Monday, February 21, 2005

The Year of My Birth

I just saw Sydney Poitier's film Lilies of the FieldI honestly can't figure out how it survived the studio system in 1963, the year in which I was born.  It's got none of the typical requisites.  It's a rather thin plot.  There's no romance ... and I suspect there was when the screenplay was first written. 

Perhaps my ability to read subtext is subpar, but I cannot understand why Poitier's character takes the actions he does.  He stays to help the nuns build a chapel ... for WHAT reason?  He tolerates the unkind actions of the Prioress ... for what reason?  Because he's a masochist at heart?

The only thing I really liked about the film was the faith theme:  that carried a real payoff.  Unfortunately, the lack of complexity in the music (an a cappella version of the black spiritual, "Amen") was annoying even to me.

But hey, Poitier got an Oscar nom because of the role, so it must be a good film, right?

Am I angry?  Hmm.  Am I?  I don't know.  I'll figure it out and let you know what I eventually think.  Do I feel betrayed by the Oscar stamp of approval?  Yes, I think so. 

Perhaps what makes me so mad is the politics behind the film:  no, we can't let Sydney fall in love with a white girl, so we'll do the film without the necessary love motivation.

The racism in the film is fairly obvious now, but back then, I suppose, it was a real feather in the cap of Poitier.  Did the racism in society prevent the writers from telling the real story?  Maybe that's what annoys me. 

And I know people who would love this film.  That's scary.

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