Home Video Picks & Passes 02.05.17
A film on the slave experience as well as a Cary Grant comedy are new picks.
The Birth of a Nation (2016) — PICK
His Girl Friday (1940) — PICK
One of last year’s best, most controversial films, Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation is a powerful, provocative dramatization of the 1831 Nat Turner slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia.
Slave rebellion is an important part of the story of American slavery — a necessary corrective to sanitized or emasculating representations of slavery, of slaves as either largely happy and well-treated or else as passive and childlike and unable to resist. At the same time, Birth of a Nation goes further than, say, 12 Years a Slave in also depicting the range of relations between slaves and their masters, including relatively benevolent ones.
The most striking and welcome thing about the film, though, is the prominent, polyvalent exploration of the uses of religion and especially Scripture, both to condone slavery and to condemn it, to sedate slaves and to inflame them. For more, see the full review at DecentFilms.com.
New on Blu-ray from Criterion, Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, is widely celebrated as one of the masterpieces of screwball comedy — and if I’m not personally crazy about it, perhaps you shouldn’t let that stop you.
The film is an adaptation of the newsroom comedy The Front Page by way of an earlier Grant screwball comedy, Catholic director Leo McCarey’s The Awful Truth, about the reconciliation of a divorced couple.
Caveat Spectator: Birth of a Nation: Intense, often disturbing graphic violence and killings; brief nudity and a pair of offscreen rapes; frequent racial epithets and some cursing. Mature viewing. His Girl Friday: Romantic complications in a divorce-and-remarriage plotline; an attempted suicide; much dissembling and unscrupulous behavior. Teens and up.