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The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Merchant Ivory Collection


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Product Details

  • Actors: Vanessa Redgrave, Keith Carradine, Cork Hubbert, Rod Steiger, Austin Pendleton
  • Directors: Simon Callow
  • Writers: Carson McCullers, Edward Albee, Michael Hirst
  • Producers: Donald Rosenfeld, Ismail Merchant, Paul Bradley
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Special Edition, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Merchant Ivory
  • DVD Release Date: January 18, 2005
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0006HBZYW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,138 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Merchant Ivory Collection" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Audio commentary by director Simon Callow

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Three Academy Award® winners—Vanessa Red grave, Keith Carradine, and Rod Steiger—are the stars of this extraordinary 1991 film, directed by British actor Simon Callow. The Ballad of the Sad Café, based on the Carson McCullers novella and Edward Albee play, is both a grotesque black comedy and a prime slice of "Southern Gothic," set in a poverty-stricken rural community dominated by the curious, androgynous character of Miss Amelia. A forceful personality with a mysterious past, she runs the town's only café and controls the locals through distribution of her own secretly brewed "hooch." But Miss Amelia's eccentric existence is threatened with the arrival of a hunchbacked dwarf, who claims kinship with her, and reappearance of the husband she rejected on their wedding night.

Amazon.com

As Southern Gothic goes, Simon Callow's The Ballad of the Sad Café is about as eerie as a Great Depression-era tragedy can be, rife with subconscious rage, unholy alliances, androgyny, and grotesque spectacle. Based on a Carson McCullers novella but adapted from a stage version written by Edward Albee, Ballad stars Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Amelia, a singular force in her dusty, rural town worthy of a Walker Percy photo spread. Owner of the only general store in sight, medicine woman, and manufacturer of moonshine strong enough to numb the day laborers who collapse on her porch, Miss Amelia controls the pulse of her community. Things change with the arrival of a strange, hunchbacked dwarf (Cork Hubbert) who claims to be her cousin, but who ultimately sides with Amelia's ex-husband (Keith Carradine) in a campaign to make her life a living hell. British character actor Callow's ambition behind the camera proves a little overwrought, but he delivers a powerfully atmospheric, even nightmarish, drama. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

The Ballad is one of my favorite books, and the movie did not let me down!
Paola V. Jozzolino
On the other hand, many viewers may find the pace too slow and the first part really obscure unless they already know something about the characters.
silversurf
Dark and depressing and violent and realistic and southern gothic and I loved it.
Neal Hoesing

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth A. Nelson on July 13, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I immediately fell into the story. Fell so deep, I started drinking water by the pitcherfull. The set was soooooooooo believeable that I was thirsty during the entire film. Really!!! The cast was perfect. Who can go wrong with Ms. Redgrave? She didn't dissapoint! I have to go now. I need a glass of water just thinking about "The Sad Cafe."
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Gyurisin on April 21, 2008
Format: DVD
A review for "The Ballad of the Sad Café" once opened with the formidable question of who would ever consider casting Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Amelia, a Depression-era love-starved local recluse. As this critic seemed to point out, the only really two options were either Shelley Duvall or Sissy Spacek, two women who have continually redefined that particular role time and time again. For me, Redgrave was phenomenal in a role unfamiliar to her typical typecast. She was strong, leathery rough, and the absolute definition of an independent woman who literally ran this little mill town in the South. An adaptation of a book by Carson McCullers and helmed by famed Brit Simon Callow, this had the makings to be the next "Grapes of Wrath" or Oscar winning human drama. This film was unique, mysterious, bold, delicate, honest, and brutal, with a small element of David Lynch lurking around the corner. The characters seemed to be placed well, Callow's direction was superb in some moments, lacking in others, but with all of this praise behind it - it still suffered as merely an average film. Why? Major parts seemed, or at least felt, like they were dropped on the cutting room floor. Scenarios played out in a logical sense, but the physical connectors seemed to be weak, and unable to support a story of this nature. "The Ballad of the Sad Café" worked hard at its image, but when it came down to crunch-time, it was left standing in its own self-created dust.

One cannot image saying this out loud, but if Vanessa Redgrave's Amelia were to fight John Wayne or even Clint Eastwood, my hard-earned dollars would have to go to Redgrave.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marie A. Hawk on January 10, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This movie gets poor reviews from critics but has great cinematography, symbolism and a quirky plot. Hard movie to find out in the stores - thanks again Amazon. If you enjoy the obscure you will like this movie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paola V. Jozzolino on October 26, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Ballad is one of my favorite books, and the movie did not let me down!
Supreme!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By silversurf on July 22, 2011
Format: DVD
I'm rating this four stars based on how well I think it reflects the book, not on how much I liked the story. I'm not a fan of Carson McCullers' novels, not because they aren't good, but because I simply find her stories of small town loneliness and loss too dispiriting for my taste.

Having said that, I thought that this film intrepreted the characters and situations pretty much as the author intended. There are a few points where the film differs, but it IS a film, not a reprint of the book. In particular there is a scene where a country preacher delivers an abstract discourse on love that in the book is given by the narrator as a commentary on the action. However, as the movie is shot without a voiceover narration, this needed to be worked into the dialogue in some fashion. I thought it was a bit awkward, but that's a quibble. Generally I thought the acting was right on the mark, capturing the eccentricities of the characters without making them characatures of Southern types. Visually, I was impressed by how much veracity was achieved in creating the dusty,run-down yet oddly vital look of that time and place. It's much as I remember it from my own childhood - perhaps that explains my discomfort with the book:).

I do recommend this film if you have read and liked the book, or if you want an easy introduction to the world of McCullers' fiction. On the other hand, many viewers may find the pace too slow and the first part really obscure unless they already know something about the characters.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Truly an amazing but very sad tale. It's not for the faint of heart by the weight of results. I know of no other tale that leaves such forlorn ending.

Ernest Saucier
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