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EVE'S BAYOU

SYNOPSIS:
Ten-year-old Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett), a wise and observant child, is reasonably fond of her 14-year-old sister, Cisely (Meagan Good), and 9-year-old brother, Poe (real-life brother Jake Smollett). She adores her beautiful mother, Roz (Lynn Whitfield), and her physician father, Louis (Samuel L. Jackson). But things are not as perfect as Eve would like to think. Though basically good at heart, Louis is a ferocious womaniser, a fact that is not lost on the perpetually wounded Roz. He also lavishes an undue amount of attention on Cisely, at least in Eve's jealous eyes. The heart of the story, though, beats in the proud chest of Louis' sister, Mozelle (Debbi Morgan), a beautiful, exotic but childless woman who has buried three husbands and who has such a clear take on the future that people pay her to tell their fortunes or conjure up images of missing loved ones. In so doing, Mozelle comes into direct competition with the frightening Elzora (Diahann Carroll), a local priestess who tends to throw out deadly curses with great regularity.

"Films such as this, (first reviewed on this site at last year's Toronto Film Festival), are a rarity. Eve's Bayou is a stunning debut by writer/director Kasi Lemmons, an intelligent, haunting study of childhood [followed closely by Shadrach]. Perhaps what Lemmons' shimmering work proves most of all, is that the age of the eloquent screenwriter is alive and well. This is a gifted filmmaker and a visionary artist: her carefully structured script, encompassing some of the year's most poetic dialogue, is perfect. The film's exquisite evocation of the Louisiana bayou is extraordinary, and becomes a peripheral character in this film's startling tale of childhood, wealth, class, betrayal and magic. It's one of the few American films to explore the affluence of Afro-American society, and Lemmons explores this family in all its flaws and mysteries. She has not only detailed this world on an intrinsically physical level, but her characters have an extraordinary amount of depth and individuality. In what may be the find of the decade, 10-year old Jurnee Smollett is remarkable as the complex, often troubled, central character. This young actress displays an intellect and emotional connection with her character that actors twice her age are incapable of displaying. Samuel L. Jackson, so smitten by this material that he put his money and name behind it, is at his best here: warm, passionate, weak, vulnerable, a far cry from the tougher image he personifies in mainstream Hollywood. Beautiful and alluring Lyn Whitfield is sublime as Roz, the unfortunate doctor's wife, TV soap star Debbi Morgan is stunning as the enigmatic Mozelle. Eve's Bayou has all the makings of a movie classic. It's a film that gets little attention because it has depth and is about SOMETHING. To miss this film, would be to be miss one of the finest and most hypnotic films of the year, a rare masterwork."
Paul Fischer

"Films don't tend to look much better than this, nor do they play much better than this. Eve's Bayou is a beautifully constructed artwork, with a rich, deep look filled out by a dark but moving story about a black family living in America's South. The culture of the Creole features prominently in the story as the more mystical elements take the forefront early on. The story begins innocuously enough and quickly establishes the relationships and the catalyst for their breaking apart. What follows is the slow but emotionally violent break-up of the family unit. The characters in this film are so complex, it's hard to know what to think of them. Louis particularly (and intentionally) is both a hateful but loveable character who does objectionable things but quickly redeems himself. He betrays the trust of his daughters and wife often but his smile seems to fix everything. There are many visual elements in this film that would not be out of place on a stage. The flashbacks are done as though the people in the story are right there in the room with those being told and telling the story which is a masterful way of becoming involved. Writer-director Kasi Lemmons has excelled in both areas, the characters driving the story and really being the main part of the film. The people could have been anywhere and anyone, it wouldn't have mattered, such is the strength of this Eve's Bayou."
Peter Anderson

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CRITICAL COUNT:
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0
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See Paul Fischer's interview with director/writer
KASI LEMMONS

EVE’S BAYOU (M15+)
(US)

CAST: Jurnee Smollett, Meagan Good, Samuel L. Jackson, Vondi Curtis Hall, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Jake Smollett, Ethel Ayler, Diahann Carroll, Lisa Nicole Carson, Tamara Tunie

PRODUCER: Caldecot Chubb, Samuel L. Jackson

DIRECTOR: Kasi Lemmons

SCRIPT: Kasi Lemmons

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Amy Vincent

EDITOR: Terilyn A. Shropshire

MUSIC: Terence Blanchard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jeff Howard

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Reid & Puskar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 19, 1998

VIDEO RELEASE: June 9, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar







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