The Color Purple Screen 7 articles

The Color Purple

1985

The Color Purple Poster
  • Though Steven Spielberg shifted his subject matter from mechanical thrills to human drama for this 1985 feature, he didn't alter his style one bit. After the relatively restrained opening half hour, there's a climax every ten minutes, each sequence so loaded with extraneous visual pizzazz, incongruous comic business, emphatic music cues, and wildly hyped emotionality that it's almost impossible to discern the narrative line.

  • What's most shocking about this film is not how sentimental it is, it's how inept. The valentine comes apart in your hands. The Color Purple is as shoddy as it is uplifting; it makes you realize that for movie brats like Spielberg, beyond the prison of genre there may only lie chaos.

  • Spielberg seems to have responded to the emotional drama at the heart of the story, but in trying to bring that out, he overcooks the film visually and turns it into melodrama. Walker’s novel is written in a rough, earthy, first-person style that is appropriate to the harshness of the material, but Spielberg adopts a lyrical, sweeping visual style that is not far removed from that of Gone With the Wind. The mismatch of material and approach is fatal to the film.

  • Defensible! Wasn't expecting that, honestly, though it'd been 27 years and my teenage opinions are less than trustworthy. Spielberg's sensibility is all wrong for the material, but from my perspective that's something of a blessing—his reluctance to dwell on horrific details keeps the film from sliding headlong into miserablism, and he continually finds arresting, purely visual alternatives, e.g. having Mister's body obscure Celie when he steps forward to greet Nettie.

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    Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films (book): Molly Haskell
    January 03, 2017 | Chapter 9

    If Goldberg couldn't translate Celie's epistolary voice onto film, she beautifully renders her evolution from shy girl into confident woman, an awakening for which the alluring yet nurturing singer Shug is catalyst. Their love scene together, far from being the timid evasion criticized by many (including Walker and Spielberg himself, who later felt compelled to apologize for softening the sexuality), is filled with playful desire, all the more erotic for its relative reserve.

  • I put off seeing this because I was sure Spielberg wasn't the right director for the material. He's not, but he did create something of value: a classicist Old Hollywood-style film about a community/experience that Old Hollywood could never focus on so directly. It's like a Technicolor Ford film, down to the rambunctious, but embracing modernity instead of resisting it. If only it felt more passionate than dutiful.

  • The movie often feels like it’s mounting its own defense, relating its character study with an arsenal of expressionistic cinematic techniques so spectacularly artful that they leave little room for any sense of human spontaneity. In doing so, it often feels wildly inappropriate, especially for a film so burdened by questions of racial and sexual representation. That said, it’s also a remarkable work of Hollywood mastery, and its sheer emotional impact makes it one of Spielberg’s great achievements.

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