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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NATIVE LAND (1941)

This barely released piece of Left-Wing cinematic Op-Ed journalism fully lives up to its storied rep. Half documentary/half vignette-sized realizations on Capitalist & vigilante abuse against the Bill of Rights (with an emphasis on Union busting), it’s remarkably effective as agitprop and remarkably advanced as sheer filmmaking. After co-lensing THE PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS/’36, Leo Hurwutz & Paul Strand spent five years putting this together which would have robbed the stories of their immediacy if Pearl Harbor & WWII hadn’t already muted so many political controversies ‘for the duration.’ But modern viewers will appreciate the remarkably up-to-date documentary techniques and the recreations which anticipate movie styles later developed by Elia Kazan & Boris Kaufman in films like ON THE WATERFRONT/’54. Paul Robeson beautifully handles the exceptional narration, and watch for noted NYC blacklisted actors like Howard de Silva & Art Smith. But the real champ here is undoubtedly Paul Strand, a great photographer whose eye is unmistakable in three museum-worthy montage sequences showing Americans going about their daily lives and celebrating holidays on the street.

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