The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1991)
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This first film directorial effort of actor Simon Callow is based on a novel by Carson McCullers -- which, in turn, was adapted for the stage by Edward Albee in 1964. Vanessa Redgrave plays a powerful Southern matriarch who, sequestered in her cafť/general store, holds her home town in the palm of her hand. Redgrave's benevolent despotry is threatened by the arrival of her hunchbacked cousin, Cork Hubbert (in the role played on stage by dwarf actor Michael Dunn), and her jailbird husband Keith Carradine. Unable to remove this threat to her authority by her usual means, Redgrave is reduced to challenging Carradine to a bare-knuckle fight! Carson McCullers' fascination with the disintegration of the Old South coupled with her preoccupation with the grotesque requires delicate handling (as witness Heart Is a Lonely Hunter). Callow works overtime keeping things controlled and tasteful; unfortunately, this results in a very mannered and stilted production, all too obviously betraying its stage origins. … More
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