Boesman & Lena

Danny Glover and Angela Bassett are highly impressive as a quarrelsome derelict couple in this 1999 film adaptation of Athol Fugard’s play about the internal damage caused by racism and poverty in South Africa. Director-screenwriter John Berry staged a successful production of the play off-Broadway in 1970, starring James Earl Jones, and his film, shot on location in and around Cape Town, plays rather daringly with the similarities and differences between theater and cinema, making the locales seem stagy yet using the ‘Scope format in an exciting, dynamic manner that recalls the 50s mise en scene of Nicholas Ray. Berry died shortly after the film was completed, and it stands as a deeply affecting conclusion to a stage and screen career that included acting with Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre in the 30s and being blacklisted by Hollywood in the early 50s. A white man whose family had its ups and downs, economically speaking, Berry always had a particular feeling for what it means to be poor as well as black, and with the help of his wonderful actors he makes the most of it here. 88 min. (JR)

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