Wednesday 9 November 2016

On Blu-ray - David Hare admires Eastwood's MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL

The Lady Chablis stops John Cusack in his tracks, and us too in Clint Eastwood's terrific 1997 movie adaptation of John Berendt's 1994 non fiction book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
The movie is a personal favorite among half a dozen or so films from the director over 36 movies and still counting. Some were a little critical at the time of the liberties Eastwood's screenplay took with Berendt's material, but Berendt for one was not. One big change was making Berendt's character, who's gay in the book and in life, straight for the picture which, if nothing else, gives Cusack a love interest which extends the narrator role into a full character, and the girl in question is none other than director's daughter, Alison. 
Which also gives Alison a chance to sing at least one Mercer number herself, along with Spacey, both giving credible performances. I think there's a lot to be said for making judgement calls like this. And in this case one can hardly accuse the movie of de-homosexualizing the book. For one there's Jack Thompson laying it on with a trowel as the fruitiest Southern attorney this side of the Big Easy (which had the great Charles Ludlam playing that picture's attorney) Jack plays for more gay than La Spacey, Lady Chablis and Jude Law's rough trade hustler put together. The movie seems paced like a relaxed but energetic dinner party which gets quite a bit drunker before it arrives at the final stoned course, a revocation of the town demons by Minerva, the black voodoo witch/bag lady and her pet squirrel whom she perceives to be a reincarnation of her dead no good husband. Midnight is eminently re-watchable. 
The new Warner Archive Blu Ray looks like it was struck from a gorgeous Eastman Kodak Vision stock print made yesterday. And the big Johnny Mercer soundtrack includes vocals from from Cassandra Wilson among others. The city of Savannah, Georgia itself seems so atmospherically picture perfect it's hard to imagine Production Designer Henry Bumstead putting a feather out of place.

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