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Bright Leaves back to product details

No Smoking (a suggestion, not a command)
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written by talltale July 7, 2005 - 12:16 PM PDT
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful
A few minutes into BRIGHT LEAVES--Ross McElwee's meditation on tobacco, his family heritage, life, fathers & sons and a couple dozen other subjects--I thought, "I won't make it through this." What with McElwee's barely inflected voice doing all the narration, and his penchant for filming anything and everything that appears connected to his subjects (together with my own pressing work deadlines and family obligations), I was sure I wouldn't be able to concentrate. But no. Twenty minutes into it, I was hooked. Took me a couple of days to finish the movie but I'm glad I did.

McElwee, who does just about everything here (films, edits, produces) has a quiet style that gets under your skin. And his movie--which takes its title from "Bright Leaf," the old Gary Cooper tobacco melodrama--makes fascinating connections with that film, and with smoking, death, religion, and more. It appears that the Cooper character was based on this moviemaker's ancestor, so McElwee starts tracking and receives a few surprises. Along the way he connects with a young relative and his fiancee about to marry (and quit smoking), a film scholar/theorist named Vlada Petric (who provides some of the funniest scenes), and lots of other interesting characters.

Overall, though, this is a piece of anti-smoking filmmaking that is as reasoned, quiet and convincing as anything I've seen. If your taste runs to mainstream comedy or action, I may be wasting my breath (or my typing fingers); if you enjoy listening, watching, thinking and connecting the dots, try this one.

Don't be scared - not a "tobacco is evil" documentary.
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written by leeloo67 June 21, 2005 - 4:56 PM PDT
3 out of 5 members found this review helpful
This documentary is a very clever personal story about one man's link to tobacco, and a slant on how the link could have been much stronger. The entire picture has a deliberate pacing - very even keeled - with real, unplanned humor and a refreshing story. Also doubles as a sort of informal "how to make a documentary".

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(Average 6.76)
29 Votes
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