A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him.
After Paul D. finds his old slave friend Sethe in Ohio and moves in with her and her daughter Denver, a strange girl comes along by the name of "Beloved". Sethe and Denver take her in and then strange things start to happen... Written by
Jeremy Cohen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When Jonathan Demme presented an honorary Oscar to his mentor Roger Corman, he revealed that the Jason Robards role in Beloved had been originally cast to be played by Corman, but when Corman discovered the role had no lines, "a scheduling conflict ensued and he withdrew from the part with apologies." See more »
When the camera is following Beloved out to the shed, you can the camera man's shoe for a second in the bottom right corner. See more »
[as Paul D enters Sethe's home, he is met with a pulsating glow of red light and backs away in fear]
Good God, girl. What kind of evil you got in there?
It ain't evil. Just sad.
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I found it difficult to understand the movie, and some of the dialogue, but it mattered little. I wish I'd read the book--perhaps I will, but I don't think so. A film must stand by itself, or it is not a film.
"Beloved" has long passages of greatness. First, it contains one of the best and most fascinating performances I've seen in years, given by Thandie Newton. She spent most of "Gridlock'd" in a coma, unfortunately, and that's the most notable role she's had until this one. Her first speaking (if you'll call it that) line is gripping, frightening, and amusing, and she plays a mental defective in a manner which I've never seen before. She has the loudest, rudest character, and many actresses would be put off by some of the things she must do throughout the film. However, our attention is also held by her quiet moments, as well as a few shots where the camera is content to gaze tranquilly into her beautiful eyes.
That camera is conducted with the supreme artistry of one of my favorite photographers, Tak Fujimoto, who was with director Jonathan Demme since the late '70s. Fujimoto is in love with earth and flesh tones here, but he also shoots his actors' eyes as if they were a part of the human body we'd never really noticed before, and wanted to give them the attention they deserved. It's a great approach to cinematography that pays off an infinite number of times, from the first major shot, of Sethe and Paul D reuniting (as Winfrey and Glover look at each other, they look not just into the camera, but directly into OUR eyes), to the last major shot, Jason Robards (God love him) staring in horror at a most unusual scene in front of Sethe's home.
This film is no "The Color Purple", with Welles-influenced camera angles and sacchirine-induced uplift. "Beloved" is a long, difficult, often off-putting film which doesn't really provide the big payoff at the end. This isn't necessarily good, but it isn't necessarily bad, either. Highlighted sequences include two truly remarkable sermons in the woods by Baby Suggs (Beah Richards--Oscar-nominated in '68 for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"), a horrifying opening which features the most gruesome use of animatronics to date, and the notorious flashback which explain what has haunted Sethe all these years, and who Beloved really is.
I compare this film with "The Thin Red Line". Both come from notable directors, are based on famous novels, used huge budgets, and were very long. Both films disappointed many, many people. Most importantly, however, they both had parts which were greater than the whole, occasional strokes of genius, and were made by men who took the art of filmmaking seriously.
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