Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hallelujah (1929)

This landmark early talkie -- a musical melodrama about a family of black sharecroppers in the American South -- is notable as one of the first all-black sound films made in Hollywood. It was a highly personal project for director King Vidor, who wanted to present an authentic portrayal of black life in the South, using a cast comprised entirely of African-American actors and filmed on location (in Tennessee and Arkansas). The film is notable too for its pioneering use of location sound recording and fluid cinematography, which Vidor achieved by shooting silent and dubbing the sound later.

The results are still quite powerful, though a bit quaint at times today, and possess a vibrant energy, thanks to Vidor's innovative direction, the standout performances of Daniel L. Haynes and Nina Mae McKinney, and the rich soundtrack consisting of Spiritual songs.

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