George Washington (2000) USA
George Washington Image Cover
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Director:David Gordon Green
Studio:Bfi Video
Writer:David Gordon Green
Rating:2.5 (2 votes)
Rated:Suitable for 12 years and over
Date Added:2010-05-03
Purchased On:2010-05-03
Picture Format:LetterBox (non-anamorphic)
Aspect Ratio:2.35:1
Sound:Dolby Digital
David Gordon Green  ...  (Director)
David Gordon Green  ...  (Writer)
Candace Evanofski  ...  
Donald Holden  ...  
Damian Jewan Lee  ...  
Curtis Cotton III  ...  
Rachael Handy  ...  
Summary: For a first feature from a 24-year-old director, "George Washington" is an amazingly assured piece of work. The title’s misleading: this is no biopic of America’s first President, but a poetic, richly atmospheric rhapsody set in a rundown industrial town in the American South. Given this backdrop, and a predominantly black cast, you might expect an angry study of social deprivation and racial tension, but Green has no such agenda. Instead, he derives a shimmering, heat-hazed beauty from his images of rusting machinery, junkyards and derelict buildings, and if the overall tone is tinged with sadness, it’s mainly from a sense of universal human loss.
The action, such as it is, moves at its own slow Southern pace, following a group of youngsters, black and white, over a few high-summer days. Things do happen--a couple decide to elope, one boy’s saved from drowning, another gets killed--but they’re presented in an oblique, understated fashion that owes nothing to conventional Hollywood notions of narrative. With one exception, the cast are all non-professionals, mainly youngsters who director-writer David Gordon Green found in and around the town where the film was made, Winston-Salem in North Carolina. Shooting in a semi-improvised fashion, Green draws from his young cast remarkably spontaneous performances and dialogue (often their own) full of unselfconscious poetry.
Drawing on a wide range of influences--among other things he cites "Sesame Street", documentaries and such 70s classics as "Deliverance", "Walkabout" and especially Terrence Malick’s "Days of Heaven"--Green has fashioned a film that’s fresh, tender and utterly individual. And it looks just gorgeous: belying the tiny budget, Tim Orr’s widescreen photography lavishes mellow softness on images of dereliction and small-town decay. Never has dead-end poverty been made to look so attractive.
On the DVD: "George Washington" comes on a disc generously loaded with extras. Besides the obvious theatrical trailer we get two of Green’s early short films, "Physical Pinball" and "Pleasant Grove" (both clearly dry runs for the main feature), an 18-minute featurette about the film’s reception at the Berlin Film Fest and a deleted scene of a community meeting. This scene, the short "Pleasant Grove" and the movie itself also offer a director’s commentary--or rather a director’s dialogue, as Green shares the honours with one of his lead actors, Paul Schneider. Their laconic, unpretentious comments enhance the whole experience enormously. The film has been transferred in its full scope ratio (2.35:1) and looks great. --"Philip Kemp"