[box cover]

The Birth of a Nation

Long before Oliver Stone was a conspiratorial itch in the bulging breeches of cinema, D.W. Griffith pioneered the genre of abrasive historical revisionism. His 1915 civil war epic The Birth of a Nation is easily the most controversial movie in history, still sparking heated debate almost 90 years later. Griffith carefully balanced his narrative innovations — which would change filmmaking forever — with an obscene, albeit passionate, racism. Even worse, for the first 90 minutes his "masterpiece" is mercilessly boring. It's not until Griffith dives fully into his bizarre carnival of racial stereotypes that the film picks up in both pace and flair, making for a stunning and frustrating experience (which has been used by the Ku Klux Klan as recruitment propaganda). Based on the novels The Clansman and The Leopard's Spots by Thomas F. Dixon, Jr., The Birth of a Nation runs 187 minutes. Presented in 1.33:1, but the whole frame doesn't quite fit on the screen. The print is scratchy, but well preserved for a film nearing its 90th birthday. The "original" score (which sounds like a pastiche of popular classical pieces to this writer) is remastered in 2.0 Dolby Surround. Includes a short documentary detailing the production of the movie with rare behind-the-scenes footage, but which never touches on the race issue. Snap-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

Click here for Full Review

Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page