GOD’S COUNTRY (TV)
(director: Louis Malle; cinematographers: Charlie Clifton/Louis Malle; editor: James Bruce; cast: Louis Malle (Narrator); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Vincent Malle; Criterion Collection, The; 1986-in English)
“A poignant film that captures something about the ordinary folks in the heartland of America that travels well across continents.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
French director Louis Malle (“Pretty Baby”/Calcutta”/”Damage”) and his film crew visited Glencoe, Minnesota, a wealthy all-white middle-American farming community 60 miles west of Minneapolis for this slice-of-life PBS documentary. In a warm and nonjudgmental way Malle interviews a cross-section of locals that include a few farmers, a banker, a reverend, a policeman, an elderly gardener, a Dairy Queen owner, a few girl softball players, a pharmacist, a theater group and a lawyer. Malle’s first visit was in 1979 and he returned six years later for a follow-up visit that showed how the times grew bad economically for the farmer but little else changed.
The film reveals the good and bad about this small-town of five thousand, where eighty percent are of German stock. It shows the town to be virtually crime free and having no drug problems, but obsessed with mowing their lawns and driving enormous tractors. On a more serious note it reveals the difficulty farmers have in earning a living and how hard they work. Malle also uncovers an underlying prejudice against blacks, Jews and homosexuals, all who are absent from this community. The political climate is conservative and they tend to vote Republican. The results of the Vietnam War and the Reagan administration are freely discussed, and the tightly-knit community is shown for the most part to be rigid in their narrow views.
Malle’s film is a love-hate look at this community, where he’s moved by the American’s friendliness and can-do attitude but finds that beneath Glencoe’s charm there are some ugly contradictions. It’s a poignant film that captures something about the ordinary folks in the heartland of America that travels well across continents.
REVIEWED ON 10/25/2007 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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