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This is director Kasi Lemmons' first film and she has entered the world
of cinema with a very bold start. Eve's Bayou is a very passionate
story about life and love with a family surrounded by dark secrets.
Lemmons' has boldly introduced us to a world in which magic is obvious
and characters are deeply developed. There isn't one actor in this film
that you do not fully appreciate. Everyone in this film gives
everything that they have to help create this hidden masterpiece. Roger
Ebert named this film the best of 1997, and I agree whole-heartedly.
What makes this film different from other films of this nature is that
Lemmons keeps us grounded. We are constantly reminded of where we are
and whom we are dealing with. There is not some outside element trying
to sneak in and disrupt the peace; it is a completely internal movie
that allows us to devote ourselves to this desperate family. She
controls Jackson with the greatest of ease, and gives us one of the
most powerful child performances ever. If I had the chance to give the
Oscar to Jurnee Smollett for her role of Eve in this film, I would have
gladly handed it to her. Her performance commanded the film. She was
the strongest and most beautifully developed character in this film.
Smollett was outstanding. I have never been so impressed with a child
actor as I was with her in this film. Her eyes gave us all the drama
that we needed. I never thought that I would witness acting in its
purest form come from a child. For anything, this film is worth seeing
just for the performance of Smollett. She literally steals the scenes
from everyone, even Mr. Jackson.
I mentioned earlier that I loved the fact that this film kept us grounded by continually showing us scenes from the bayou. It kept our minds focused on where we were and the environment that surrounded these troubled people. Amazingly, Lemmons has transformed this setting into more than just a place, she has given it life. Not only through our characters, but it also is the center of most of the magic that occurs. It is a very symbolic reference. A bayou is a creek or a secondary waterway that is a passageway to another larger body of water. In this film, Eve represents the bayou as she travels to her family, the larger body of water. Also, whenever Mozelle calls upon the 'spirits' her first sight is of the bayou. Lemmons may be saying that the bayou is more than just water, it is the center of everyone's universe in this town. Perhaps it has more meanings, but I really felt that Lemmons was using the bayou as more than just a place setting, it spoke to me more about the characters.
Finally, I would like to add that coupled with the amazing acting, Lemmons gives some of the most memorable direction behind the camera. The scenes when Mozelle speaks about how she lost her second husband (the one that loved her the most) because her lover wanted her to himself was riveting. Told through the mirror, this was one of the most interesting ways to tell a flashback. Instead of using the classic 'black and white' or faded lines trick, Lemmons actually brought the scene to us. We witness it firsthand and this allows us to be impacted deeper. I felt the connection, and it worked.
Overall, this was a gem. I wasn't expecting to see such a caliber of acting and direction as I did in this film. The cinematography was outstanding. Lemmons has an eye and a passion for this film, and it is apparent with every scene that she captures. The Batiste family engulfs all of your emotion. Lemmons takes innocent children and captures you within their world, giving you only brief moments to breathe. She shows us the power behind Jackson's voice and the ability he has to expand his career. This was a surprise for me, but a well enjoyed surprise. I suggest you check this film out when time permits. It is a rare find that you will probably see in the bargain bin at any local store. Pick it up and enjoy it. I do not think you will be disappointed.
Grade: **** out of *****
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.
"MEMORY IS A SELECTION OF IMAGES, SOME ELUSIVE, OTHERS PRINTED INDELIBLY ON
THE BRAIN. THE SUMMER I KILLED MY FATHER, I WAS 10 YEARS
With those shocking opening frames from the movie, 'Eve's Bayou'(1997), I was hooked from start go.
'Eve's Bayou' is an anomaly. It has achieved a rare distinction of excellence in all departments of film making; from the direction to the writing, from the acting to the cinematography.
Here was a film not content with telling a tale of nostalgic retrospection. Instead, it shocked the senses of the unsuspecting viewers with an eerie collage of imagery, underscoring the chilling suspense with an undercurrent of tumultuous emotion (jealousy, loss and sadness; anger, vengeance and guilt) all culminating into the inevitable foreshadowed tragedy.
But of course, this is far too distinguished a film to present an easy resolution. From there spring forth the painful revelation on the very essence of memory and the perception of truth, distilled and faceted with the passage of time. A valuable lesson indeed.
Poetic and shadowy, the dream-like moods sustained throughout this poignant film is its over-riding strength. For here was a film which sights and sound has transcended the mere plot convention of its humble genre origins. Thankfully, the film turned out the better for it. Coupled with the celebrated fact that this was the product of a first time director(Kasi Lemmons), one can't help but feel the divine intervention bestowed upon this film to make it such an magically entrancing experience.
Alongside 'Shawshank Redemption' and 'The Sweet Hereafter', 'Eve's Bayou' certainly ranks as one of the most hauntingly beautiful piece of cinema ever committed to film.
This was a delightfully good movie. Set in the Louisiana bayou country
in the 60's, it is a wonderful story of a well-to-do black family
caught up in family tensions that drive the plot but never overpower
the family's love for each other. Infidelity, an over-protective
mother, the psychic aunt's tragic loss of loves and a delicious dose of
voodoo all make this a good watch. The child actress, Jurnee Smollett
as Eve, delivers a beautiful performance with talent far beyond her
years. Debbie Morgan is terrific as the fortune-telling wise, but
cursed-in -love Aunt Mozelle.
Lynn Whitfield and Samuel L. Jackson are also superb as the parents whose complex and troubled relationship's problems spill over onto the children, especially the two daughters, Eve and Cisely. Cisely sees herself as a buffer comforting her father and trying to protect him from her mother whom Cisely sees as a rival for her father's affections. Eve bounces around amidst the angst of being a middle child and the desire to understand the adults' world. This definitely a movie to see. It's a shame that jewels like this get overlooked in the usual Hollywood hype machine.
I had never heard of this film when my wife ordered it from NetFlix, and I keep wondering why. This is a terrific flick. Jurnee Smollett as Eve is truly excellent, and not just "good for a kid," or "good but annoyingly precocious," she is just plain good. The story is wonderful, and I love the fact that the race of the characters is hardly mentioned. It's a story about people, and it doesn't matter on what continent their ancestors originated. The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Samuel Jackson (one of the film industry's most versatile actors), and Debbi Morgan. Small parts portrayed by Branford Marsalis and Vondie Curtis Hall are very nicely done, and add color to the background of friends and relatives of the Batiste family. I enjoy the way the film shows us the world of psychic perception and Voodoo, and the degree to which belief in them can affect behavior. The location filming is wonderfully evocative of the steaming south, and the direction spot-on. I recommend this film.
I came across eve's bayou at the video store and decided to give it a shot. I am so glad I did. It is one of my favorite films. The story is outstanding and the acting has got to be some of best acting I have ever seen. Its a shame that there aren't enough quality roles for black actors because there are some fantastic black actors and actresses out there. I like to think I can recognize talent when I see it and the performances in this film were nothing short of top notch. I immediately went out a bought this movie after I had rented it because it was just that good. The voodoo/cajun/french/bayou vibe was cool and I think thats what attracted me to it to begin with when I rented it. Just wanted to share that with you folks and let you know that I would highly recommend this film.
The ghost of Tennessee Williams hover over "Eve's Bayou". The action takes place in a moss draped Louisiana backwater, and the family under observation (in their big gracious bayou house) is ripe with desires, disappointments, and the mysterious scent of sex as any in Mr. William's neighborhood. But the notable accomplishment of actress-writer Kasi Lemmons in her feature directorial debut is in creating a landscape quite beautiful and entirely her own - a fluid, feminine, African American, Southern gothic narrative that covers a tremendous amount of emotional territory with the lightest and most graceful of steps. The story belongs to young Eve Batiste. "The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old," a grown up Eve announced in a provocative prologue voice over. But the drama unfolds (in an unspecified bygone era when well to do woman wore gorgeous dresses to parties in their own homes) is far more shape shifting than such an audience grabbing statement can convey. Eve's father, Louis, is a suave, popular doctor and gentle family man who's also a womanizer - a flaw that bedevils Eve's graceful mother and especially torments Eve's older sister, Cisely, who adores her daddy more than she should. Eve, meanwhile worships her big sister. And in reaching out to support Cisely in a primal sexual struggle neither girl understand, Eve turns first to her father's sister Aunt Mozelle a vibrant, enigmatic woman infused with good-witch spiritual powers, and then to Elzora a voodoo priestess with potent bad witch abilities. Lemmons thus lays out big themes - the little seductions of fathers and daughters - the thick bond between sisters - the power of dark and light intentions in the material world. But she covers any traces of "heaviness" with shimmering, dream state visual elegance. And she makes up for any rough spots from the movie's younger actors with with a lovely score, and a great soundtrack of classic jazz and blues.
The first time I saw this film I rated it 8; the 2nd time it got a 9. There is much visual beauty in the film: a lovely, serene setting and many gorgeous women. The film focussed on the devastation caused by a father who could not resist beautiful women even though he loved his family. As the film ended, I was left counting the number of people who would have considerable guilt to deal with but the end was, nevertheless, very satisfying.
This has to be one of the most well shot and directed movies I've ever
seen besides the GodFather I &II. The acting in the movie was
excellent. Jurnee Smollett is an excellent actress as well as Debbi
Morgan - both should have been nominated for an award. The cast well
picked. Samuel L Jackson character created a love/hate relationship
with me. The women were absolutely beautiful.
What is amazing is that this movie did not receive any type of nominations or honorable mentions, much less advertisement when it originally came out. I am amazed how the script of Good Will Hunting was nominated for an Oscar and more amazed that it won. Kasi Lemmons thank you for such a beautiful film.
In 1962 Eve was only about 10 and lived with her family in Louisiana.
Her father, Louis, is the popular town doctor who has a beautiful wife
and three children (including Eve). However he is too knowing about his
popularity with the women in the town and is quite the flirt. When Eve
sees him kissing and touching another woman behind their house it
distresses her but she is convinced by elder sister Cisely that it was
all her misunderstanding of the situation. This is the first of a
series of events in her memory that she recalls ended with her killing
her father. However, the memory of a child can be such a subjective
Starting with the statement from Eve about her hand in her father's dead, I was ready for a mystery that would be dark and tense but the film left that mystery in the air while going on to be a slower, but just as interesting, story. This is despite the fact that it seems to rely quite heavily on voodoo and similar Southern clichés to move the story forward. Although this gradually becomes less important it is quite obtrusive early on and I found it a little bit off-putting but gradually got over it thanks to the story overcoming it with a real emotional involvement from the characters. The writing of people is strong and the direction is quite assured, even if some of the sets and shot-framing were reminiscent of daytime TVMs (an affect the music doesn't help).
With the characters and their stories well written, it required good performances all round and it is to Lemmons' credit that he draws strong performances from all ages of his cast. Although Jackson is the big name involved, it is really Smollett who won me over. Avoiding the "cute kid" cliché she delivers a really convincing performance that is the heart of the film it is a real weight to carry it, but she does it well. Jackson himself is good, not overplaying his character to the point where we hate him, but just as far as us disliking him for the weakness that he knows he has. Good and Whitfield are both good and they are where the main battle for feminine attention from Louis it is touching to see Good grow and fascinating to see Whitfield respond to it good writing and good acting. Support is roundly good but they have less to do Smith in a minor role, Carson using her ample body, Ayler playing a cliché and Curtis-Hall sporting a haircut that looks like it fell onto him from a tree. However the main performances are so good it doesn't really matter they produce a film that is both emotionally engaging and just about avoids melodrama.
Overall this is a film worth seeing. The story relies a bit too much on voodoo and such, and is rather forced to the extremes of events but it is covered by never losing focus on the characters; characters that are well written and very well performed on the whole. A touch too soapy for some tastes I'm sure but for me it was quite engaging and a very enjoyable little drama.
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