The Color Purple (Blu-ray)
In 1985, after such critical and blockbuster hits like JAWS, CLOSE AND COUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and E.T., director Steven Spielberg tackled a different genre in THE COLOR PURPLE. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning story by Alice Walker, the drama follows the hardships and struggles of a young Southern black woman over the span of roughly 40 years in the early 1900s.
Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) has had two children from her father by the age of 16. Both children are stripped from her at birth and she is abruptly sold into a life of servitude to an ungrateful brute of a husband Albert (Danny Glover). Separated from her sister and best friend Nettie (Akosua Busia) early on, Celie narrates her life story of trials using her thoughts as an unwritten letter to her sister. After years of torment and beatings into submission, she must find a way to accept and free herself.
Along the way, Celie meets others who help her discover her self worth that fill out the superbly acted cast. Goldberg is shockingly impressive and Glover proves again of his consistent greatness. Supporting performances by Margaret Avery as Shug and Oprah Winfrey as Sofia (my favorite performance) are powerfully magnetic and commanding.
Needless to say THE COLOR PURPLE is full of emotionally charged themes that are both disturbing and sad. With eleven Academy Award nominations and one of the greatest directors of all time behind the reigns, one would expect it to be phenomenal. I wish I could share in the sentiment. Unfortunately the film lacks direction, acting more as a film trying to receive an Academy Award. Ironically with eleven nominations, it did not win a single one.
Movies always bare the impossible burden of carrying over the detail provided by literature. In this case, too much story was attempted, adding characters late and not providing enough back-story for the audience to invest fully. Some moments and reactions were tough to understand due to the weak focus, with the exception of Celie who is clearly the lead that we do care about. At times, the story would distractingly break for light cartoony moments, specifically a bar fight scene that seemed to be straight out of a Three Stooges episode.
Using music and sound, Spielberg provides some interesting transition techniques and a couple of incredibly unbearable tense moments with a razor. But he tries too hard to show the drama rather than let it speak for itself. Celie’s plight is strong enough without the unnecessary use of literal smoke and light to highlight and exaggerate the emotion. Not quite as good as it might lead one to believe, THE COLOR PURPLE succeeds with a story that evokes strong feelings through great performances.
Video: (1080p HD 16×9 1.85:1) One of the better transfers I’ve seen.
Audio: (DTS-HD MA 5.1) The surround sound is spectacular with winds, birds and crickets from the country coming in clearly.
Conversation with the Ancestors: The Color Purple from Book to Screen (26:39): Author Alice Walker explains her motivation for the story, what it means to her, the reactions afterward and then translating it to the film.
A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting The Color Purple (28:40): The filmmakers and stars including Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover all discuss how they got the job then being nominated for the Academy Awards.
Cultivating a Classic: The Making of the Color Purple (23:33): Spielberg goes into specifics about creating certain scenes and his personal experiences. Other department heads such as costuming, art direction and cinematography discuss achieving specific goals.
The Color Purple: The Musical (7:34): This discusses the music, rhythm and sound effects throughout the picture.
Behind the Scenes and Cast Photo Galleries
Theatrical Trailers and Teasers