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A Walk On The Other Side,
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This review is from: Black Like Me (DVD)
After years of neglect, BLACK LIKE ME finally gets a good presentation with this new 2-disc DVD release, which features a beautiful restoration of the 1964 motion picture along with a documentary about the author of the book on which the film is based. The DVD offers the choice of the original 4x3 format or a 16x9 version, both of which look impressively crisp and clear.
As for the film itself, this is a case where one has to look beyond the finished product and think more in terms of the message of the story. Why? Well, as other reviewers have noted, there's just no escaping the fact that James Whitmore does not even remotely look like he could be taken for an African-American, despite any amount of black makeup. And if you're looking for powerhouse dramatic performances or an unforgettable music score, you're not going to find them here. Still, if you can look beyond its deficiencies, this film has some important points to make, and it does so in a very understated and effective manner.
BLACK LIKE ME is a quiet and thought-provoking exploration of the effects of racism in day-to-day existence rather than a shocking expose of racial hostilities. As such, there are no scenes of beatings, cross burnings or other overt acts of violence. Instead, it shows how bigotry even in its most subtle forms can deprive an individual of dignity and the simple ability to lead a normal life. Think for a moment what it would be like to have to act in a demeaning way, on a daily basis, just to avoid verbal or physical abuse, or to be denied the opportunity to even apply for a job simply because of your skin color. These are the things that the film addresses.
BLACK LIKE ME might easily be dismissed by present-day viewers as a dated oddity. However, as the saying goes, we need to know where we've been so we can figure out where we're going. If this movie doesn't always succeed as a work of cinematic storytelling, it nonetheless deserves high marks for tackling a difficult subject with uncommon honesty. It definitely belongs in any collection of films dealing with important social issues, right alongside A PATCH OF BLUE, THE WELL and LOST BOUNDARIES.