Dustin Hoffman Shines

Nominated for six Academy Awards, Bob Fosse’s Lenny is one of Hollywood’s greatest biopics. Starring an inspired Dustin Hoffman as controversial figure Lenny Bruce, the film is done in a pseudo-documentary style which covers the trailblazing comedian’s tumultuous personal life and career in brutal honesty. Lenny only missed out on Oscar gold by going up against cinematic juggernauts Chinatown and The Godfather Part II.

Immaculately directed by Bob Fosse (All That Jazz and Cabaret), Lenny chronicles Bruce’s stark rise as a vulgar comic who rankled the establishment. Interspersing parts of his stand-up routines, friends and family giving interviews looking backwards on the man, and dramatic snippets of Bruce’s life, Lenny’s superb editing captures the provocative funny man in a web of booze, pills, and sex. All which leads to numerous run-ins with the law and a parade of obscenity charges in the 1960s.

Lenny chronicles Bruce’s stark rise as a vulgar comic who rankled the establishment

Beginning as a mediocre stand-up comic touring night clubs in the Catskills, Bruce transforms comedy in the 1960s by pushing provocative and outrageous jokes for the day. Mercilessly attacking the establishment, his comedic material would look almost quaint within just a few years of his death.

Pushing the edge, Lenny Bruce unknowingly changed how comedians approached their craft and opened new avenues into previously unexplored topics.As law enforcement began opposing his edgier material, Bruce becomes a crusader for free speech as the legal system depletes his wealth. The fight would eventually ruin him, leading to an early death.

Mostly known today for playing Miss Tessmacher in the Superman films, Valerie Perrine plays Lenny Bruce’s first wife Honey. A former stripper, Bruce falls madly in love with Honey and for a while they have an act together before things start falling apart in their marriage. A portrait of Bruce’s personal life is filled out with glimpses of his Jewish mother Sally and his business agent Art.

Lenny Bruce was a one-of-a-kind personality and Hoffman captures that with glowing charisma. It’s a prime performance from a Hollywood legend when he was in the thick of his movie star career. Fosse originally wanted someone else for the role but it’s hard imagining anyone handling the acerbic comedian better.

Made during a time when Hollywood took real chances, Bob Fosse crafts an auteur biopic about a controversial figure with authenticity and genuine feeling.

Video

Filmed on special black-and-white Kodak stock, Lenny is a gritty 1.85:1 movie shot in an arthouse manner. Imprint licenses the same 2015 film transfer from the camera negative struck by MGM for Twilight Time’s earlier Blu-ray. Despite the heavy grain density, it’s a beautifully composed movie filled with masterful shadow structure and lovely detail.

The main feature runs 111 minutes on a BD-50, encoded in stout AVC. Lenny’s film elements are in superb condition, backed by a strong contrast and fine definition. Black levels vary some but generally serve the material. Some footage is rougher than normal but falls into the filmmaker’s prerogative nearly turning Lenny into a documentary. It’s a film-like transfer of steady black-and-white cinematography featuring excellent grain reproduction.

Audio

A score from Ralph Burns and dialogue come off quite well in excellent 2.0 PCM audio. The monaural mix reflects Fosse’s construction of the movie as part documentary with clear interviews and clean-sounding effects. An isolated score option is available.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

Imprint out of Australia issues Lenny as #286 in their Collection line, limited to 1500 units. The region-free BD arrives in a classy slipcase with striking original art. Imprint includes a swath of new special features on top of earlier extras found on the Twilight Time disc nearly a decade ago.

Even if you own the out-of-print Twilight Time BD, hardcore fans will want to add Imprint’s Lenny to their collection. Prices for Twilight Time’s release went out of control when that became scarce; pick up Imprint’s release before it’s too late.

Audio Commentary by film historian/filmmaker Daniel Kremer and filmmaker Henry Jaglom – A new commentary exclusive to this disc.

Audio Commentary by film historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo – A 2015 commentary pulled from the Twilight Time BD, this is a smart and insightful exploring Fosse’s approach and the general milieu surrounding Bruce.

Dead Neon: The Many Faces of Lenny Bruce on Film (29:04 in HD) – A video essay covering the comedian’s career highlighting rare footage of his performances.

On Fosse Time: Editing Lenny (22:17 in HD) – A new interview with editor Alan Heim on his collaborations with director Bob Fosse covering the non-linear approach and other subjects.

Trailers From Hell (04:28 in HD) – Robert Weide’s thoughts on Lenny.

Lenny Theatrical Trailer (02:53 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Lenny
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Summary

A brilliantly crafted biopic of the controversial comedian’s life starring an inspired Dustin Hoffman

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 42 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:


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