The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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All Critics (20)
| Top Critics (4)
| Fresh (15)
| Rotten (5)
| DVD (2)
Otto Preminger has transferred it to the screen with taste and imagination in an opulent production.
Impeccably liberal in its time, the film has not aged gracefully, although Dorothy Dandridge's performance in the lead remains a testimony to a black cinema that might have been.
The somewhat heavy-handed direction and the ultimately two-dimensional characters leave you admiring the workmanship without plucking at the necessary emotional/romantic heart-strings.
A crazy mixed-up film.
As a play with music by Bizet one can forget that he and Mr. Hammerstein have taken a liberty with one of one's earliest memories, and after seeing it one must try to forget that, truth to tell, their Carmen Jones is really much better than Carmen.
If you're not a fan of opera, you probably won't care much for 'Carmen Jones,' despite some pretty solid acting and scenes that bring postwar America to life.
Dorothy Dandridge became the very first black woman to receive Best Actress Oscar nomination for Otto Preimger's audacious (for the early 1950s) all-black musical of the famous opera.
A film in which talented, attractive people sing ugly lyrics to beautiful music in other people's beautiful voices amid ugly shot framing and ill-timed cutting.
Electric performance by Dorothy Dandridge as the sultry whorish Carmen Jones.
Preminger's heavy-handed adaptation of a Broadway triumph combines gorgeous music with risible lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; the project is saved by a terrific cast.
The best reason to revisit Carmen Jones lies in Dorothy Dandridge's electrifying performance, which saw her become the first African-American to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.
Every frame, you feel, is freighted with the tension imposed by the never-appearing white folks. It was, however, laudable in its desire to showcase the talents of African-American performers who were denied opportunities in Hollywood.
Otto Preminger directed this all african-american cast in a "modernized" version of Georges Bizet's "Carmen", with lyrics written by Oscar Hammerstein II. Carmen Jones (Dorothy Dandridge) works in the parachute factory and seduces Joe the pilot (Harry Belafonte) away from his sweet little girlfriend. Joe's life soon takes a downward spiral as Carmen brings him nothing but bad luck. As he enters his lowest point, Carmen is spirited away by a big time boxer named Husky Miller. He gives her all the things money can buy and she soon gives Joe the brush off (something he doesn't take lightly). The storyline is well adapted from the classical opera, and the performances are all great, but I had difficulty following the Hammerstein lyrics, and those lyrics that I could follow didn't impress me. I'm sure there was some novelty to having an all african american cast, but fortunately, the film survives the era from which it came relatively unscathed. That is to say, there are no real racially cringe-worthy moments. It's enjoyable as Carmen, and reminds me a little of 1959's "Black Orpheus", in that there's a joyous lust for life (the latter film just edges it out however).
Two seminal musicals of the fifties were Porgy and Bess and Carmen Jones. Both had black casts which was subversive for the time period, and both were operas. The main actress is the sultry Dorothy Dandridge, who would go on to become the first black woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this film. She co-stars with Harry Belafonte, who was most famous at the time for bringing Calypso music to prominence in the United States. Though both were singers, and famous for their presence on screen and off, they were both dubbed. One reason for this was the fact that the music was operatic and the two singers who dubbed were opera singers, one of which was the soon to be famous Marilyn Horne. Most of the cast was apparently dubbed for this large scale musical, the lyrics for which were written by Oscar Hammerstein the 2nd. The original music was actually from George Bizet's Carmen, a French opera about a gypsy who seduces a soldier and then double crosses him. The film pretty much follows the main plot of the opera, except that the time period has been changed to World War Two, and they made it an all black cast. Many historians have prompted that the choice to make the entire cast black and excluding any white participants "feels like a relic from the gruesome social straitjacket that was segregation." (Andrew Pulver) I do agree with this, especially when the story transfers to large cities and there's no diversification in the shots which just feels strange. I did like that like George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess this gives African American performers, without an outlet, to be given their just dues in an industry that was very white at the time. The music can be obnoxious at times, because it's from the original Carmen opera yet the lyrics' subjects are about dancing, fighting, and cards which at times feel conflicting. The cast is brilliant, including the swishy hipped Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen Jones herself. The best performance was Harry Belafonte, who at first seems so likable and prideful, but unravels under Carmen's gaze and eventually cracks. This film has since been added to the National Film Registry and has made a sure impression on popular culture. Really an enjoyable gem of a film.
Impressive updating of Bizet's Carmen benefits hugely from wonderfully expressive performances by the whole cast with Dorothy Dandridge being the standout. Preminger keeps the film moving and colorful avoiding his occasional tendency toward ponderousness. Pearlie Mae is fun as Frankie and lightens the heavy aspects of the film whenever she's on screen.
Ah back to back reviews of Preminger films. This was the first version of Carmen that I saw on the big screen and after seeing the recent South African effort, this one just doesn't hold water. Now..all I have to do is see a stage version for another perspective.
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