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Thomas Jefferson (1997)

 |  Documentary, History
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 366 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 3 critic

A biographical film about The United States' influential and profoundly enigmatic Founding Father.

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A biographical film about The United States' influential and profoundly enigmatic Founding Father.

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Blythe Danner also portrayed Martha Jefferson in 1776 (1972). See more »

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Thomas Jefferson: "The life of a cabbage is paradise".
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Split down the middle
7 February 2000 | by (Harrisburg, PA) – See all my reviews

I am a fan of Ken Burns films, but "Thomas Jefferson" is probably the nadir of the talking-head living-history documentary style he favors. In many respects "Thomas Jefferson" is a beautiful film, and it is clearly the work of intelligent people. Ultimately it inspires me to visit Monticello, which is admirably photographed. It fails to answer the question it poses at the outset - whether Jefferson the lover of Liberty can be reconciled with Jefferson the Master of Slaves - and by default suggests that raising this question is the film's chief contribution to Jeffersonian discourse. It's a timely question, but it isn't new. The mood of the film is outrageously depressive, a sedate musical score of American chestnuts underscoring lethargic readings from Jefferson's writings, and images of Monticello, slaves, Jefferson (portrait), historically significant parchments, John Adams (portrait), George Washington (portrait), etc. If this film is anything specific, it is a memorial service for the myth of Jefferson. I don't like it, but I appreciate the film maker's effort and the contributions of scholars involved in the project. A related Ken Burns biographical film, "Lewis and Clark," is similar in tone but less confused and more forthright in its storytelling. See it.


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