Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 3/23/00
1997 (1999) - Trimark
review by Dan Kelly of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
108 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided,
single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with
writer/director Kasi Lemmons, director of photography Amy Vincent
and editor Terilyn A. Shropshire), MCA soundtrack commercial,
theatrical trailer, Dr. Hugo
(a short film by Kasi Lemmons), cast and crew bios/filmographies,
film-themed menu screens with animation, scene access (36 chapters),
languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: French and Spanish, Closed
"The summer I
killed my father, I was ten years old. My brother, Poe, was ten and
my sister, Cisely, had just turned fourteen."
At its heart, Eve's Bayou is
about memory and how it influences our perception of events of the
past and our future actions. In Eve's opening words, she tells us
she killed her father. Did she really kill him, or has she just
convinced herself that she did? It is in the viewer's best interest
to decide that for themselves and let the director lead you through
it, which she does remarkably in this lyrical, haunting drama.
In the wave of hype that followed Titanic
to the Oscars and beyond in 1997, several films were overlooked when
it came time to dole out the awards. Two of them took on similarly
heavy subject matter, dealing with secrets, guilt, and shame in the
family structure. The first was The Ice
Storm, which has yet to make its way to DVD, and the
other is Eve's Bayou, the
impressive writing and directing debut of actress Kasi Lemmons.
Eve's Bayou centers on the
Batiste family in the bayou region of Louisiana. Louis (Samuel L.
Jackson) is the town's most respected and loved doctor and husband
of the beautiful, if too forgiving, Roz (Lynn Whitfield). Louis'
numerous house calls make it all too easy for him to indulge his
tendency to cheat on his naive and trusting wife. Yet it is not only
Roz who neglects to see her husband's infidelity - it is the entire
family. All of them, that is, except Eve, played wonderfully by
newcomer Jurnee Smollett. In a brilliant scene that perfectly
demonstrates the fear and confusion brought about in a child when
they witness what to them is unknown, Eve sees firsthand what the
rest of her family doesn't want to see. Unsure of what to do next,
she turns to her Aunt Mozelle, an extraordinary psychic, who is the
family's black sheep. When the family's secrets are brought to
light, all the guilt and shame associated with them rise to the
surface and give way to some most powerful and mysterious
consequences. The movie's tagline says it all; the secrets that hold
us together can also tear us apart.
Sadly, in the realm of acting, Kasi Lemmons has pretty much been
confined to the role of the typical Hollywood-style "black best
friend," in such movies as Silence
of the Lambs and Candyman,
but she certainly should get noticed in the director's chair. She
proves that a first-time director can make magic when combined with
great talent and a great story. Given a good director, Samuel L.
Jackson can pull off some amazing work. In the wrong hands, his
performances can be flat and uninteresting - witness his
one-dimensional work in Deep Blue Sea.
The fact that his effectiveness in Eve's
Bayou is unmistakable and ever present speaks volumes
about Lemmons' talent. It would have made for a less engaging movie
(and an easier one to make, for that matter) had she chosen to bring
the family's secrets out through the eyes of the adults, but she
chose instead to do so through Eve. In that choice, she gives us a
truer sense of the immediate effects of family discord, by showing
how it affects the children.
The choice of location also aids in the movie's storytelling. The
bayous and swamps of Louisiana seem filled with an enchantment all
their own, and the fear of the obscure is magnified by the legendary
voodoo of the area. The secrets run as deep as the waters of the
swamps. Weaving mysticism and magic into the story line gives the
movie a prose-like feel, that lifts it above an average "family
on the verge of breaking down" story and brings it into the
territory of timeless, engaging movie making.
While not a full-blown special edition, Trimark added some nice
touches to their DVD release of this little gem of a film. Eve's
Bayou is presented here in its original 1.85:1 aspect
ratio. Overall, this is a very clean transfer, with only a few
instances of artifacting. Colors are well maintained and saturated,
and rarely is there any bleed in them. Flesh tones are natural and
even. Nonetheless, it still could have benefited greatly from
anamorphic enhancement. The 5.1 audio track is also very good. There
is a good use of rear surround separation, particularly notable
during the thunderstorm scene. Dialogue is clear, decipherable, and
for the most part maintained to the center speaker. This is not an
overly dynamic sound mix, but my guess is that if you're watching
this film, you're not looking for sound effects and spacial
The extras are noteworthy. First off, there are some nifty little
menu screens, set up like a family photo album to take you through
the different areas of the disc. Select an area, and the page flips.
There is a running commentary by Lemmons and a few of the other
filmmakers. While by no means extraordinary, it does give you some
insight as to why the filmmakers made some of the choices they did.
Before Trimark would green light Eve's
Bayou, they wanted to make sure Lemmons was capable of
making a feature length film, so they asked her to direct a film
short. Using an excised part of the Eve's
Bayou script, which she later lengthened, Lemmons filmed
Dr. Hugo (also available on
this DVD). The short is not without its flaws, but it does show a
promising filmmaker - one with enough skill and originality to
impress Trimark. The short also has a commentary, and I found this
commentary to be more involved than the commentary on the feature
film. Also included is a soundtrack presentation, French &
Spanish subtitles, filmographies, and the movie's theatrical
All in all, this is a pretty good DVD edition of a movie that, for
one reason or another, was ignored when it came time to hand out
little golden statuettes. You could sit and argue the reasons why
that was, but why bother? It's a hell of a lot more enjoyable, and
less taxing, to sit back and watch it at home. Fans of good drama,
good acting and good cinema should not miss this one.