The story is set in 1962 Louisiana. The Batiste family is headed by charming doctor Louis. Though he is married to beautiful Roz, he has a weakness for attractive female patients. One night...
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The story is set in 1962 Louisiana. The Batiste family is headed by charming doctor Louis. Though he is married to beautiful Roz, he has a weakness for attractive female patients. One night Louis trysts with married and sexy Metty Mereaux, not knowing that he is observed by his youngest daughter Eve, who is there by accident. Eve can not forget the traumatic incident and shares a secret with older sister Cisely. Lies start to roll... Written by
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Memory is a selection of images, some elusive, others imprinted indelibly on the brain. The summer I killed my father I was 10 years old. My brother Poe was 9, and my sister Cisely has just turned 14.
The town we lived in was named after a slave. It was said that when General John Paul Batiste was stricken with cholera, his life was saved by the powerful medicine of an African slave woman called Eve. In return for his life, he freed her, and gave her this piece of land by the Bayou...
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A bayou is the Southern U S term for an ox-bow lake, a stretch of stagnant water left behind by a river running through level countryside after it has made a short cut through one of its banks. The characters in this film have been left behind by history in the Bayou country of Louisiana. They are nice, middle-class creole folk going nowhere. Louis Baptiste (Samuel L Jackson) is the local doctor living in a fine frame house with his fragile ex-beauty queen wife and three children including the film's narrator, 10 year old Eve (Jurnee Smollett). Family legend has it that an earlier Baptiste, a French general in the Napoleonic era, had his life saved by a local black slave girl, the ancestral Eve. She married him and had 16 children, thus kick-starting local development. By the early 1960s, in which this movie is set, the Bayou is your archetypal Southern backwater. Louis didn't get that bit at medical school about not screwing your patients and in fact it seems to be an integral part of his practice. His sister Mozelle (Debbie Morgan) is also a therapist of a sort - having the gift (or curse) of second sight she finds lost relatives by exercising her psychic powers. Unfortunately she's hopeless as to her own affairs- her three husbands, all much loved, have all died prematurely.
At the start of the film Eve, in voice over mode, announces " The year I killed my father, I was 10." Then we switch to a party at the Baptise house where Eve discovers her Dad having it off with a patient in the carriage house. He laughs it off, but the seed of doubt is planted, and when there is an incident involving Louis and Eve's older sister Cisely (Meagan Good) the stage is set for tragedy. In fact the movie is not so much about murder as about guilt, the especially keen variety which afflicts someone who injures another he or she adores and is dependent on.
On the way, as the film moves through lush swampy scenery at an appropriately languid pace, we meet the rest of the Baptiste family and Diahann Carroll, enjoying herself as a downmarket sorceress. There's no sign of the racially conscious South - as far as race is concerned we might as well be in the highlands of Scotland. The whole film has a dreamlike quality (Brigadoon?). As Eve explains, her story is about the way memory is formed often as much by imagination as by what actually happened. I seem to remember they told us that in Psych 101 but it is rather more poetically put on this occasion.
The photography is gorgeous and the acting more than proficient. Jurnee Smollett in her first role stands out, but Debbie Morgan as Mozelle the psychic aunt produces a three dimensional character from a part which could easily have been done as caraciature. Samuel L Jackson fills the bill as the charming philanderer Louis.
The film is apparently the first from writer-director Kasi Lemmons, though Samuel L is credited as one of the producers and very likely had a say in the production. Maybe it wasn't such a great idea to introduce all the main characters in such a rush at the party in the opening sequence but it's all sorted out in the end. The brief black and white "psychic" sequences fit seamlessly into the rest of the film and somehow one doesn't stop to ask just how Mozelle does it.
At the end of the day, you wonder how a child of 10 could go through what Eve has gone through and not become a gibbering wreck. At the end, she sits on the edge of the Bayou with sister Cisely, contemplating a gorgeous sunset, apparently at peace with the world. Is the atmosphere so thick, so cloying, in the Bayou, that even murder and mayhem are quickly forgotten? It's a beautiful sensuous (and sensual) atmosphere though, and worth sampling.
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