Hallelujah

Hallelujah

DVD - 2013?
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Infused with spirituals, folk songs, blues, and jazz, Hallelujah follows the fortunes of Zeke, a poor cotton farmer.
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : [Publisher not identified], [2013?]
Branch Call Number: DVD HALLELU
Characteristics: video file,DVD video,rda
digital,optical,mono,Dolby Digital,rda
1 videodisc (100 min.) : sound, black and white ; 4 3/4 in

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Ellington4
Apr 13, 2014

Hallelujah was the first movie with an all-black cast from a major studio (M-G-M). I asked for the movie primarily for historic interest, but once my wife and I started watching we were bowled over by the strength and beauty of the movie. This 1929 black-and-white movie is a melodrama with music, including spirituals, some early jazz, religious songs and even two original songs by Irving Berlin. There are no whites in the movie and it does not deal at all with racial issues. Instead, rightly or wrongly, it respectfully shows us an unthreatened, close-knit black sharecropper family's relationships with each other and their community. The operatic plot traces the rise of one of the brothers to become an influential preacher in the area, and his fight not to fall into sin. But oh, how this story is told! Famed director King Vidor shot the film mostly on location in the South, and it often has a documentary feel. It shows the picking and processing of cotton, the processing of lumber and the atmosphere of a prison rockpile. The photography is extraordinary, ranging from remarkable, often loving close-ups to brilliant wide shots. Vidor was known for the imaginative crowd scenes in his movies, and there are a number of them here. A startling one involves a large group of worshippers who are stirred into a religious frenzy, and march around in a circle chanting, while their elongated shadows appear on the back wall. The acting is rather stilted. Vidor gathered his actors from around the country; some were primarily professional singers and some rank amateurs. This was the first movie for all of them. Yet they do appear quite genuine in their roles. If you can make allowances for the acting, you will be captured by this masterful historic and artistic film.

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