Based on a short story for Saturday Evening Post by Maurice Walsh, The Quiet Man is the story of a boxer who travels from Pittsburgh to his home village in Ireland to purchase his old family farm as he deals with locals while falling for a woman whom he wants to spend the rest of his life with. Directed by John Ford and screenplay by Frank S. Nugent, the film is an exploration of a man wanting to return to his roots and start a new life while dealing with conflict from those who don’t see him as worthy of anything. Starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick, Francis Ford, and Ward Bond who also does the film’s narration. The Quiet Man is a majestic and rapturous film from John Ford.
The film follows a former boxer who has returned from Pittsburgh to a small Irish village to purchase his old family cottage as he gets the ire of his neighbor who wanted the land as the tension worsens when the boxer falls for his neighbor’s sister. It is a film that plays into this man who has chosen to leave behind the world of boxing but also wanting to return home to his old family cottage in order to restore the family’s legacy while falling for this woman whose brother has immense hatred for. Frank S. Nugent’s screenplay, with un-credited contributions by John Ford, is largely straightforward as it is told mainly from the perspective of Father Lonergan (Ward Bond) who narrates the story as it opens with the arrival of Sean Thornton (John Wayne) who goes to the village of Inisfree with a lot of money in wanting to buy the cottage that his family used to live in when he was a child. Upon his arrival, Thornton gets a glimpse of a fiery redhead in Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara) whom he tries to court only to realize her older brother is Squire “Red” Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) who is upset that Thornton purchased the cottage and land from the rich widow Sarah Tillane (Mildred Natwick) who accepted Thornton’s offer.
Though Red refuses to have his sister wanting to do with Thornton despite the town’s embracement of him due to his family history. Mary Kate does fall for Thornton as many of its locals including Father Lonergan, the matchmaker/bookmaker Michaeleen `Oge Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald), the Protestant Reverend Cyril Playfair (Arthur Shields) and his wife Elizabeth (Eileen Crowe) decide to create a little lie that would get Red to allow his sister to marry Thornton. Yet, things eventually get complicated making things for Thornton and Mary Kate troubling with the former also carrying the guilt into why he ended his boxing career as he is unwilling to get physical with Red. Even as the latter has a dowry that she had worked for and wants as Thornton is unsure in how to get it without getting physical as he is afraid of what he might do.
John Ford’s direction is definitely full of richness in its imagery as many of its exterior locations were shot on location in the Ireland counties of Mayo and Galway with the interior locations shot at the Republic Studios backlot. Ford’s usage of the wide shots definitely add to the beauty of the locations with so much attention to detail of the hills and mountains in the background as well as the fields and grass in the foreground. It plays into the vastness of the village while Ford also employs a lot of close-ups and medium shots for the scenes at the cottage and at the pub where the characters go to. Even as it play into the drama such as the scene where Red meets Thornton for the first time at Tillane’s home where Ford definitely showcases the tension that looms throughout the film while also infusing bits of comedy when Flynn is asked to watch over Thornton and Mary Kate as their courtship begins.
Ford’s direction also plays into the difference between American and Irish customs as it is something Thornton has trouble with when it concerns the latter as well as his own confusion about Mary Kate’s dowry. It is a moment where Ford definitely shifts from the male perspective of things to Mary Kate’s own perspective of pride as she is someone who has to tend to her brother and his mates yet has worked hard to make something for herself. While Thornton has everything he can get her, the dowry isn’t something that Mary Kate needs as Thornton would eventually understand as Ford does create some unique shots as it plays into Thornton’s own fear about his past and what he’s afraid he might do. Yet, it all comes down to this climatic moment that is all about Thornton needing to prove how much he loves Mary Kate and what he must do for her. Overall, Ford crafts a riveting and evocative film about an Irish-born American ex-boxer trying to get the approval of his neighbor so he can marry that man’s sister.
Cinematographer Winton C. Hoch does brilliant work with the film’s Technicolor cinematography as it captures the lushness of the locations along with some low-key lighting for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Jack Murray does excellent work with the editing as it has some unique rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and action along with a few transitional dissolves. Art director Frank Hotaling, with set decorators John McCarthy Jr. and Charles S. Thompson, does amazing work with the look of the interiors of the cottage that Thornton used to live in as a child as well as the home of Danaher. Costume designer Adele Palmer does fantastic work with the costumes from the look of the dresses that Mary Kate wears as well as some of the fine suits and casual clothing that Thornton wears.
The special effects by Howard and Theodore Lydecker are terrific for its usage of a few of the film’s minimal effects such as some of the medium shots of the characters on a carriage with rear projection footage in the background. The sound work of Daniel J. Bloomberg, T.A. Carman, David H. Moriarty, W.O. Watson, and Howard Wilson is superb for capturing the sounds of the crowd during some big events including the film’s climax along with the sound of music that is played on location. The film’s music by Victor Young is incredible for its luscious score that mixes orchestral string arrangements with traditional Irish folk as it is a major highlight of the film that include traditional songs that play into the atmosphere of the film.
The film’s wonderful ensemble cast as it feature some notable small roles from Jack MacGowran as Red’s assistant Ignatius Feeney, May Craig as a woman with a fish basket at the train station, Paddy O’Donnell as a railway porter, Eric Gorman as a train engine driver, Kevin Lawless as a train engineer fireman, Joseph O’Dea as a train guard, Sean McClory and Charles FitzSimons in their respective roles as the locals Owen Glynn and Hugh Forbes who are skeptical towards Thornton at first only to accept him due to his family heritage, and James Fitzsimons as a young pastor in Father Paul who would inform Father Lonergan about the events in the film’s climax. Arthur Shields and Eileen Crowe are superb in their respective roles as the Reverend Cyril and Elizabeth Playfair as a couple who help in creating a courtship for Thornton and Mary Kate with the former knowing Thornton under another name as a boxer. Francis Ford is terrific as an elderly villager in Dan Tobin who knows about the Thornton family as well as being supportive of him.
Mildred Natwick is fantastic as the widow Sarah Tillane as a rich woman who owned the land and cottage that used to be Thornton’s home as she accept Thornton’s offer against Red’s offer believing he will do more for the community. Ward Bond is excellent as Father Peter Lonergan as the film’s narrator who is among those who immediately accepts Thornton while also giving Mary Kate some guidance as he brings some humor including his quest to catch a large salmon. Barry Fitzgerald is brilliant as Michaeleen `Oge Flynn as a matchmaker/bookmaker who is the first to befriend Thornton as he is aware of Thornton’s family as he does what he can to guide Thornton about the Irish customs as well as courting Thornton to Mary Kate. Victor McLaglen is amazing as Squire “Red” Will Danaher as Mary Kate’s older brother who is upset at Thornton in buying the land and cottage that he hoped to get while also doing what he can to not approve the courtship between Thornton and his sister in an act of pride and arrogance.
Finally, there’s the duo of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in tremendous leading performance in their respective roles as Sean Thornton and Mary Kate Danaher. O’Hara’s performance is full of radiance and energy as a woman who is independent and prefers to do things her way despite having to care for her brother while also trying to save up money for her own dowry. Wayne’s performance is surprisingly tender as well as witty as a man who just wants to return to his roots as well as wanting something simple as a way to hide from the guilt he is carrying from his time in Pittsburgh. Wayne and O’Hara together just have immense chemistry in the way they deal with each other but also try to be respectful towards another as they are a major highlight of the film.
The Quiet Man is a sensational film from John Ford that features great leading performances from John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Along with its incredible ensemble supporting cast, gorgeous cinematography, beautiful locations, its exploration of pride and guilt, and Victor Young’s enchanting music score. It is a film that isn’t just this exhilarating and intoxicating romantic film but also an exploration of two people wanting to create a life for themselves despite the ire of a man who is full of pride because he couldn’t get what he wants. In the end, The Quiet Man is a phenomenal film from John Ford.
Directed by Carla Simon and written by Simon and Arnau Vilaro, Alcarras is the story of a family in the Catalonia region of Spain as they deal with changing times as their peach orchards is being threatened by solar panel instillations that would threaten their livelihood. The film is a drama that revolves around a family who are known for harvesting peaches as they are forced to go against a new society that wants them to stop from doing what they know. Starring Jordi Pujol Dolcet, Anna Otin, Xenia Roset, Albert Bosch, and Ainet Jounou. Alcarras is a ravishing and riveting film from Carla Simon.
Set in the small town of Alcarras in the Lleda area of the Catalonia region in Spain, the film revolves around a family who run a peach orchard farm as they learn that their orchards are to be destroyed for the building of solar panel instillations as a family struggles to keep things together amidst the growth of changing times. It is a film with a simple premise though its screenplay by Carla Simon and Arnau Vilaro is largely loose to explore the life of this family. Notably as it features an aging patriarch in Rogelio Soles (Josep Abad) whose family had been given the land from a family after saving them during the Spanish Civil War where he and his family have maintained this land for generations. Running the orchard is his son Quimet (Jordi Pujol Dolcet) who is now struggling with keeping things afloat with his wife Dolors (Anna Otin), his eldest teenage son Roger (Albert Bosch), teenage daughter Mariona (Xenia Roset), and youngest daughter Iris (Ainet Jounou) helping out along with his brother-in-law Cisco (Carles Cabos), wife Nati (Montse Oro), and their twin sons Pere and Pau (Joel and Isaac Rovira, respectively).
Along with workers they hire to help pick up peaches, the Sole family is dealing with this new threat in the government building solar panel instillations not just around their land but also on their orchard. Longtime family ally Joaquim Pinyol (Jacob Diarte) makes a suggestion in having the family help build the solar panel instillations for money but Quimet refuses despite Rogelio wanting to maintain peace with the family despite the fact that the Pinyol are rich and live far more comfortably than the Sole family. Still, Pinyol’s offer has Cisco and Nati considering it as a way to make money against the wishes of Quimet while Cisco and Roger both planted marijuana secretly within the orchards in the hopes that the marijuana would help the family financially as the latter does what he can to help his father despite his erratic behavior as well as taking out his anger towards Rogelio which upsets Mariona who has become fond of her grandfather. Even a visit from Quimet’s sister Gloria (Berta Pipo) doesn’t make things easier as she tries to help them out despite living in the city as she becomes frustrated with Quimet’s desperation in trying to save the orchards.
Simon’s direction does bear some elements of style yet a lot of it is straightforward as it is shot on location in Alcarras and areas nearby to play into the struggle of this family and their orchards as the house and orchard fields are a major character in the film. There are a lot of wide shots of these locations including the Sole family house where it is small and features a swimming pool yet it is a home that a lot of character while its first image is of Iris, Pere, and Pau playing with an abandoned, broken-down car until a construction crane arrives as the kids are forced to watch in horror as this car is taken away from them. It sets the tone for the struggle this family would endure as Iris, Pere, and Pau are just adolescents that just want to play while Roger and Mariona are just teenagers trying to help out but also wanting their own lives. Simon maintains intimate moments with her usage of close-ups and medium shots to play into the activities of this family that includes Mariona rehearsing dance moves with friends for an upcoming performance as a traditional festival while Roger hangs around with friends at a party involving bikers while he would walk home shifting a water damn so that the orchards wouldn’t be overwatered and the ground become muddy.
Simon also plays into this element of social and political turmoil where the Pinyol family lives in a posh neighborhood that Rogelio would sometimes go to so he can bring peaches to the family. Even as there’s a subplot of farmers staging a protest against the government over the building of these solar panels which threatens not just their farms but also their livelihoods. While the script doesn’t have much of a structure, it does allow Simon to showcase a family through good times and bad times where Quimet would get upset as he is doing what he can to finish the harvest. Even with Roger stepping up and helping out everyone including the few migrant workers they can pay as he is praised by everyone but Quimet feels that Roger should focus on his education rather than help out the family. Tension would come to ahead late in the film but also some realization into the sacrifices a family had to make but also how the fallacies of the modernism could try and destroy a family. Overall, Simon crafts an intoxicating and gripping film about a family’s livelihood being threatened by the world of modern society.
Cinematographer Daniel Cajias does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on natural lighting along with usage of available lights for some of the exterior scenes at night including a scene early in the film of the men shooting rabbits for eating the peach orchards. Editor Ana Pfaff does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump cuts as well as other stylish cuts to play into some of the drama that include some intense moments. Production designer Monica Bernuy and set decorator Marta Bazaco does amazing work with the look of the Sole family home with its small rooms as well as the garage filled with old cars, motorcycles, and tractors along with some of the places in town that family members go to. Costume designer Anna Aguila does nice work with the costumes as it is mainly casual and a bit ragged to play into the social standing of the Sole family with Pinyol wearing a cowboy hat and expensive casual clothing.
Visual effects supervisor Massimo Cipollina does terrific work with the visual effects as it largely low-key as it is largely set dressing for a few bits including moments in the film’s final moments. Sound designer Thomas Giorgi does superb work with the sound in capturing many of the natural elements presented on location to create that air of realism in the sound. The film’s music by Andrea Koch is wonderful as it mainly appears in the film’s final credits in its usage of woodwind instruments to play into the somber aspect of the film while much of its music soundtrack plays on location as it consists of modern pop and electronic music along with a few traditional folk songs.
The casting by Mireia Juarez is remarkable for casting largely non-professional actors as it gives the film that air of realism as it feature some notable small roles from Antonia Castells and Elna Folguera as a couple of elderly aunts who come to the house every once in a while, Djibril Casse as a migrant worker that Iris befriends, and Jacob Diarte as Joaquim Pin who is a longtime family friend that tries to help out the Sole despite the fact that he is taking advantage of them. The performances of Joel and Isaac Rovira in their respective roles as Cisco and Nati’s twin sons Pere and Pau are a joy to watch with Ainet Jounou being a major standout as their cousin Iris as they bring a lot of energy as children who just want to play but also help out their parents and grandfather any way they can. Berta Pipo is superb as Quimet’s younger sister Gloria who visits the family to help out and see what is happening as she becomes troubled by her brother’s behavior. Montse Oro and Carles Cabos are fantastic in their respective roles as Nati and Cisco with the former being Quimet’s younger sister as she and her husband both decide to take Pinyol’s offer as a way to help the family despite the fury they would receive from Quimet.
Xenia Roset and Albert Bosch are excellent in their respective roles as Dolor and Quimet’s teenage children in Mariona and Roger as two teens who both help out their family with the peach orchards while also wanting to do their own thing with Mariona becoming concerned for her grandfather’s well-being and Roger hoping to plant marijuana as a way to make money to help the family. Josep Abad is brilliant as Rogelio Soles as the family patriarch who copes with the chaos over everything around him as he deals with the idea of death as well as what would happen to his family. Anna Otin is amazing as Dolor as Quimet’s wife who is trying to keep things at bay despite some of the financial trouble with the family while wanting to keep the peace with her in-laws. Finally, there's Jordi Pujol Dolcet in an incredible performance as Quimet Sole as Rogelio’s son who is trying to run the peach orchard as he deals with changing times and family turmoil in an attempt to save not just his family orchards but their way of life where he would do awful things as well as the emotional and mental toll it would take on him.
Alcarras is a tremendous film from Carla Simon. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, its exploration of a farming family dealing with modernism, and its emphasis on realism. It is a film that explores the life of a family in a region in Spain that is unique from the rest of the country while dealing with themes that are relevant in its fallacies on modernism. In the end, Alcarras is a spectacular film from Carla Simon.
Based on the novel by Miriam Toews, Women Talking is the story of a group of women living in an isolated religious colony as they deal with a series of sexual assaults committed by the men in their community towards them as well as how to confront this incident. Written for the screen and directed by Sarah Polley, the film is based on real-life incidents at the Manitoba Colony at a Mennonite community in Bolivia where women deal with not just being raped but also being powerless in a world isolated from modern-day society. Starring Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand. Women Talking is a haunting and gripping film from Sarah Polley.
Set in a remote Mennonite colony in 2010, the film revolves the aftermath of an incident involving an attempted rape where one of the women attacked her attacker as a bunch of them discuss about what to do as many of the men have left the colony to bail out the attacker. It is a film that explores women as they talk about what had happened but also what they’ve experienced as they discuss what to do next in this remote community as well as the idea of whether things will change after what had happened. Sarah Polley’s screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative though it is told by a teenage girl in Autje (Kate Hallett) to an unseen character where it mainly revolves around this meeting in a barn where a group of women plus a couple of teenage girls and a male schoolteacher. They all discuss about what to do after this violent incident as all of the women took a vote, despite being illiterate, on what to do as the choices were to do nothing and beg for forgiveness, stay and fight, or to leave the colony. The latter two choices led to a tie with some of the women discussing whether to stay and fight or to leave the colony into the unknown.
Throughout the course of the film, the women talk about their options as one of the elders known as Scarface Janz (Frances McDormand) who voted to do nothing believes that if they resist. They will bring more trouble and would be judged in the afterlife as she leaves the meeting early with her daughter and granddaughter who are both resistant of doing something. Salome (Claire Foy) is the one who had assaulted an attacker as she wants to fight after what had happened while her sister Ona (Rooney Mara) was raped and is currently pregnant is unsure though she has suggestions on what to do if they do stay and fight. The schoolteacher August (Ben Whishaw) records the meeting on paper as two of the elder women in Greta (Sheila McCarthy) and Ona/Salome’s mother Agata (Judith Ivey) take part in the meeting along with Mejal (Michelle McLeod), Greta’s granddaughter Autje (Kate Hallett), another teenager in Neitje (Liv McNeil), and Greta’s daughter/Autje’s mother Mariche (Jessie Buckley) are also in the meeting with Mariche is also unsure due to its possible outcome. Even as they receive news that Mariche’s husband is returning to get more bail money as the women do whatever to reach a decision on their fate.
Polley’s direction is definitely mesmerizing in not just its overall presentation but also the intimacy it has as it is shot on location near Toronto as the location itself with its harvest fields, barns, and houses in this farmland is a character in the film. Polley uses a lot of wide shots for the locations what include scenes of children playing in the fields and crops as well as Greta’s own stories about her own horses and the small amount of freedom she has driving her buggy. Much of Polley’s direction is set inside the second floor of this barn where the women talk about what to do with August moderating the whole thing as he is the only person that knows what the world outside of the colony is like despite the fact that his family had been excommunicated. Polley’s usage of close-ups and medium shots are key to the film as it does feature a few humorous moments while a lot of it is straightforward in its drama with arguments and such along with anecdotes on the idea of forgiveness.
Blood is a recurring image throughout the film as the first show is a shot from above of Ona waking up with blood and bruises around her crotch along with brief flashbacks of women waking up in bed with blood on the bed. There is also a shot from bird’s eye point of view in the barn that plays into the meeting as well as these intense discussions about what to do as well as making the ultimate decision after learning that Mariche’s husband is returning later in the night. The film’s third act is about this decision with many of the women aware of the consequences as well as the risks and sacrifices they’re taking as it also play into August’s own sacrifices as he is the only man that listened to the women as it relates to the young men and boys who are expected to carry on the ideals of their fathers in this remote community where August has to teach guide them to realize there’s more out there. Overall, Polley crafts a chilling yet intoxicating film about a group of women discussing the aftermath of a sexual assault incident in a Mennonite colony.
Cinematographer Luc Montpellier does amazing work with the film’s cinematography with its low-key naturalistic lighting along with a bit of desaturation in some of its exterior/interior daytime scenes along with low-key natural lighting for some of the scenes at night. Editors Christopher Donaldson and Roslyn Kalloo do excellent work with the editing as it features a few montages that play into the horror that these women endure while also using some straightforward cutting to capture the rhythm of the conversations. Production designer Peter Cosco, with set decorator Friday Myers and art director Andrea Kristof, does fantastic work with the look of the barn where the women have their meeting as well as some of the interiors of the homes they live in. Costume designer Quita Alfred does amazing work with the dresses that the women wear as well as the overalls that the men and boys wear as it play into the look of the colony as well as the details into the culture of the Mennonite.
Key hairstylist Antoinette Julien and makeup artist Ashley Rocha do terrific work with the makeup from the scar on Janz’s face as well as some of the bruises that the women have on their bodies. Visual effects supervisor Kevin Chandoo does nice work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects in bits of set dressing for some of the wider shots to showcase the world outside of the colony. Sound editors David McCallum and Jane Tattersall, along with sound designer Siamak Omrani, do superb work with the sound in the way some of the natural sounds appear on location as well as things sound from afar. The film’s music by Hildur Guonadottir is incredible for its mixture of orchestral textures, dissonant percussive arrangements, and folky instrumentation as it plays into the drama as well as a few of the film’s suspenseful moments while music supervisor Mandy Mamlet cultivates a soundtrack that features a few traditional hymns and the Monkees’ Daydream Believer that is played when the census man visits the farm for a census count.
The casting by John Buchan and Jason Knight is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Eli Ham as Mariche’s abusive husband Klaas, Nathaniel McParland as Salome’s son Aaron, Emily Mitchell as Salome’s sickly daughter Miep, Kira Guloien as Janz’s daughter Anna, Shayla Brown as Janz’s granddaughter Helena, and August Winter as a mute transgender boy in Melvin who had been raped as he rarely speaks except to the other children in the colony. Kate Hallett and Liv McNeil are fantastic in their respective roles as the teenage girls Autje and Neitje who both take part in the meeting as they were the ones to witness one of the attackers that Salome would go after with the former being Mariche’s daughter who wants to leave the colony. Michelle McLeod is superb as Mejal as a young woman who wants to stay and fight as she feels like little is going to change in doing nothing while is also unsure about leaving.
Frances McDormand is excellent in her brief role as Scarface Janz as an elder in the colony who prefers to do nothing in the hope that she and the other women can be forgiven in the hopes they will reach the Kingdom of Heaven. Judith Ivey and Sheila McCarthy are brilliant in their respective roles as the elders in Salome and Ona’s mother Agata and Mariche’s mother Greta as two women who have seen a lot and both express their own concerns but also realize that nothing is going to change if they don’t do anything about it. Ben Whishaw is amazing as August as one of the few men who stayed behind as many of them left to bail out the attacker as he observes and records the minutes of the meeting while also providing his own opinions as an outsider of sorts as he is also a schoolteacher for the colony who believes he can guide the young boys into doing something other than harming women.
Claire Foy is incredible as Salome as Ona’s older sister who had attacked the man that is in jail as she wants to stay and fight as she is a woman filled with rage over what happened while also willing to listen to reason as she is concerned for the well-being of her children. Jessie Buckley is phenomenal as Mariche as a woman who had endured a lot of abuse as she is hoping that forgiveness will defuse the situation while also revealing the lack of choices she has as a wife who is married to a man who treats her and her children terribly. Finally, there’s Rooney Mara in a sensational performance as Salome’s younger sister Ona as woman who is pregnant from a rape as she wants to leave the colony but also leave the door open for forgiveness with some ideas for change.
Women Talking is an outstanding film from Sarah Polley. Featuring a tremendous ensemble cast, Hildur Guonadottir’s eerie music score, evocative visuals, and its exploration of sexual assault and women trying to deal with the aftermath in a remote religious colony. It is a film that doesn’t just explore women dealing with being sexually assaulted in this remote colony but also having to confront that these ideals enforced by men has done nothing to keep themselves or their children safe. In the end, Women Talking is a magnificent film from Sarah Polley.
Directed by Domee Shi and screenplay by Shi and Julia Cho from a story by Shi, Cho, and Sarah Streicher, Turning Red is the story of a Chinese-Canadian teenage girl who turns into a red panda due to a hereditary curse she has inherited from her family as it plays into her growing pains as well as trying to defy the ideas of expectations from her mother. The film is a coming-of-age animated film that follows a young girl who experiences growing pains as she enters into an age where many things change for her in the most unexpected ways as well as coping with the curse she’s inherited from her family. Featuring the voices of Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, and James Hong. Turning Red is a majestic and exhilarating film from Domee Shi.
Set in 2002 Toronto, the film revolves around a thirteen-year old Chinese-Canadian girl who experiences growing pains as it leads to becoming a red panda with her mother trying to stop the curse from happening at a worst possible time as it plays into expectations and identity for this young girl. It is a film that does play into this young girl coming of age as her issues is sort of a metaphor about young women having their periods when it is really about a relationship between this young girl and her strict and overprotective mother. The film’s screenplay by Domee Shi and Julia Cho is set during a time period when teen-pop music was still hot with teenage girls being into boy-bands with this Chinese-Canadian girl in Meilin “Mei” Lee (Rosalie Chiang) is someone torn with not just pleasing her mother Ming (Sandra Oh) but also wanting to do things other teenage girls do as she and her three fans are big fans of this boy-band known as 4*Town while gaining an attraction for boys.
Ming would discover drawings Mei made over a young convenience store clerk as she would embarrass Mei as it would lead to a dream involving red pandas as Mei would discover herself as a red panda the next morning. For Mei, it comes at the worst time as Ming would discover this and reveal she went through the same thing but claims to have a cure for it as a ritual would be performed on the day of a red moon lunar eclipse. Mei’s friends would discover Mei as a red panda but accepts her problems as they would support her until a game of dodgeball where an antagonistic classmate gets her angry as she becomes the red panda much to the delight of a lot of her classmates who thinks she is the cutest thing. Mei and her friends would use the red panda as a way to raise money to buy concert tickets to see 4*Town while not revealing anything to Ming as the concert is a week before the red moon lunar eclipse yet Ming’s mother/Mei’s grandmother Wu (Wai Ching Ho) is set to arrive in Toronto for the ritual with Mei’s aunts as well where a lot of revelations are unveiled. Even as it play into Ming’s own experiences as the red panda and her own relationship with her mother forcing Mei to make decisions for herself and what she wants.
Shi’s direction is definitely full of lively visuals and lavish presentation as it is set in 2002 Toronto during a lively time in popular culture as it relates to the music teenagers were listening to. Even as there’s a lot of attention to detail in Shi’s direction as it relates to the people living in Toronto as there’s not just Asians but also people of Indian/Pakistani/Punjab descendants, Koreans, African-Canadians, and many others where it is this community where everyone lives together and interact where Mei helps her parents run one of the few Chinese temples in the city. With the aid of animation supervisors Aaron J. Hartline and Patty Kihm as well as production designer Rona Liu, with art directors Jason Deamer, Carlos Felipe Leon Ortiz, Laura Meyer, and Kristian Norelius, in bringing a lot of attention to detail on the look of the Lee’s family temple and the places in and around Toronto. The city is a key character in the film as it play into Mei’s own growth as well as this sense of conflict over doing everything to please the parents or to follow your heart.
Shi’s direction does have a lot of wide shots that often feature shots of CN Tower in the background as well as the Rogers Centre (then known as the SkyDome) with the latter being the centerpiece of the film where 4*Town is to perform. There are some unique close-ups and medium shots that Shi creates in the animation as it plays into Mei’s emotional mood swings such as the moment she discovers she became a red panda as well as her mother’s reaction. The film’s third act relates to not just the ritual that would free Mei from her red panda persona but also this concert that she and her friends want to go to as it plays into a conflict that Mei goes through. Even as there’s revelations about her mother and her own complicated relationship with Mei’s grandmother as it culminates with this moment of a young girl trying to understand her mother and the pressures of a child having to do whatever they can to live their own life but also to please their parents. Overall, Shi crafts a riveting and intoxicating film about a young girl dealing with growing pains by turning into a red panda.
Cinematographers Mahyar Abousaeedi and Jonathan Pytko do amazing work with the film’s cinematography in creating lighting schemes for some of the interior scenes at night as well as the look of the ritual for the film’s climax. Editors Nicholas C. Smith and Steve Bloom do excellent work with the editing in playing up some of the humor and action-inspired moments with some straightforward cuts as well as some stylistic moments. Visual effects supervisor Danielle Feinberg does nice work with the visual effects to help enhance the look of some of the sets as well as creating some effects for some of the filmed video stuff that Mei and her friends create. Sound designer Ren Klyce and co-sound editor Coya Elliott do brilliant work with the sound as it help play into the way music sounds from afar as well as the sound effects in Mei’s transformation into a red panda. The film’s music by Ludwig Goransson is incredible with its mixture of traditional Chinese instruments and orchestral elements to play into this clash of cultures while its music soundtrack features additional music from Destiny’s Child, DJ Casper, and a couple of Asian boy bands plus original songs by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell for the fictional group 4*Town that features vocals from O’Connell, Jordan Fisher, Josh Levi, Topher Ngo, and Grayson Villanueva as the group singing these songs in the style of early 2000s pop music as it is a highlight of the film.
The casting by Natalie Lyon and Kevin Reher is wonderful as it feature some notable small voice contributions from the quartet of Lori Tan Chinn, Lillian Lim, Sherry Cola, and Mia Tagano as Mei’s aunts, Lily Sanfelippo as a classmate in Stacy who is among the first who sees the red panda as she thinks it is cute, Sasha Roiz as one of Mei’s teachers in school, Addie Chandler as a convenience store clerk whom Mei and her friends have a crush on, Tristan Allerick Chen as a classmate named Tyler whom Mei and her friends aren’t fond of as he’s often antagonistic towards them, and James Hong in a terrific small voice role as a local elder in Mr. Gao who helps take part in the ritual as its shaman. Wai Ching Ho is fantastic as Mei’s grandmother/Ming’s mother Wu as a woman who is aware of what is going on with Mei while also trying to reconnect with Ming feeling that there’s unfinished business. Orion Lee is excellent as Mei’s father/Ming’s husband Jin as a man who is often quiet while understanding what is going on yet believes that Ming is expecting too much from Mei where he would discover something about Mei’s time as a red panda that would prove to be inspiring.
The trio of Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and Ava Morse are amazing in their respective roles as the aggressive and energetic Korean-Canadian Abby Park, the mellow Indo-Canadian Priya Mangal, and the tomboyish Miriam Mendelsohn as Mei’s best friends who are big fans of 4*Town as they also help Mei with her dilemma despite the fact that Ming thinks they’re a bad influence. Sandra Oh is brilliant as Mei’s mother Ming as a woman who expects the best from her daughter but is also strict and overprotective where she slowly unravels over what Mei becomes as well as not letting Mei be herself. Finally, there’s Rosalie Chiang in an incredible voice performance as Meilin “Mei” Lee as a thirteen-year old Chinese-Canadian teenager who experiences growing pains in the form of a red panda whenever she gets really emotional as she doesn’t just deal with this new identity but also her own issues with her mother but also not wanting to go against her as it is a performance filled with energy and angst.
Turning Red is a phenomenal film from Domee Shi. Featuring a great ensemble voice cast, themes of growing pains and generational conflicts, dazzling visuals, and an amazing music score and soundtrack. The film isn’t just this compelling coming-of-age film that explores a young girl coming of age but also an exploration of the mother-daughter relationship and the expectations parents have towards their children that are overwhelming at times. In the end, Turning Red is a sensational film from Domee Shi.
Directed by Federico Fellini and written by Fellini, Bernardino Zapponi, and Brunello Rondi, La citta delle donne (City of Women) is the story of a businessman who is trapped inside a hotel as he encounters women all over the hotel and the city around him. The film is a fantasy-comedy that plays into a man who is forced to confront his own attitudes about men and women as it forces him to think about everything he’s done including his relationship with his wife. Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Prucnal, Bernice Stegers, Donatella Damiani, Iole Silvani, and Ettore Manni. La citta delle donne is a majestic and rapturous film from Federico Fellini.
The film is about a surreal journey of a businessman who follows a woman he meets on a train in an attempt to seduce only to find himself in a hotel full of women where a lot of chaos ensues as he is forced to deal with his ideas about men and women and his relationship with the latter. It’s a film that explores a man who is asleep on a train only to wake up where he meets this beautiful passenger whom he would make out with in the bathroom only to leave as he would follow her into a forest that is a pathway to a mysterious hotel that is the beginning of a series of misadventures in the course of an entire day. The film’s screenplay by Federico Fellini, Bernardino Zapponi, and Brunello Rondi does play into the male gaze towards women but also this idea of what a man wants in a perfect woman in its possible existence. The film does have a unique structure based on its settings as the first act largely takes place in this hotel where its protagonist Snaporaz (Marcello Mastroianni) has followed this woman (Bernice Stegers) from a train they were both on as the hotel is full of women.
Notably as there’s conferences relating to feminism, performance art installations, discussions on men vs. women, and other things where Snaporaz looks on in awe yet he ends up getting into trouble until he is saved by Donatella (Donatella Damiani) who would put him into more trouble. The second act has him leaving the hotel thanks to a woman motorcyclist (Iole Silvani) yet she has her own ideas that would put him into trouble but also lost in the countryside where he would later meet a group of teenage women and young women as he would eventually find shelter in the home of Dr. Xavier Katzone (Ettore Manni) who isn’t fond of feminism and rowdy women. Dr. Katzone is a unique figure as a man whose home is filled with a lot of things including a grand hall devoted to the women he had been with as he’s about to have a party where one of his guests is Snaporaz’s estranged wife Elena (Anna Prucnal) who isn’t happy to see him. It plays into Snaporaz’s own fallacies but also his own desires where he sees Donatella at the party as its third act is this strange fantasy that plays into past events in Snaporaz’s life as well as the male gaze where he is confronted for his own faults with women.
Fellini’s direction is definitely grand as it plays into this idea of fantasy and surrealism as it plays into a man and his love for women but also how he sees them. Shot largely at Cinecitta Studios in Rome with various locations in small Italian countryside areas, Fellini does maintain some simplicity in terms of his close-ups and medium shots when it play into characters looking at each other or reacting to something around them. The intimacy does play into Snaporaz’s encounter with his surroundings and women does have this element of style where Fellini keeps the spectacles at a restraint to focus on Snaporaz’s emotions and frustrations towards the way women treat him. Then there’s the wide shots as Fellini uses them to capture not just some of the exterior locations but the extravagance of the places that Snaporaz goes to including Dr. Katzone’s lavish home and the hotel itself with its rooms including a gym where Snaporaz watches all sorts of activities including women learning martial arts to kick a man in his nuts. Fellini also uses these settings into not just explore feminism and its faults but also the fact that men haven’t made things easier as Snaporaz is a man stuck in his old ways while is trying to be understanding.
Unfortunately, he does see them as objects of desire while the scene at Dr. Katzone’s home where he converses his wife showcases a lot of his faults as a husband as it reveals why they’re separating. Even in a scene where she is nude and wants to have sex with him where it is clear that they’re no longer on the same page since Snaporaz wants to be with other women and doesn’t appreciate her. Its third act is Fellini at his most lavish in terms of its set pieces with this air of whimsy to play into Snaporaz’s own life and his childlike innocence towards women that evolved into something more masculine where he is forced to confront his faults as a man. Its climax is also lavish as it plays into the male gaze but is seen mainly by women in what a man will do to reach its idea of the perfect woman that is followed by an ending that is ambiguous but also one where it is about this man who is forced to come to terms about his relationship with women. Overall, Fellini crafts a dazzling and exhilarating film about a businessman who enters into a world inhabited by women where he deals with his fantasies and realities.
Cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno does brilliant work with the cinematography with its lush and natural look for some of the film’s daytime exterior scenes to the usage of stylish lights for many of the interior scenes including the hall of women at Dr. Katzone’s home. Editor Ruggero Mastroianni does excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts for a few scenes as well as some stylish cuts for some of the humor and drama. Production designer Dante Ferretti, with set decorators Bruno Cesari and Carlo Gervasi plus art director Giorgio Giovannini, does amazing work with the set design in the look of some of the hotel rooms that include performance art instillations, its gym, Dr. Katzone’s home including its hall of women, and the fantasy park that Snaporaz went to in the film’s third act. Costume designer Gabriella Pescucci does fantastic work with the costumes from the look of the police uniform some of the women wear during Dr. Katzone’s party as well as a lot of the clothes the women wear including some lavish gowns.
Makeup designer Giancarlo Del Brocco does nice work with the makeup of some of the characters in the look of some of the women in the performance art instillations as well as some of the fantasy scenes. The special effects by Adriano Pischiutta is terrific for some of the film’s minimal effects that largely relate to some of the film’s grand set pieces. The sound work of Pierre Paul Marie Lorrain and Tomasso Quattrini is superb for capturing the atmosphere of the locations as well as the raucous atmosphere involving lots of women in a crowd to play into the craziness that Snaporaz deals with. The film’s music by Luis Enriquez Bacalov is incredible for its playful orchestral score that has elements of strings and woodwinds to bring in some of its humor while also featuring music from old pop standards to the Italo disco of the late 1970s/early 1980s.
The casting by Liliane Betti is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Gabriella Giorgelli as a fish woman from Snaporaz’s childhood past in a fantasy ride, Catherine Carrel as a police commandant who charges Dr. Katzone with a charge over his party, the quintet of Marina Confalone, Dominique Labourier, Sylvie Meyer, Stephane Emilfork, and Helene G. Calzarelli as feminists, Silvana Fusacchia as a roller-skater that skates around a gym that is friends with Donatella, and Fiammetta Baralla as the mother of the motorcyclist who isn’t fond of these modern ideals as she is one of the few who is kind towards Snaporaz. Iole Silvani is fantastic as a motorcyclist who is first seen working at the furnace as she would take Snaporaz out of the hotel and back to the city yet she has her own motives of what she wants to do with Snaporaz.
Ettore Manni, in his final film performance, is excellent as Dr. Xavier Katzone as a reclusive rich man who hates feminism as he hosts a party to celebrate his 10,000th conquest as he has a hall devoted to all of the women he’s been with as he is this flamboyant figure. Bernice Stegers is brilliant as a woman Snaporaz meets in his train compartment whom he would follow as she is this object of desire that would lure him into trouble. Anna Prucnal is amazing as Snaporaz’s estranged wife Elena whom Snaporaz would see at Dr. Katzone’s party as she is someone who is bitter over their relationship and the lack of love he had towards her. Donatella Damiani is incredible as a woman Snaporaz meets at the hotel as she is this lively woman who is a feminist but is also kinder towards Snaporaz as she becomes this idea of everything Snaporaz wants in a woman. Finally, there’s Marcello Mastroianni in a tremendous performance as Snaporaz as a businessman who loves women and their bodies as he finds himself being confronted with ideas of feminism and such where he wants to understand yet is also clinging to his own ideals as it’s a performance that is full of charm and wit from Mastroianni that also has him acting like a child but also displays the humility of his faults as a man.
La citta delle donne is a phenomenal film from Federico Fellini that features a great leading performance from Marcello Mastroianni. Along with its supporting cast, incredible visuals, immense art direction, themes on the male gaze and their view on women, and a sumptuous music score. The film is a delightful journey that is filled with a lot of crazy turns that follows a man who deals with his idea of women as well as what women think of someone like him. In the end, La citta delle donne is a sensational film from Federico Fellini.
Two months into the New Year and already things are a fucking mess. What is happening in East Palestine, Ohio is scary along awful weather here in the U.S. as well as the war between Russia and Ukraine heating up. A shipwreck near the coast of Italy left a bunch of migrants dead while a flood/landslide happened near Sao Paolo, Brazil. Publishers deciding to re-edit books by Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming to make it less offensive to children when these people who are easily offended should just go fucking kill themselves since they can’t handle the word “fat” or anything that seems offensive so they can fuck off and die. That’s a lot of shit that had happened in the span of a month as things aren’t go so great in 2023 as it hasn’t been good to me either as I’ve contracted bronchitis again. I’ve been ill for a month due to a flu that I’ve contracted from my niece and nephew which they got from their mother who got it from a bunch of kids at the school she works for. My mother is also sick as she too now has bronchitis and it fucking sucks. I was forced to cancel plans I had in watching some films as I ended up re-watching Ted Lasso in anticipation for the new season coming March 15.
The one thing I hate about winter isn’t just the cold weather but getting sick yet it is these climate changes that has made things even worse. I hate having to cough in public as I’ve been wearing my mask again which doesn’t make things easier as well but for my mother. This is something she hasn’t experienced as she really hates this as it just takes much of her time with her work doing alterations for a few cleaners while also having to take care of her grandchildren during the weekdays as I’m helping out in picking up and dropping off alterations but this illness is making it nearly impossible. I’m more worried about the spring as that is my least favorite season though being at home has managed to help me do other things aside from watching my niece and nephew as I’ve started work on my LiT20 project which will come slowly but hopefully be ready in late August.
In the month of February 2023, I saw a total of 22 films in 11 first-timers and 11 re-watches with five of those first-timers being films directed/co-directed by women as part of the 52 Films by Women pledge. Not bad despite my illness as one of the highlights of the month has been my Blind Spot film choice in Buck and the Preacher. Here is the top 10 first-timers that I saw for February 2023:
A making-of documentary film on the making of the 1983 comedy Yellowbeard is a fascinating doc that explores not just the silliness that went on during the production. It also showcases the mixture of different comedic styles that were present in the film as there was Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, and John Cleese of Monty Python, Madeline Khan, Peter Boyle, and Marty Feldman from the Mel Brooks films, Cheech and Chong, and many others. The cast interviews are fun with David Bowie being a fun surprise as it explains how he got to do a cameo all because he was on location in Mexico having a vacation. Even seeing someone like a revered actor in James Mason having fun and goofing around is a joy to watch though the eventual film is a mess but a good mess.
A short film by Emilija Skarnulyte that revolves around the sea as it is this great mixture of documentary and fiction set in the deep sea. It goes into places that are rarely explored with its imagery is ravishing with jellyfishes, crabs, and other creatures make the film something that feels otherworldly as it is worth seeking out on MUBI.
Assembled: The Making of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
A new entry in Marvel’s documentary series is not just one of the best but also a look into the immense work that Ryan Coogler, cast, and crew did with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It is a documentary that showcases not just the impossible in creating a film without Chadwick Boseman but also the amount of research they did in wanting to expand the world of Wakanda as well as go into deep in exploring Mesoamerican culture. Water is a key factor in the film as they used not just accomplished swimmers and stunt people to help the actors with holding their breaths and swimming under water. It also play into this sense of peace and purity while showing how scenes were filmed without water and underwater as it plays into Coogler’s determination as a filmmaker.
A Wild Patience Has Taken Me Here
Another short that I saw on MUBI by Erica Sarmet revolves around a biker who catches a glimpse of young women as she realizes that things have changed but for the good as she is a lesbian. It is a short that is a celebration of the lesbian lifestyle as it is rich in imagery as well as showcase what was it like in Brazil during the 1960s/1970s for lesbians who had to hide their sexuality in comparison to what is happening in the present as it is a short worth checking out.
Another short film that I saw on MUBI that is by Naila Guiguet focuses on trans DJ/actress Dustin Muchuvitz who plays a woman at a rave that is dealing with a crumbling relationship and other issues in the course of one night. It is a film that studies this woman that is trying to have fun for her night as it also feature other trans actor/actresses that appear in films that Muchuvitz was also in that are also available on MUBI.
Genesis: Live at Bataclan
A 1973 concert film that was originally filmed in 16mm at the Bataclan venue in Paris has been given a recent 4K restoration that gives the small concert short film a presentation that isn’t just visually beautiful but it also sounds incredible. Featuring songs from that time period with the classic line-up of vocalist Peter Gabriel, guitarist Steve Hackett, bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist/guitarist Tony Banks, and Phil Collins on drums/backing vocals. It is something fans of Genesis should see despite the lack of shots for Hackett’s guitar solos as he is continuously underappreciated for his contributions.
That ‘90s Show (episodes 8-10)
This show was better than I thought it would be as the last three episodes of the first season definitely has me enjoying these new characters as they were able to show some personalities while not trying to be like its predecessor. It also has me anxious for the second season as well as what would come the season finale does sort of end on a cliffhanger as it relates to Leia returning to Chicago as it is clear she is confused with her feelings for boys but also is going to miss the friends she had made. I look forward to the next season as well as Eric Forman’s reaction to the 1997 special-edition versions of the original Star Wars trilogy and the eventual meltdown he will have for The Phantom Menace as he might be even worse than Red.
Wrestling Match of the Month: Bryan Danielson vs. Timothy Thatcher-AEW Dynamite-2/1/23
The build-up for the upcoming pay-per-view event AEW Revolution has admittedly been lackluster as last week’s major announcement about a new reality TV series for AEW was considered a let-down as audiences were more concerned about the state of the Ring of Honor tag team titles or maybe a new TV/streaming deal for the company or anything that could help AEW. Still, the news is good for the company in the eyes of Warner-Discovery as it relates to TV rights negotiations though the only other positive thing about the show is that it will hopefully replace that stupid Power Slap show hosted by Dana White. Despite some of the lack of buzz for AEW, the wrestling remains strong as the match between Bryan Danielson and British wrestler Timothy Thatcher is a true technical powerhouse. Notably as it’s a match that Danielson had to win in order to face MJF at the main event of AEW Revolution in a one-hour iron-man match for the AEW World Heavyweight Championship. It was a punishing and brutal match that gave American audiences to see not just Thatcher and mixture of technical prowess with the bruising British strong style. It also showcase what Danielson could do with an opponent like Thatcher.
Well, that is all for February. Next month, I’m not sure what theatrical release I’ll watch next month as I will focus on films that are available on the streaming services I have while I anticipate the new seasons for both Ted Lasso and The Mandalorian. For my Blind Spot, it is likely I’ll do The Quiet Man since it will be March as I hope it will still be on Amazon Prime. Before I bid adieu, I want to express my condolences to the friends and families of those who have passed such as Raquel Welch, Stella Stevens, animator Burny Mattinson, Gordon Pinsent, basketball legend Terry Holland, Richard Belzer, Barbara Bosson, Patti Love, George T. Miller, Chuck Jackson, pro wrestling legend Jerry Jarrett, film producer/Telluride Film Festival co-founder Tom Luddy, cinematographer Oliver Wood, Hugh Hudson, Burt Bacharach, and Lanny Poffo aka the Genius. May all of you enjoy the afterlife as until then, this is thevoid99 signing off.
Directed and co-starring Sidney Poitier and screenplay by Ernest Kinoy with a story by Kinoy and Drake Walker, Buck and the Preacher is the story of a wagon master who teams up with a pistol-packing preacher to deal with white bounty hunters while they’re on a journey towards West with emancipated slaves. The film is a western set years after the American Civil War where two different men work together to get freed slaves to a new home and deal with white bounty hunters with Poitier and Harry Belafonte playing the respective titular roles. Also starring Ruby Dee, Cameron Mitchell, Denny Miller, Enrique Lucero, Julie Robinson Belafonte, Clarence Muse, and Lynn Hamilton. Buck and the Preacher is an exhilarating and riveting film from Sidney Poitier.
Set years following the events of the American Civil War, a wagon master who helps lead wagon trails to the West deals with white bounty hunters who are trying to get the former slaves back to the South where the wagon master in Buck teams up with a man known as the Preacher to deal with these evil forces. It is a film based on real-life events for African-Americans who decide to move west on a wagon trail of their own as they had to deal with white bounty hunters in an attempt to get things back the way they were. Ernest Kinoy’s screenplay play into these groups of African-American people on a wagon trail as they were former slaves who want to move to the West to find a new world yet they’re hired by former plantation owners to get them back to Louisiana in an attempt to restore the old ways. Many of these travelers turn to Buck, who is a former soldier, as he would help them in their travels yet has to deal with these men lead by Deshay (Cameron Mitchell) while a man in Reverend Willis Oaks Rutherford aka the Preacher is offered $500 to capture Buck yet he realizes what Buck is doing as he too would cause trouble for Deshay and others.
Even as African-American settlers would be ambushed with women and children being killed by Deshay and his men with money also stolen from them that they needed to buy seed, supplies, and other things they need for their journey with Buck being paid to help them reach their destination. The Preacher sees what is going on as he is reluctant to help Buck but is aware that the people are the ones in need of help as he and Buck would come up with ideas to not only get their money back but also ask the help of the Native Americans who have their own issues with the white men.
Sidney Poitier’s direction definitely has elements of style in the film while retaining many of the hallmarks expected in a western as it is shot on location in Durango, Mexico. Though it was initially helmed by Joseph Sargent who would then be replaced by Poitier a few days into production due to Sargent’s lack of understanding towards the African-American experience. Poitier would infuse not just a lot of the imagery of African-Americans trying to go into the West to find a new home where there’s an old man in Cudjo (Clarence Muse) who would perform old magic with bones to give him a message. It plays into this sense of danger that African-Americans had to deal with as a young woman in Sarah (Lynn Hamilton) had to hide dollar bills around her body from the white bounty hunters. Poitier doesn’t shy away from the severity of the violence though it isn’t graphic but rather the aftermath of wagons being burned and destroyed as well as tents and such where men are digging a hole to bury the bodies including a child. Poitier’s usage of close-ups and medium shots don’t just add to the suspense and drama but also the desire of two men trying to think in how to deal with Deshay and his men that includes his young nephew Floyd (Denny Miller) as they’re both lawless, racist individuals.
Poitier also creates some unique wide shots as the locations are key to the story including some of the mountains, rivers, and valleys that the wagon trail and other characters venture into as well as small towns where Buck and the Preacher would concoct a plan with the aid of Buck’s wife Ruth (Ruby Dee) as it relates to getting the money Buck is owed as well as the money that was stolen from the wagon trail. Poitier does create some moral ambiguity for Buck and the Preacher though they don’t intend to kill innocent people nor do they want to cause trouble while a local sheriff (John Kelly) who wants to capture Buck and the Preacher for what they did as it relates to Deshay is someone who does uphold the law as he doesn’t like what Deshay and Floyd do in harassing African-Americans. The film’s climax is a shootout yet it is all about location and what Buck and the Preacher do to get the posse away from the wagon trail where Poitier doesn’t just get these great wide shots to showcase the point of view of where Buck and the Preacher are against this posse but also the Natives who watch from afar. Overall, Poitier crafts a gripping yet captivating film about a wagon master and a gun-slinging preacher trying to help their people reach a new world away from evil white racist bounty hunters.
Cinematographer Alex Phillips Jr. does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with the opening usage of sepia-drenched filters for the film’s first few minutes to the vibrant colors of the daytime exterior settings and low-key lighting for the scenes at night. Editor Pembroke J. Herring does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts for the action and some of the film’s comedic moments. Production designer Sydney Z. Litwack, with set decorators Ernest Carrasco and Ray Moyer, does fantastic work with the look of the tents and shacks that the settlers live in as well as the town that the white people mainly stay in. Costume designer Guy C. Verhille does terrific work with the costumes from the black suit and hat the Preacher wears to the ragged look of Buck. Sound mixer Tom Overton does superb work in capturing the sounds of gunfire, horses running from afar, and other natural sounds to help maintain a tense atmosphere for the film’s suspenseful moments. The film’s music by Benny Carter, with additional music from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, is incredible for its offbeat score with elements of traditional folk and blues that is filled with some offbeat string instruments and other tidbits to play into not just the suspense and drama but also in some of the film’s humorous moments.
The casting by Billy Gordon is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Lynn Hamilton as a young woman in Sarah who helps hide the money for the freed slaves that she would carry around her body, Nita Talbot as a brothel madam in Madame Esther who would invite Deshay and his men for a good time only to get into some trouble of her own, John Kelly as a local sheriff who would go on the hunt for Buck and the Preacher for breaking the law yet wants no part of Deshay’s posse in killing African-Americans, Clarence Muse as an elderly African-American in Cudjo who uses old magic to get answers, James McEachin as a young African-American who turns to Buck for answers on what to do, Enrique Lucero as a Native American tribal chief who wants no trouble yet is fair to Buck, Julie Robinson Belafonte as a Native American woman who interprets for her chief as she helps relay the message for Buck and the Preacher, and Denny Miller as Deshay’s nephew Floyd who wants to help his uncle in turning the African-Americans back to South as he has little regard for the law.
Cameron Mitchell is excellent as Deshay as a bounty hunter who is hired by plantation owners to get former slaves back to the South as he sees it as a way back to the old ways while he is also aware of Buck whom he isn’t fond of. Ruby Dee is brilliant as Buck’s wife Ruth as a woman who is eager to go to Canada as she later takes part in Buck and the Preacher’s plan to rob a stationary/bank while also lamenting over Buck’s weariness in helping out the people. Finally, there’s the duo of Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte in tremendous leading performances in their respective titular roles with Poitier being this former soldier who leads a wagon trail as he deals with the dangers of the Wild West as well as Deshay where he also admits to being weary but is willing to do what he can. Belafonte brings a lot of charm and energy to his character as he often preaches the gospel while also bringing some back story about the clothes he wears as he is also someone that becomes aware of what is at stake as he helps out Buck. Poitier and Belafonte together are a joy to watch as they’re two different personalities all with the same goal as they also prove to be a duo that can’t be messed with.
Buck and the Preacher is a phenomenal film from Sidney Poitier that is led by the great performances of Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Along with its supporting ensemble cast that includes Ruby Dee plus, gorgeous visuals, a playful music soundtrack, and its exploration of post-American Civil War racial tension. It is a western that doesn’t just bear the elements that are crucial to the genre but also infuse it with the African-American struggle as well as bringing voice to those people who just wanted a new home. In the end, Buck and the Preacher is a sensational film from Sidney Poitier.
Sidney Poitier Films: (A Warm December) – (Uptown Saturday Night) – (Let’s Do It Again) – (A Piece of the Action) – (Stir Crazy) – (Hanky Panky (1982 film)) – (Fast Forward) – (Ghost Dad)