DVD: Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? (1975)

12 Aug

Yes, a new category. Believe it or not, I did not have a DVD player, not until I bought the new computer last week! I have since collected a few, mainly with my coachees in mind, but not only. Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? came my way for $6 at Paddy’s Markets just today. It only gets one star rating there, but I disagree. Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t even rate it.

The chronicle of an unforgettable piece of American history–twelve crazy, painful see-saw years, from the Wall Street crash to Pearl Harbor. By juxtaposing contemporary news and documentary footage with extracts from Hollywood classics such as “Golddiggers,” “Lady Killer” and “Wild Boys of the Road,” director Philippe Mora offers an immediate, intricate and evocative scrapbook of the 1930s.

I immediately see uses as contextual material for Brave New World for Year 12 (NSW), not to mention for history classes.

Judith Taylor and Frank Stricker wrote a substantial review there in Jump Cut in 1976. They didn’t like it much, partly on the grounds that they felt its style (there is absolutely no voice-over) tended to “mystify and confuse present-day filmgoers—not only about the depression and the relation of that period to its films, but about the U.S. system today.” I really disagree with that. I found the montage compelling, maybe because I already know a bit about the era; however, the movie provided more than I had known before, and exposure to many speeches, for example, which I had seen reported but never actually saw delivered. Roosevelt really was quite an orator, and much he says has resonance now.

So give it a go. Even Taylor and Stricker concede a little: “…dammit, in spite of ourselves, we enjoyed parts of the film. Mora has assembled some wonderful rare footage—historical clips as well as Hollywood movies. The charismatic presences of Gable, Cagney, FOR, and Huey Long flash electrically across the screen. Now old or dead, then they were flowing, successful, alive….”

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Posted by on August 12, 2006 in Cultural and other, Films, DVDs, TV


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