Monday, January 30, 2006

Review – The Emperor Jones

Writer Eugene O’Neil and actor Paul Robeson combine to make a chilling commentary on the nature and consequence of blind ambition. Brutus Jones (Robeson) begins the picture as a Pullman porter, and by the end of the movie he’s done time on a chain gang, shoveled coal on a steamship, and become the dictator of a Caribbean island. The end of the movie – when the Emperor attempts to escape a coup by fleeing into the jungle – is not to be missed. Robeson’s emotive reactions to the ghosts and memories that haunt him are one of the great, overlooked moments of American film. Of course it’s been overlooked at least in part because the dialogue contains more uses of the N-word than a Tarantino movie. Also, it’s helpful to do some background reading before viewing this picture, as it was cut in places to avoid offending white audiences. This would make an interesting double feature with Cabin in the Sky, another predominantly African American movie that came out in 1943. Mildly amusing

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