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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great actors, great acting and great imaging.
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."
Published on July 13, 2009 by Kenneth A. Nelson

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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ford should change its logo to - "Built Redgrave Tough"
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...
Published on April 21, 2008 by A. Gyurisin


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great actors, great acting and great imaging., July 13, 2009
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This review is from: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (DVD)
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Ford should change its logo to - "Built Redgrave Tough", April 21, 2008
By 
This review is from: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Merchant Ivory Collection (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. Her portrayal of Amelia was as close to perfection and consumed with more detailed dedication than most actors are willing to give to any multi-million dollar contracted persona. Redgrave gave Amelia this soulful drawl that was a blend of her own unique voice and a hard-earned woman from the south. To the average viewer, this could be construed as annoying, but as the film progressed it became her - Miss Amelia transforming this stage beauty into a roughneck. It was Redgrave's performance, as well as her interaction with the other characters, that made this film stand tall - but not the tallest. The others following her performance were needed, but not stellar. As we moved past the murky cliché image passed on by every set designer hired for the post-Depression South job, the minor characters felt like poster board. The image was needed to set the scene, but the characters of the town had no other purpose. Take for example Rod Steiger's vision of some old, wild spoken preacher. His scenes alone will make any viewer question the validity of this off-the-beaten-path town. The main two players who surrounded Amelia battled with charm for the admirable top scene-stealing moment, but due to the lacking direction - it just seemed faded. The most absurd of the two (albeit both rank high among the questionable sanity line) is Cork Hubbard who plays Amelia's "cousin" who shows up randomly one night. His character is never quite defined, he lacks true motive, and his loyalties remain uncertain. He plays no vital role in this film outside of forcing us, the viewers, to question his sanity and honesty. Can you create a character simply by sticking out your tongue, flicking your ears, and punching your chest and head? Finally, there is the other end of the absurd - Keith Carradine. Callow's close-ups of this tormented man build character, but our lack of understanding between him and Amelia causes his purpose to flounder. These were the characters, as cliché Southern as they were - some stood forward and attempted to create an absurdist period piece, and I cannot argue that they failed.

Where "Ballad of the Sad Café" failed to rise above mediocrity was in the cinematography and narrative. This film was about Amelia, and her need for other souls in her life. The audience's level of comfort with the arrival of her midget cousin was entertaining - one couldn't help but wonder if he was honest or merely a confidence man attempt to leech off a warm heart. Cork Hubbard's character is never quite understood, but we do accept him with brief shots of him and Amelia doing small things together. It is his idea that transforms from a recluse businesswoman to a bona-fide café owner. The problem is that director Callow never quite takes us to that dramatic take level between Cork and Redgrave - is the man crazy or does he represent all of Amelia's family? I needed something from Callow that brought these two out of the David Lynch-esque relationship that they had. Then our pool gets even deeper with the addition of Carradine as Amelia's "love interest". Using the technique of a flashback within a flashback, we see the two wed, but never consummate their love - which Amelia's anger against their love drawing him into the world of madness. Why was Amelia so angry? Why was there no connection between Carradine and Redgrave? Why was this even in the film? With the lack of focus towards these characters's connection, the eventual scenes between the two made no sense - throw in Cork's choice and it just gets completely discombobulated. While there were a few beautiful choreographed scenes that Callow created, the inability to transfer his characters from point A to point B. I lost focus, interest, and my care for the characters plummeted when I didn't understand the ultimate question - "why"?

Overall, "The Ballad of the Sad Café" began with a bang, but ended with a very small crack of a firecracker. My emotional feel of this film swung up and down, up and down, and eventually stayed further down mainly due to the lack of understanding of the motives of the characters. Redgrave did a phenomenal job as Amelia, and while the other characters (outside of the random Steiger) tried their best, I just didn't quite understand who they were. Their motives were so muddled that when the emotional ending finally occurred, I was apathetic. Director Callow seemed to have been lacking importing connecting scenes that would allow us to understand the dynamic relationship between all of our main players. Callow created some beautiful scenes where faces seemed to overlap the scenery, which allowed us to focus on Amelia - or Carradine, but nothing was explained or developed. The film played out with anger, discover, happiness, flashback, anger, anger, anger, fade out. Without the comparative connectors, this transformed from distinguished period film to actors playing parts in front of camera. It was a shame, because "Sad Café" had the promise, it just couldn't deliver.

Grade: ** ˝ out of *****
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Odd movie - but a favorite!, January 10, 2010
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This review is from: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Merchant Ivory Collection (DVD)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Drama ever, October 26, 2009
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This review is from: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Merchant Ivory Collection (DVD)
The Ballad is one of my favorite books, and the movie did not let me down!
Supreme!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, April 23, 2013
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This review is from: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Merchant Ivory Collection (DVD)
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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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very faithful adaptation of the book, July 22, 2011
By 
silversurf (Planet of Paint) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Merchant Ivory Collection (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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars confusing at first, December 31, 2012
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This review is from: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Merchant Ivory Collection (DVD)
Profound! How sad it is to know that those living an alternative lifestyle struggle with understanding themselves, let alone how others lack the understanding to offer love and support.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very dark, August 19, 2011
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This review is from: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (DVD)
Have tried twice to watch this DVD without success. It is so very dark and dismal! Not one to give up so easily, I will try again, perhaps when I am feeling blue myself.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the depression south had bitter fruit, January 29, 2010
By 
Roger Bagula "Roger L. Bagula" (Lakeside, Ca United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Merchant Ivory Collection (DVD)
A midget hunchback, an old maid and her criminal husband
set in a backwater southern town where moon shine rules
is the setting for this play on the worst in man?
I really doubt with the characters being so far from normal humans,
the play has much appeal to wider audiences.
I got to asking myself, who are these people?
They had no radio and few picture shows or newspapers.
There seems to be a real lack of any learning or social graces,
but the ordinary people seem most gentle that there are few fights
even when they are drunk on white lightening.
The "Miss Amelia" is the rich store keeper who also
makes the moon shine by her father's recipe.
When her cousin comes to live with her,
the quiet of the small town is disturbed
by the influence from outside. These people are dirt poor
farmers and mill workers, and a little entertainment
with a social gathering at the cafe
becomes the center of their life.
When Amelia's rejected husband returns,
the whole equation changes.
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1 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not waste your time and money!, October 21, 2004
This review is from: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (DVD)
Don't even think about it. This DVD is going directly into the trash!
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The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Merchant Ivory Collection
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