You Don't Have To Go To Poland For A Rainy Day In New York

So there's not a lot of information out there about it, but Woody Allen's latest film, A Rainy Day In New York - yes, the one Amazon broke their contract by refusing to release - is currently available on blu-ray.  From Poland.  It's totally importable to the US; I did it.  Though it might help if your search for "W deszczowy dzien w Nowym Jorku," rather than "A Rainy Day In New York."  But is it English friendly?  Progressive scanned?  Nobody's talkin'.  Writing about DVDs and BDs that aren't getting duly covered anywhere else, though?  I guess that's my purview.  So hey, let's do it!

Update 1/22/20 - 9/15/21: It's been a wacky journey sorting out ways to import this film in the US. But in the end, it turns out we didn't need to. A US label called MPI picked it up for distribution, and ironically enough even got it picked up by Amazon Prime for streaming!  ...Also, in further Update Week business, I've also added Criterion's 2018 DVD to my Women In Love comparison.
My first thought was wow, this is our second movie in a row with a sizeable, central sequence taking place in a major New York museum.  Has the city started some kind of new tax shelter for filmmakers or something?  Anyway, what we've got here is a smart, charming, but maybe a little bit lazy romantic comedy by Allen.  It's got a great supporting cast, including Liev Schrieber, Jude Law who absolutely disappears into his role (I was wondering when he was going to appear only to realize I'd been watching him for the past couple of scenes) and Rebecca Hall who I only wished had gotten more screen time.  The movie glides from beautiful location to beautiful location, masterfully shot by Vittorio Storaro (The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Apocalypse Now, Reds) with heavily romanticized horse-drawn carriage rides through rainy city streets.  This is the kind of film where a depressed college student laments that he needs a cigarette and "a Berlin ballad," which is going to push literalist commercial audiences away.  But for those prepared to be whisked away into another world, rather than demanding a mirror reflection of their own, this echoes some of Allen's previous conjurings of heightened Hollywood fantasy, like Midnight In Paris or Magic In the Moonlight.
Before I could get my hands on this film, I'd seen several critics poke fun at this aspect of the film, like it's an unintended side effect of Allen having grown out of touch.  For example, the lead character's name is Gatsby Welles, which they'd poke fun at for being so heavy handed.  But they can't have been paying much attention if they didn't realize this is all a deliberate discussion the Allen is trying to have with us.  There's actually a critical reveal (which I won't spoil) of why our protagonist is known as Gatsby Welles in the third act, and throughout all of the various plot threads, the characters are addressing, directly or indirectly, our relationship with artistic ambitions, hierarchy and pretentiousness.  Looking back at reviews that seem to have completely somehow missed that is downright frustrating.
On the other hand, though, I doubt this is going to top anyone's list of favorite Allen films, certainly not mine.  I mentioned laziness earlier, and while some of this film's humor consists of cleverly elicited genuine laughs and reminds one of the famous genius penning the script, some other intended comedy felt well-trodden if not downright hack.  The "funny" reason one supporting character wants out of his wedding with his fiancee is lifted right out of episodes of Seinfeld and Cheers.  And there are too many easy jokes at a young girl's naivete, and double entendres about a prostitute that seem shockingly unaware of how little good will Allen already has left with audiences regarding his relationships with women.  Like, I was just re-watching Whatever Works, and when the young ingenue (Evan Rachel Wood) starts to develop romantic feelings for the much older man (Larry David), I thought, in a vacuum, this would be a fine avenue to explore and the film handles it well.  But within his body of work, where ignorant younger women are constantly being paired up with impatient older men like they're ideal relationships, and given what we know of his real life controversies, it winds up just stopping the film dead and making it feel sleazy (until Laura Linney and Ed Begley Jr. finally show up and take the film in new directions).  Here, our romantic leads are all young, but the sequences where older men do hit on and try to take advantage of a younger woman get distracting in ways that don't help the film.
And how about our young leads?  Elle Fanning, from Sophia Coppolla's Somewhere, is quite good, but she isn't helped by the writing, which limits her character a little too much.  And Timothee Chalamet falls into the trap of patterning his performance a little too much of Woody Allen's persona, sort of like Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity.  I somehow doubt Woody really tells his male leads to do an impression of him; it's just actors too readily decide they've cracked the code by imitating their auteur.  And Selena Gomez probably would've garnered the most raves, had this film received the mainstream attention Amazon's release would've afforded it, by showing how surprisingly well she can adapt to this kind of material.  She's the real surprise in all of this.
2019 Polish BD from Kino Swiat top; 2020 US BD from MPI bottom.

So how's Kino Swiat's blu-ray already?  Well, right off the bat, the picture's A-OK.  It's not interlaced, the wrong frame rate, or troubled with any of the other concerns you worry about when importing a foreign release that nobody reviews online.  It's from Kino Swiat, who I don't believe are connected to our Kino, but seem to be a legit Polish label that's been in the distribution game for a while now.  The film is presented in its OAR of 2.00:1, which I guess in this modern age where aspect ratios are arbitrary and no longer dictated by technical limitations, is starting to become a popular AR.  Rainy Day was shot digitally, so we're not concerned with film scanning, and on 4k; but I wouldn't hold my breath for a UHD.  It is a single layer disc, but at 92 minutes (21.8 GB) and no special features, I don't think over compression is really a concern.  So PQ wise, this is about as good as you could ask for.

And so, as you'd expect, MPI's disc is essentially using the same master for the same result.  Essentially.  The framing and everything is identical, and the compression is slightly different, but neither is really better than the other (this is also a single layer disc).  But there is one distinction.  The US BD is clearly a shade darker.  It's not something you'd notice outside of a direct comparison, but it's not hard to see.  I'd say it gives the US disc a slightly warmer, more seductive tone, giving it the edge.  But it's hardly "run out and replace it" worthy.
The subtitles might be, though.  See, the Kino Swiat offers us the choice of the original English 5.1 mix (in DTS-HD) with Polish subtitles, or a Polish overdub (as in a narrator speaks all of the lines in Polish and you hear all the original English audio underneath) with no subs.  So yeah, those subs are forced.  Now they're not burnt in, so if you have a player that lets you get around them, or push the forced subs off-screen, you're golden.  Or if you plan to watch it on your computer, rip the disc, etc.  But on my Samsung, for example, I could not turn those subs off while playing the English track.  I didn't find the subs terribly distracting, but it's certainly the disc's biggest flaw.

So thank goodness for MPI!  Besides getting rid of those Polish subs, they've included a DTS-HD 2.0 mix (in addition to the 5.1) and optional English subtitles.  The only slightly frustrating step backwards is that the Kino Swiat at least featured the film's trailer, in English with burnt in Polish subs.  MPI is completely barebones; they dropped the trailer for whatever inexplicable reason.
Ultimately, I think I’m happy I got the Polish disc at the time.  It would have been an infuriating wait, as MPI didn't come around with their release until the end of November, 2020.  And it wasn't too painful a double-dip to replace it, since MPI's disc was nice and cheap.  Those subs didn't bother me that much, but I'm also glad to see 'em gone, and the other improvements are a nice bonus that help take the edge off further.  And while the film is definitely towards the bottom of his catalog, it was still more than worth the time and trouble it took to add it to my collection.

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