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For Love of Ivy

MRA/MRA . R4 . COLOR . 101 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
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You gotta love Sidney Poitier. As an advocate of civil rights for black people he stands out among the crowd and helped pave the way for the myriad black folks working in film today. Unfortunately, Hollywood still has a ways to go with how black folks are portrayed at times, but thatís a different matter.

Anyway, here Sidney brings his usual calculated cool to the screen, carrying himself with his trademark grace and dignity and pure professionalism as he portrays someone slightly skewiff of the law. He plays Jack Parks, part owner of a trucking company that delivers by day, and carries a mobile casino by night. Beau Bridges plays a free-love suburban hippie whose family maid (a Ďcolouredí) wants to leave and attend secretary school, but he ainít having that. He thinks she just needs love and sheíll want to stay so he blackmails Jack into dating her.

Much hilarity ensues.

"I got news for you, CharlieÖ slaveryís been abolished, man."

Itís by no means a new plot; Shakespeare was doing this one back in the day, but perhaps itíd never been done with two black folks in the lead roles. The story was concocted by Sidney Poitier himself and for the most part this is a rather amusing period piece of the year it was made, 1960. Poitier is ever his charismatic self while Abbey Lincoln is the real standout as hopelessly downtrodden but firmly resolute Ivy. All at once demure, sassy and sexy, she fills the film with a real exploration of her character and is by far the most interesting member of the piece. Even Poitier is almost overshadowed by her character, and thatís no mean feat.

As far as films go, I imagine this one was a sleeper at the time of its original release. While not as sharply edited as it could have been Ė several scenes contain one or two seconds of pauses that are either unrequired or survive due to poor editing Ė itís still a fairly unusual film and contains some real time capsules of an era long gone. In my whole life, apart from cinema, Iíve never heard black folks referred to as 'coloured' and Iím thankful for that. This misnomer is where it belongs; in the past. Unfortunately though, it appears common at the time with every sort of person (black included) referring to Negroes that way. So time capsule yes, politically correct, no. However, this isnít a racist film by any means. The terms used are not intentionally derogatory, theyíre just the way people spoke back then, as I see it. I imagine itís the same with the use of ĎAfrican-Americaní today; simply a recognition thing. That being said, you donít hear people describing white folks as Caucasian American or White American or whatever. (Where the hell is Caucasia anyway?)

Itís a funny film - not as funny as it was obviously intended - but there are enough warm moments, great performances and authentic period pieces to maintain a healthy interest.

  Video
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The horror all lies here. This transfer is just horrible. The colours are flat and blunt throughout and in darker areas the colour is over-saturated and bleeds into the dark awfully. While being practically artefact-free (surprisingly) the film stock itself has suffered the rigours of time poorly. Multiple instances of major damage can be found throughout, like at 20:23 where five frames are severely torn or 57:59 where seven frames look similar. There are also transfer issues here like the 18-frame pixellated pause at 18:46 or the 11-frame film wobble at 30:14. Not good at all.

Shadow detail is non-existent, with larger night shots of black being solid walls of obsidian. Strange then that occasionally the black changes into deep blue or grey at times. Itís a great shame, because there are some genuinely vivid images of the early Ď60s here that deserve better. Whatís more we get the massive screen ratio of 4:3 to view it all on.

  Audio
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Another tragedy. Delivered in Dolby Digital stereo, we have some severe issues with audio hiss and mild static. On occasion the dialogue even sounds mildly distant and tinny. Dialogue itself, for that matter, gets a little wooden at times, leading me to think (when incorporating the poor editing mentioned above) this film was shot in a hurry and not a great many takes of each scene were captured.

Music is scored by the ineffable Quincy Jones with some lyrics even written by the awesome Maya Angelou. The music holds a very period flavour using tubular bells and panpipes with clarinet to firmly set us in the lounge mood that much of this film exploits. The music, while very fitted to the film, is still a relatively early work for Jones and is among his more average of efforts.

  Extras
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A simple three page biography of Sidney Poitier is all we get, but this is definitely worth the read. I can understand thereíd be little still existing regarding promo stuff for the film and thatís a shame, but it woulda been nice. Considering the rather crap transfer quality though, itís no surprise we get nada.

  Overall  
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While on the surface this appears as a rather ordinary film, it kinda is. However, itís also strangely compelling with the chemistry between Poitier and Lincoln, and their performances are just great. Being a fairly ordinary transfer and even disappointing at times, itís going to have to lie with you to warrant how badly you want it.


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      And I quote...
    "By no means a new plot; Shakespeare was doing this one back in the dayÖ "
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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