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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>
In a scene set on Fourth Street in Cincinnati, Danny Glover walks by the John Shillito & Co. department store. Founded in 1832, "Shillito's" (pronounced "SHIL-ih-toes"), as it was known by local residents, was the most famous department store in downtown Cincinnati for 150 years. (It was the Cincinnati equivalent of Marshall Field's in Chicago or Nordstrom's in Seattle.) In 1982, the store became "Shillito-Rike's," and in 1986, it was re-named "Lazarus," after its owner, the F.H. Lazarus Co. In 2005, Lazarus was bought out by Macy's. The 1878 Shillito's department store building still stands at Seventh and Race Streets in Cincinnati, but has been converted into condos. See more »
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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