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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

All-Time Favorite Movies: A PATCH OF BLUE (1965)

 Home is where the heart is...NOT.

In an effort to take my mind off of my current medical woes, I'm going to start posting capsule looks at my favorite movies of all time, in no particular order. Hopefully, you will find some items that interest you enough to check them out. 

Today we start with A PATCH OF BLUE (1965), a sweet but jarring and tragic tale of the friendship between Sidney Poitier, in yet another of his "perfect negro" roles, and Elizabeth Hartman as the blind, isolated, and abused daughter of aging whore Shelley Winters. (Winters won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this performance and deserved every ounce of it.) It's Hartman's journey from an abused adolescent to blossoming womanhood as her friend (Poitier) teaches her how to be come self-sufficient in the sighted world during daily visits to the local park, a world her horrible mother has intentionally kept her unprepared for. As the pair become close, the young woman develops deep romantic feelings for her friend and intends to act on them, but he kindly keeps her at bay due to her age and innocence. 

Life lessons in the park.

But as the narrative progresses, he and the audience learn just how unspeakably horrible the young woman's life was until she met him, a tale involving her witnessing her mother's work as a low-rent whore in their apartment, her being blinded by acid thrown at her father during a vicious spat between her parents, and getting raped by one of her mother's customers while her mother had stepped out for some reason, a scene made all the more terrifying because we experience it from the girl's blind and uncomprehending point of view. Seeing her friend as a way out of her hellish life with her mother, she tries to convince him to take her in as his willing lover, which she says is alright because she's "already been done over." She relates all of this in a matter-of-fact way that communicates that she has accepted such violence as just the way life is, so her relationship with her friend/desired lover is something she never considered as possible. (The appalled look on Poitier's face after her recounting of her sexual assault is like being hit in the face with a hammer.) 

The film's sole decent man holds in his horror and disgust as our blinded and abused heroine nonchalantly recounts being sexually assaulted by one of her mother's vile clients.

And things are further complicated when the evil prostitute mother gets wind of her daughter's friendship with a black man who intends to honorably save the girl and enroll her in a school for the blind, but mom thinks his plans are more lecherous, which does not sit well with her nigger-hatin' attitudes. And worst of all, the mother plans to retire from hooking and open her own brothel, pressing her innocent blind daughter into unwilling service as her first deployed whore. It's a gripping study of world-class family dysfunction and a touching tale of a damaged young girl blossoming to womanhood under the most adverse conditions possible. A hardcore tear-jearker if ever there was one, and hands down my favorite drama from the 1960's, HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.
 Poster from the original theatrical release.

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