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The Color Purple(1985)
Forty years in the life of Celie, a poor black woman who endures years of abuse from her father and her husband. When her husband embarks on an affair with beautiful Shug, friendship also springs up between the two women, and Celie finally begins to blossom.
For more about The Color Purple and the The Color Purple Blu-ray release, see the The Color Purple Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 2, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Menno Meyjes
Starring: Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey, Laurence Fishburne, Adolph Caesar
» See full cast & crew
The Color Purple Blu-ray Review
Warner treats yet another catalog classic with care...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 2, 2011
Forgive my slight departure from critical consensus, but The Color Purple has never struck me as the "triumph of blinding brightness" some have declared it to be. Perhaps because I can't help but compare director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Menno Meyjes's adaptation to Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. Or maybe it's because Spielberg's particular brand of pre-packaged sentimentality has never sat well with me. Whatever the case, it doesn't spoil the film at all. If Walker's book is a literary masterpiece, Spielberg's film is an admirable, even noble approximation; a somewhat flawed but altogether moving period drama that almost rivals the strength and substance of its source. Almost.
Before Whoopi Goldberg tarnished her promising film career with drivel like Bogus and Rat Race, the comedienne made her startling silver-screen debut as The Color Purple's Celie Harris, an uneducated African American woman forced to endure unimaginable abuse in rural Georgia in the 1920s and '30s. At fourteen, Celie's cruel father (Leonard Jackson) hands her over to a widower named Albert Johnson (Danny Glover); a hot-tempered brute who shows the girl little kindness and even less mercy, often beating her into silence. But as she grows older, she discovers that she isn't entirely alone. With the help of three women -- younger sister Nettie (Akosua Busia), jazz singer Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) and defiant housewife Sofia (Oprah Winfrey) -- Celie begins to realize her life is her own. Over the course of her subsequent spiritual journey, her confidence is bolstered, she develops a will and finds her voice, all in an effort to escape the vile men who've held her in captivity for so many years.
Far from a pedestrian tale of early 20th century female empowerment, The Color Purple is a richer, infinitely more complex look at the trials and tribulations of African American women in the post-slavery South. Celie isn't an everywoman by any means, but her horrifying ordeals and eventual intrapersonal emancipation resonate nonetheless. Her life is a hellscape of abuse and injustice, and it's difficult to bear witness to the brutality she faces (the film's PG-13 rating helps soften the violence, although not as much as you might think). All the while, a message of hope and perseverance slowly takes shape as Celie, through enormous pain and suffering, wriggles out from beneath the boots of the men so eager to hold her down. Since the novel's initial release, Walker has been accused of everything from misogyny to historical revisionism (not that either charge holds water), but her examination of African American culture, faith and history is engrossing. Thankfully, it all weathers the transition to film and survives Spielberg and Meyjes's oft-criticized alterations.
Even when Spielberg and Meyjes struggle to capture the crushing emotional weight of Walker's novel though, Goldberg and Winfrey channel the essence of their characters (rather selflessly I might add). Women like Celie and Sofia require tremendous sacrifice and dedication from an actress, and the once-and-future talk show queens make their sisters-in-spirit exceedingly believable victims of circumstance and, more importantly, unnervingly vulnerable human beings. With the help of their performances, Allen Daviau's southern-sun cinematography and Quincy Jones's jazz-addled score, Walker's text nearly leaps off the page and onto the screen. The shift from written correspondence (the original story is told via a series of letters and diary entries) to a more traditional film narrative hardly matters and, if anything, allows Spielberg to sidestep numerous pitfalls. Fresh off The Temple of Doom and raring to test his dramatic mettle, this is Spielberg at his most brave and intimate hour, as well as an early glimpse at an emerging auteur who would soon deliver Empire of the Sun, master his craft with Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, and leave his mark on the noughts with Munich.
The Color Purple isn't a perfect film, but it is an important one. While I'd strongly recommend reading Walker's novel first and foremost, Spielberg's adaptation is poignant and powerful enough to warrant further consideration.
The Color Purple Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Blu-ray release of The Color Purple stands its ground with a fit and faithful 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer; a filmic presentation that, barring a few minor missteps, clings to its convictions. Allen Daviau's photography -- whether capturing the breadth of a sweltering southern vista, the confines of a sweaty shack or the shaded serenity of a country church -- is warm, savory and beautifully saturated, lavish reds and potent purples are given ample opportunity to shine, and night skies and shadows are deep and satisfying throughout. (Crush takes its toll from time to time, particularly during scenes lit by candles or lanterns, but it's rarely a distraction.) Detail is also impressive, often in spite of the softness that permeates the film. Not every scene is razor-sharp, but many a tight and midrange closeup boasts crisp edges and wonderfully resolved fine textures. Hair, stubble, pores, fabric and the grit-n-grime of the era are intact, and a faint veneer of film grain lends the presentation even further legitimacy. Yes, eagle-eyed videophiles will notice some terribly negligible noise, compression artifacts and print blemishes, but none of it warrants any serious concern. For the most part, the encode is clean and proficient, and Warner's catalog transfer is sound.
The Color Purple Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track fares just as well, staying true to the film's original sound design while serving up that special lossless something. Spielberg is the first to admit The Color Purple is essentially a carefully cloaked period musical and Quincy Jones's music has never sounded better. Orchestral strings flood the soundfield, jazz and ragtime vocals swell and subside, crackly blues tunes warble convincingly, and every last note and lyric is crystal clear. But regardless of whether music is stealing the show or waiting in the wings, the rear speakers remain engaging and effective (even if environmental ambience is occasionally overpowered by Jones's score), directionality is fairly accurate, and consistently crisp and intelligible dialogue inhabits the center speaker at all times. Likewise, the LFE channel isn't as assertive as I expected, nor does it pack as much wallop as it could, but it certainly gets the job done. As twenty-five-year old catalog titles go, The Color Purple sounds great and should easily please classic filmfans and discerning audiophiles alike.
The Color Purple Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
What I wouldn't give to hear a Spielberg commentary... just once. Ah well. The Color Purple still includes a wealth of behind-the-scenes content, primarily in the form of a fantastic four-part, ninety-minute documentary.
The Color Purple Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Color Purple is a film of extraordinary elements: Spielberg's steady hand, his cast's exceptional performances, Daviau's magnificent cinematography, Jones's masterful score and, of course, Walker's unflinching Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Of course, The Color Purple is also a film of a few all-too-ordinary elements: Spielberg's shoehorned sentimentality, Meyjes's at-times uneven screenplay and several minor but unfortunate departures from Walker's book. While the film still has tremendous value, I have a feeling those who've been moved by "The Color Purple" will agree that The Color Purple doesn't quite stack up. Thankfully, Warner's Blu-ray release is less problematic. With an excellent video transfer, an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio track and a thorough four-part documentary, the film's high definition debut is a successful one.
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The Color Purple Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Color Purple, Malcolm X Blu-ray Announced - September 28, 2010
Warner Home Video has announced two critically-acclaimed dramas for Blu-ray release on January 25, 2011: The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1985) and Malcolm X (Spike Lee, 1992). Both will be presented in DigiBook packaging. Technical specifications and special ...
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