 'Moscow on the Hudson' is much lighter than that and has some genuine comedy throughout, and just wants to tell the story of a man adjusting to a new, free life in America with all of its ups and downs.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Moscow on the Hudson' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Twilight Time and is Region A Locked. There were only 3,000 copies made. The disc is housed in a clear, hard plastic case with an insert that consists of an essay by Julie Kirgo on the film.
'Moscow on the Hudson' comes with a good 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The detail is sharp and vivid throughout, with closeups revealing every strand of hair on Robin Williams' beard and arms. Makeup blemishes on the clowns also look excellent too. The wider shots of Bloomingdales and the city of New York City look great too with every scuff mark, hand print, and stitch in the clothing coming through nicely.
Colors are very well saturated and pop off screen from the blue skies of New York City to the red security jackets at Bloomingdales. They all looks excellent. Black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are natural. There is a good layer of grain too, keeping the filmic image in tact. There were no major issues with any debris, banding, or video noise in this 30-year old film, leaving the video presentation with great marks.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, as well as a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo option. Both mixes are great, but the 5.1 offers more immersion and surround activity of ambient noises in the big city, as well as the music of the film. Sound effects of the circus and cars passing by all sound robust and full with ambient noises of people chattering on the street and fireworks in the background all sound excellent.
The echoes in the courtroom also sound great and realistic. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, even with the thick Russian accents, and are free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills. This is a great audio presentation with a good soundtrack with heavy jazz tones.
Audio Commentary #1 - Director Paul Mazursky talks about making the film, as he discusses where he got the story from and inspiration for the overall story arc. He also talks about casting Robin Williams and how the constructed some of the sets in New York City. This commentary track was recorded several years ago, but still delivers a ton of informations on the cast, crew, and production. Definitely worth a listen.
Audio Commentary #2 - This is a new commentary with film experts Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman from Twilight Time, as they go over the production of the film and the cast and crew's careers. There is also some great information and background on the film itself here.
Isolated Score - You can watch the film with the score only in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo sound.
Twilight Time Booklet - This is a fully illustrated booklet with stills from the movie, poster artwork and an essay by Julie Kirgo on the film.
'Moscow on the Hudson' is a fine piece of filmmaking with Robin Williams playing one of his most subtle yet stunning roles as a Russian in New York City, trying to find happiness. This is a great mix of comedy and drama, but is never overly politicized, which is always nice. This is a true heart warming film and Robin Williams is excellent in it. The video and audio presentations are both good here, and the two commentary tracks are both worth listening to. Highly Recommended!