Monday, August 06, 2007

Mauling Micheaux

Essayist, poet and film scholar Phillip Lopate isn't exactly unstinting in his praise of Patrick McGilligan's biography of pioneering black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. ("McGilligan’s prose style may be pedestrian, but he organizes his biographical materials into a lively, readable tale.") But, then again, Lopate isn't all that impressed by the book's subject. Consider this quote from his New York Times review of McGilligan's tome: "Micheaux was simply not a very good filmmaker, on any technical level. Two-thirds of his movies have been lost, and the surviving ones are hardly intact; but what remains borders on the campy. Their strongest suit is their subject matter: Micheaux dealt with important issues of the black community — passing, intermarriage, lynching, voting rights — and courageously challenged censors by doing so. But even his best pictures... suffer from hammy acting, preposterous melodrama, confusing continuity, stiff dialogue and clumsy lapses in film grammar." Ouch.

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