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Nothing But a Man
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28 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

The Raging Bull of the 1960s

Author: Aw-komon from Encino
25 March 2000

Here's an American neo-realist masterwork that captures the temper of black consciousness in the south just prior to the mass upheavals of the era. Long before Scorsese made "Mean Streets" and "Raging Bull," Michael Roemer had made this great film. No other film dramatizes so profoundly the plight of a man whose basic human pride will not be compromised under any circumstances. Ivan Dixon as Duff gives one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema and Abbey Lincoln as Josie, the preacher's daughter he tries to settle down with, is just about perfect in control of nuance. These characters are extraordinary "ordinary" people, truly heroic; yet the tragedy that stalks them may or may not be hopeless at this time in history, due to an apparent shift in black consciousness, a general "fed-up-with-it-all" attitude that needs men like Duff to inspire itself. The entire cast is uniformly excellent and there are too many classic scenes to mention here. The film seems cut directly from the fabric of real life in semi-documentary-Rossellini-style. It is pure. "Little Fugitive" and "Medium Cool" are the only other pre-70s American films I've seen that feel this real. In terms of the subtlety with which racial politics and power relations are exposed through simple gestures and acts rather than rhetoric and melodrama, Martin Ritt's "Sounder" and Paul Schrader's "Blue Collar" are the only films I've seen that come close. Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep," also comes to mind. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here, especially by directors like Spike Lee, who I'm sure has seen this movie, and who has made decent films in the past (Do the Right Thing, She's gotta have it), but now wastes his time making laughable, "really hardcore," "I want to transcend puny barriers with overloads of style" cartoons like "Summer of Sam." "Nothing but a Man" is light years away from the nonsense they call "realism" these days. Over and out.

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22 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Terrific Film!

Author: Vicar of Cadillacs ( from Athens, GA
17 September 2001

I thoroughly enjoyed "Nothing But a Man." Unlike other films before it, it shows black men and casts them in lead roles instead of sticking them in white circles. It is an excellent and faithful depiction of problems that blacks faced, such as maratial, familial, and social dilemmas. This film also focuses on black masculinity and what being a black man is about, and it highlights the struggle and contrast of being free and easy and not tied down as opposed to being married and struggling for one's dignity. The film itself is great for its neorealistic style. It is like a documentary in many respects. It is black & white, gritty, and has no soundtracks running (save the Motown and the gospel). Unlike the race films of Micheaux and Williams who used this documentary-style depiction to push their messages, Roemer fearlesssly shows the brutality and bleakness of African-American life, with an ending reminiscent of Orwell's 1984. I loved this movie. It is honest, non-patronizing, and accurate. I saw it in my ethnic cinema class, and I highly recommend it.

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15 out of 15 people found the following review useful:


Author: IboChild from Pasadena, California, United States
19 December 1998

Unlike other well-intentioned films of the period, NOTHING BUT A MAN presents the main character as neither saint nor scoundrel, but as a complex man with human contradictions. Ivan Dixon gives one of the best performances of his career as the lead character of Duff. A film of rare quality and subtlety.

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14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A Groundbreaking Film

Author: stanmick from New York
8 October 2005

I've seen this movie twice and it touches me in a way that compels me to see it again and again. This film touches so many elements of poor southern existence that it feels more current than films made today. Though forty-one years later, with elements of the situational context dated, the film is eerily current. For example, with cotton-picking, day-working and railways section gangs replaced by newer working-class occupations, there remains a race-based hierarchy to life. NBAM brings to mind scenes from Crash minus the shock required for contemporary senses. I can only imagine what it was like to see this film when it was in the theater. As with so many genre-shifting and defing movies, watch it and the DVD extras section.

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

One of the greatest films about African-Americans ever made. ***Spoilers***

Author: TheQuietStorm from New York City
26 May 2000

This film is probably one of the top five greatest films about African-Americans ever made. I picked up the film at blockbuster and gave it a chance, seeing that the film was rated as one of the best black films ever made. Me wanting to be the judge of this, I took the film home, watched it, became overwhelmed with intrigue, and was emotionally moved by the subtle ending. This film reminds me of the problem that heavily exists in the black community today. Ivan Dixon's performance wasn't over done, making his portrayal of Duff one of the most memorable I had ever seen. The writing was extraordinary, hitting viewers with one fabulous scene after another. The film never dragged and I was equally impressed with the actress who played the preacher's daughter. The writers were able to make me empathize with all the characters, and Duff was written with a certain complexity seen in few other films about African-Americans. The cinematography caught my attention as well with almost every frame featuring enormous composition. The thing that most gratified me about the film is the fact that it is about redemption, showing our main character making certain sacrifices to live a normal and moral life in the end. It shows hope in a world that tends to be hopeless most of the time. And when Duff comes back to his wife and holds her in his arms, which symbolizes his regrets and his self-redemption, I felt like going out and embrace all my sisters who are left to care for their children by themselves. I gave this film a 10 and out of a grade from A+ to a F, I give it an A+. I strongly recommend this film, especially to other African-American filmmakers who plan on sugarcoating the black experience in America. This film told the truth and didn't hold back with fears of stereotyping. I said it once and I'll say it again, "Nothing But a Man" is one of the greatest black films ever made in the world...

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Deeply insightful, well-made, startlingly realistic film

Author: filmaven from Washington Metro
4 December 1998

This movie is really honest about the relationships between a man and woman and family (esp. African-Americans), men (esp. black) and society, and Blacks and America (esp. the deep South). The characters were strangely familiar and real; I recognized them from my boyhood growing up a black boy in the rural south. It was startling to see some of my OWN best and worst character traits portrayed on screen. Though made in 1964, the film is still relevant to our present context, notwithstanding that times have changed. Ultimately, though the film is reaffirming, although in a honest, skilful manner that is not trite or facetious. The cinematography and use of real- world sets is excellent (Note the ironic sign on exiting one set, cheap metal stick-ons spelling "...Pool Palor") Highly recommended.

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A classic, must-see independent

Author: padbrown from Bloomington, IN
17 January 2006

This is an excellent film, and I'm surprised it's not received more plaudits here. An exceptional movie, especially given the period in which it was made, about a young black man trying to "do the right thing" and make a life for himself in the South. Beautifully acted by everyone involved, Nothing But a Man lets you live the struggles that black men live(d) every day. The struggle to find a job, keep a job, be a man, raise a family, all while under the white shadow of racial bigotry. This is not a particularly uplifting never get sense that everything will work out in the end, but because of this, the movie is all the more realistic. This is a CLASSIC, a true sleeper, that should be seen by everyone. The DVD version includes interviews with the cast and film makers 40 years later. In her interview, Abbey Lincoln seems to come undone while reflecting on the movie, the Struggle, and how little real progress has been made.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:


Author: gsait7 from NYC, NY
21 November 2005

To me this film is FLAWLESS!!!

Just saw this really amazing little film called "NOTHING BUT A MAN"! I remember seeing this along time ago in the mid 80's on one of the Black History Months, but watching it on DVD last night again… just left me speechless. Much thanks to NEW VIDEO for seeking this gem out and giving it a new lease on life on DVD. BRAVO!!!

40 years later it still shines on every level - brilliant job on writing, masterfully directing, powerful acting, just great cinematography...

This inspires me so much! Made on such a modest budget (under 250k... I think!) I'm so grateful to have a copy on DVD to enjoy for a long time.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

simple and effective--it's a great little film

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
23 December 2005

This movie was no doubt completed with at most a very modest budget, but the finished product is so strong and moving--thanks to a very intelligent script and great acting. Although the film stars no "big names", it is chock full of some of the better Black character actors of the 1960s. The leading man, Ivan Dixon, proved he was a fine and competent actor--far better than the role he played on HOGAN'S HEROES. It's a shame that he didn't get more starring roles during his career.

The plot involves people living in a small Southern town in the mid-1960s--after segregation was no longer legal but was still very rampant. Dixon just wants to be treated like a man--no more, no less. He is not asking for handouts but respect. Unfortunately, the people living in this town are so used to the status quo that they just feel it is futile to buck the system. As a result, Dixon faces major uphill battles--mostly on his own except for his lovely young wife. In addition, there are subplots concerning fatherhood and responsibility that greatly enhance the movie's message.

This film would be wonderful for anyone--in particular kids, as they will realize in watching this just how far we have come. Most young kids today just don't realize how tough things were for Black Americans in this country and how acceptable this maltreatment was. It deals effectively with these issues without being preachy or heavy- handed. A great film.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The Defining Movie about a black man's struggles in the south

Author: ruffrider from United States
23 May 2006

Over the years the struggles of blacks in the racist south have been rendered in fiction by books like Faulkner's "Light in August" and films like "Hurry Sundown," (though blacks were relatively minor characters in this film), "Sounder," "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," "A Woman Called Moses" and "Ragtime." "Nothing But a Man" predates the other films and broke new ground by depicting the plight of a young black man who refuses to knuckle under to the times and the expectations placed on him.

Duff Anderson is a section hand earning good money on a railroad construction gang in the south of the 1960's. Carefree and aimless, he sends money to the woman who raises his little boy and meets his own absentee father for the first time since his childhood, only to be brutally rejected. Duff's life changes dramatically when he falls in love with Josie, whose minister father "gets along" by accommodating the white man and who wants nothing to do with rootless Duff. In spite of the minister's objections Josie and Duff are married, but Duff's attempt to unionize at his new job gets him fired and local whites threaten his life when he refuses to cow-tow to bigots. At the end of the story Duff's father dies after rejecting his son yet again, prompting Duff to admit "I'm just like him." But Duff is a far better man than his father could ever be, for at a time when nonstop adversity would have broken a lesser person, he takes custody of his little son and returns to Josie determined to be a husband and parent, the two roles at which his own father failed so miserably.

Everything in this film rings true, from the opening scenes with the railroad gang to the tearful reunion with his family at the end. The dialog is almost unrelentingly cynical, as Duff comes to see his courtship of Josie through the eyes of his railroad pals and his disapproving father-in-law and views his prospects for employment and success in the light of bitter experiences with back-stabbing co-workers, unsympathetic employers and white racists.

Ivan Dixon is superb as Duff and Abbey Lincoln is equally fine as the supportive wife who must share her husband's fate. The black-and-white filming underscores the seriousness of the subject matter and the bleakness of Duff's life. This is a classic film, not to be missed.

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