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Newman stars as a fiery, eccentric governor who falls head over heels in love with dazzling Blaze Star (Lolita Davidovich), an innocent New Orleans stripper with a heart of gold.
For more about Blaze and the Blaze Blu-ray release, see Blaze Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 23, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Paul Newman, Lolita Davidovich, Gailard Sartain, Jeffrey DeMunn, Richard Jenkins, Robert Wuhl
Director: Ron Shelton
» See full cast & crew
Blaze Blu-ray Review
Hot times in Louisiana love and politics.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 23, 2013
Never trust a man who says, "trust me."
Sex and politics are sort of like death and taxes, peanut butter and jelly, and baseball and summertime. The combination is a grand tradition, and it's not even unique to the United States. What is unique, to a degree, is the intense scrutiny of sex and politics in the media and, sometimes, the double-standard discretion the media employs to protect some politicians who find more favor with the press. Yet sex scandals remain some of the juiciest stories on the television and the inter-webs and the talk radio airwaves. They say any publicity is good publicity, but when Senators allegedly engage in sex overseas with underage prostitutes, when Senators solicit sex through airport bathroom stalls, and even when Presidents get caught with cigars and stains, even they would rather the cameras go away and their names fade from the forefront of their constituents, and the nation's, minds. Yet sex scandals are so popular that some people even enjoy reliving those of yore; JFK and Marilyn are still a hot item going on five decades after their deaths, and indeed perhaps it's the safety of reliving the past rather than trudging through the salacious details of the present that make for the "easiest" and "cleanest" of tales. Director Ron Shelton's (Bull Durham) Blaze is the based-on-true-events film that depicts the rise and fall of a Louisiana Governor harboring the worst-kept secret in the state: an affair-turned-romantic-relationship with a West Virginia transplant-turned-stripper named, get ready, "Blaze Starr" (yes, with two "R"s).
A young West Virginia girl named Belle (Lolita Davidovich), with dreams of big city success, leaves her mother and her home in the sticks for a chance at a new life. She winds up waitressing at a small-town diner where she's noticed by a man calling himself "Red" (Robert Wuhl). Red fills her head with dreams of making it big and persuades her to ditch her waitressing gig for some real money. She soon finds out "big" means performing in front of rowdy servicemen who aren't interested in music and lyrics but rather T&A. She's hesitant to strip but does so, anyway, under the stage name "Blaze Starr." She soon ditches the small-town joints and works her way to New Orleans to shed her clothes before "a higher class of people." Amongst them is none other than the state's good Governor, Earl Long (Paul Newman), a womanizing sort who frequents such clubs on a regular basis, paying no mind to public perception or the press. It doesn't take long for the Governor to come under Blaze's spell, to develop a special kind of infatuation for her that transforms from lust to love. His political career hangs in jeopardy, both for his stance on the state's racial strife and for his relationship with a stripper, but his affection for Blaze knows no end, his career be damned or not.
As Billy Bathgate's author reportedly shied away from that film project over creative differences between his book and Hollywood's picture, Blaze glosses over some major truths in the real-life history of the Governor's relationship with Blaze. Both were married at the time they met but no mention is given to that fact. The omission makes for a movie that's less salacious and more playful. It also makes it more likely that the audience will find wider favor with the lead characters. And that seems to be the point. This isn't a movie about politics, it's about outwardly strange bedfellows who largely pay no mind to what everyone else says, people who are determined to make it work, no matter the cost to their social or political standing, even if it kills them. While the movie lacks real dramatic heft within the specific confines of the ebbs and flows of Long's gubernatorial policies and political career -- even if they're main cogs in the story -- the point is really of Long's romance with a stripper, the story boiling down to a blend of drama and a comedy of errors in which a woman grows to trust just the sort of person that shouldn't be trusted and a politician falls in love with just the sort of woman he shouldn't fall in love with. But love conquers all, strange bedfellows or not, and one can only wonder how -- or if -- the story of Blaze and Governor Long would play out today, in the world of blue dresses and airport stalls and cell phone cameras and satellites and bloggers and not just newfangled TV cameras and journalists armed with notepad and pen to cover the story.
No matter how much or how little truth may be in the film, the actors carry the scripted material quite well and fill in the characters as they appear on the page with easy flair and fullness. Newman is fantastic as a rough-around-the-edges Southern politician, an old-time playboy who happens to be Governor, not vice-versa. Newman injects the role with not only energy but a style befitting the character, a distinctive manor through which he sells both ends of the part, the classic politician and the classic lover. It's an interesting dichotomy that Newman handles very well, in one scene fighting the good fight for equal rights and the next stripping off his clothes as quickly -- or perhaps more quickly -- as the heart of a man of his age will allow to jump into bed with his stripper lady friend. Lolita Davidovich is a match for the famed actor, still a screen novice but bearing her wares as naturally as if it were just she and the governor rather than she and the governor and hundreds of thousands of onlookers on the other side of the screen. She commands her character very well, maturing into her place by the governor's side but never quite letting go of her roots even as she morphs into someone influenced by both pieces of her life. Blaze also features a fantastic supporting cast; names like Robert Wuhl, Jeffrey DeMunn, and Gailard Sartain may not be of the household variety, but are recognizable on sight and help bring the movie to vivid life.
Blaze Blu-ray, Video Quality
Blaze's high definition transfer doesn't fare as well as its Mill Creek Blu-ray counterpart Billy Bathgate. It displays a myriad of problems, none of them a deal breaker at this price point but enough to leave fans wishing for a more accurate, blemish-free presentation. The wobbly opening credits are met with excess print wear. Noise sprinkles in throughout, and the image is often so harsh it seems to glow around the edges. Color balance isn't bad, but this isn't a deep, accurate, well-defined palette. Details range from satisfying to smudgy. Clumps of leaves in the opening West Virginia shots lack any sort of definition, but the image stabilizes enough at times to show decent wear on period structures and natural facial and clothing lines. The image does have a lightly smoothed over look to it as well. Blacks and flesh tones are satisfactory. This isn't the best Mill Creek transfer, but it's pretty representative of the studio's releases.
Blaze Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Blaze doesn't completely fizzle on Blu-ray, featuring a modest but basically effective DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 lossless soundtrack. There is a fair amount of activity across the front, a good bit of sonic distinction and even decent clarity. Whether the light ambience of children playing and roosters crowing in the opening West Virginia moments, the sound of a feverish crowd of drunken sailors at a strip club, or rain and lingering claps of thunder in chapter 10, the soundtrack offers a surprising bit of activity, space, and faux immersion throughout. Some of those same sounds come across as a little shallow, but what little bit of muscle that's here helps the track considerably. A couple of shotgun blasts fall short of expectations, but the resultant mayhem, such as crashing glass, does play with a good bit of clarity and focus. Dialogue and music both play with commendable clarity in an otherwise scattered sort of soundtrack. This one does a bit more well than it does poorly; like the video, this is fairly representative of average Mill Creek quality.
Blaze Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of Blaze contains no supplemental content.
Blaze Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Blaze could have been a deeper, probably darker drama if it had wanted to be, but it works quite well -- authenticity be damned -- as a fictional portrayal of a real-life political scandal and the love that developed in spite of the public attention. It's a humorous and oftentimes light picture, one that doesn't pay much mind to the nuts-and-bolts politics but leaves those dealings as pieces of the bigger puzzle that are worked in as the personal relationship between two unlikely figures develops. The movie is very well acted and smoothly directed. Mill Creek's Blu-ray release features adequate video, decent audio, and no supplements. Worth a rental or a purchase at rock-bottom prices, which is what Mill Creek specializes in, anyway.
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