The Kansas City Star from Kansas City, Missouri on June 26, 1992 · 96
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The Kansas City Star from Kansas City, Missouri · 96

Kansas City, Missouri
Issue Date:
Friday, June 26, 1992
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M 0 V I I S Spirits of proud beauty Julie Dash’s film is ravishing in its beauty poignant in its truth By ROBERT W BUTLER Arts and Entertainment Editor There is simply no precedent for writerdirector Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust” a visual and aural experience that is ravishing It is more like reading a poem aloud or watching Judith Jamison dance than viewing a conventional motion picture With her first film the Atlanta-based Dash has fashioned a one-of-a-kind masterpiece about MOVIE REVIEW the continuity of life the beauty of tradition and the redeeming power of family Set on an island off the South Carolina Coast “Daughters” centers on a reunion of the Peazant family a “Gullah” clan that has lived in splendid isolation since the emancipation of the slaves The time is 1902 and most of the Peazants have decided to move to the mainland They’ll leave behind Nana Peazant (Cora Lee Day) the ancient great-grandmother whose hands still are blue from the indigo dye with which she worked while a plantation slave Nana rules her clan through love and grandmotherly intimidation she is the keeper of the family’s oral history a maker of charms a communer with the dead souls of their ancestors She condemns the migration as the death knell of their way of life For others it can’t happen too soon One of Nana’s granddaughters-in-law Haagar (Kansas City actress Kaycee Moore) is desperate to leave behind the “hoodoo mess” of the island A self-educated woman who is widowed Haagar seethes with anger and a yearning for a new life The very young cousins regard the impending migration as a lark but some of the older girls are edgy Haagar’s oldest daughter is in love with a young Cherokee man whose people have coexisted with the Gullahs for decades It’s doubtful they’ll even get her to the boat Nana’s great-grandson Eli (Ad-isa Anderson) is consumed with jealousy His wife Eula (Alva Rogers) is pregnant but Eli isn’t sure he’s the father In her most audacious stroke Dash has made a major character of this unborn rated Some dialogue is in Gullah patois and French with English subtitles Running time to 1 hour 54 minutes child a girl who provides poetic voiceover narration and who ghostly and unseen by the others romps amid her future cousins The reunion also has attracted relatives who earlier left the island Iona (Bahni Turpin) is now a Christian and much concerned with weaning her nieces and nephews from the amalgam of Islam and primitive animism that dominates their spiritual life Much to the disgust of many of the aunts one of the visitors is Yellow Mary (Barbara-O) a “ruined woman” who has not only violated the sanctity of the proceedings by showing up but also has brought along another prostitute the beautiful mulatto Trula (Trula Hoosier) “This must be the most desolate place on earth” comments the regal Mary after the chilly reception In fact it looks very much like paradise If “Daughters of the Dust” is deceptively simple in its story and characterizations it is an overwhelmingly rich sensory experience The photography by Arthur Jafa (Dash’s husband) is absolutely transfixing John Barnes’ African-influenced musical score is superb and the performances are so unaffected and guileless that frequently we’re lulled into regarding this film as a documentary rather than a work of fiction Dash and Jafa eschew conventional narrative for dreamlike passages of children playing white-clothed women dancing on the beach The resultant film is an overwhelming blend of folklore anthropology sociology and genuine human drama that achieves a mythic grandeur an almost unbearable beauty and aching emotional depths ”-4 The Kansas City Star Friday June 16 1 992 JO ‘Howards End’ begins with stunning acting Merchant Ivory creative team does typically fine job Three women in lead roles are brilliant By ROBERT W BUTLER Arts and Entertainment Editor “Howards End" may not be the Second Coming that advance reviews have suggested but it is a very fine film marked by some truly spectacular performances and the fidelity to the novelistic voice of EM Forster that we’ve come to expect from such Merchant Ivory productions as “A Room With a View” and “Maurice” This is the story of two wildly dissimilar tum-of-the-century Bri- MOVIE REVIEW tish families the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes and how their destinies become inexorably linked Margaret (Emma Thompson) and Helen (Helena Bonham Carter) Schlegel are by the standards of their time quite liberated Respectable but financially shaky they enjoy liberal politics and romantic social views They relish the arts and delight in their roles as benign eccentrics engaging in cnchantingly undecorous behav- How it rates Vi “Howards End" a period drama contains adult language and mild violence and is rated PG Running time is 2 hour 20 minutes ior “We’re just overexpressive" the kindly nurturing Margaret assures a flustered visitor The Wilcox family headed by Henry (Anthony Hopkins) and Ruth (Vanessa Redgrave) are precisely the opposite — prim and proper very wealthy and so conservative that Ruth wouldn’t vote even if she could When the Wilcox clan takes up winter residence across the street from the Schlegels’ London flat Margaret who in her early 30s already is regarded as an old maid befriends Ruth An unimaginative but loving woman Ruth speaks rapturously of her family's estate Howards End She confides to Margaret that she is seriously ill Anthony Hopkins plays an Edwardian industrialist in "Howards End" the Merchant Ivory adaptation of EM Forster's novel

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