CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
Blu-ray Review: ‘George Washington’ Re-Release Recalls Introduction of Great Director
CHICAGO – Before “Snow Angels”, “Prince Avalanche”, or even “The Sitter”, director David Gordon Green flexed his film school muscles in his unabashed inauguration, “George Washington”. Eying its body, the 2000 film shares qualities other first-timers huff when trying to be taken seriously by the arthouse crowd. Especially with the films that were assuredly motivated by Green’s work like 2012’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild”, “George Washington” celebrates storytelling instruments like whimsical young voiceover, shots that are equally distinct & questionable, and the raw potential of non-actors. With crime becoming a famous trend for first-time directors hungry for authorship, (Tarantino, Anderson, R. Johnson, Malle, and Godard among others), Green chose the other option, to make an obscure film where the story is background to a thickly atmospheric foreground. (Oddly enough, Malick did both).
But what makes “George Washington” more exceptional than its comparisons is its soul, which can be seen past his more blatant exercises of pretension. North Carolina School of the Arts grad Green gives a great scope to the same state’s destroyed landscapes that are clearly very close to his heart. This heart is shown in various shades with “George Washington’s” story, which might move slowly but doesn’t allow the ease of stopping. When taking the film for its narrative, Green shows a striking storytelling sense, advancing the film beyond its initial meditative qualities. As well, he handles the huge concepts of race with thoughtfulness, showing human beings able to interact without their skin colors or age defining them.
Most of all, Green expresses a bleeding love for his content with his camera, which guarantees the promise of his eye as a bonaide filmmaker. Thankfully, this pristine transfer ensures his striking use of color and regular daylight, celebrating Green’s intentions of showing the detailed beauty of places lost to time. The film’s images are ready for art gallerys, but with this Blu-ray transfer a home viewing could achieve the same justice.
Keeping up with the finest Criterion releases, this Blu-ray/DVD provides a full background for “George Washington” with its extras. Specifically, a 2001 Charlie Rose interview with a young Green provides historical perspective as to how different “George Washington” was during the time of its release, and also the brimming levels of its inspiration.
A feast of pure imagery, “George Washington” is a cinematographer’s film as much as it is a director’s project. With the help of his cinematographer Tim Orr (credited unusually in the same frame as Green’s writer/director title), “George Washington” is a stunning piece. Though others may have been inspired by its achievements, this film finds a singular beauty in the discovery of Americana’s artifacts.
"George Washington was released on Blu-ray on March 11, 2014
Photo credit: Courtesy of The Criterion Collection
A group of kids in North Carolina wander the wreckage of their community. When the children are involved in a tragedy, they are confronted with how they will face the rest of their lives.
o Audio commentary by director David Gordon Green, cinematographer Tim Orr, and actor Paul Schneider
o Deleted Scene with commentary by Green, Orr, and Schneider
o Two student shorts by Green: “Pleasant Grove” (1997) with commentary by Green, Orr, and Schneider, and “Physical Pinball” (1998)
o Charlie Rose interview with Green from 2001
o Interviews with cast members from a 2001 reunion
o Clu Gulager’s 1969 short film “A Day with the Boys”, which inspired “George Washington”
o DVD copy
By Nick Allen