The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

Overview

This first film directorial effort of actor Simon Callow is based on a novel by Carson McCullers -- which, in turn, was adapted for the stage by Edward Albee in 1964. Vanessa Redgrave plays a powerful Southern matriarch who, sequestered in her café/general store, holds her home town in the palm of her hand. Redgrave's benevolent despotry is threatened by the arrival of her hunchbacked cousin, Cork Hubbert (in the role played on stage by dwarf actor Michael Dunn), and her jailbird husband Keith Carradine. Unable ...
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Overview

This first film directorial effort of actor Simon Callow is based on a novel by Carson McCullers -- which, in turn, was adapted for the stage by Edward Albee in 1964. Vanessa Redgrave plays a powerful Southern matriarch who, sequestered in her café/general store, holds her home town in the palm of her hand. Redgrave's benevolent despotry is threatened by the arrival of her hunchbacked cousin, Cork Hubbert (in the role played on stage by dwarf actor Michael Dunn), and her jailbird husband Keith Carradine. Unable to remove this threat to her authority by her usual means, Redgrave is reduced to challenging Carradine to a bare-knuckle fight! Carson McCullers' fascination with the disintegration of the Old South coupled with her preoccupation with the grotesque requires delicate handling (as witness Heart Is a Lonely Hunter). Callow works overtime keeping things controlled and tasteful; unfortunately, this results in a very mannered and stilted production, all too obviously betraying its stage origins.
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Special Features

New high-definition digital transfer, enhanced for widescreen televisions; Audio commentary by director Somon Callow; English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
A haunting, occasionally grotesque little film, The Ballad of the Sad Café doesn't really work onscreen, despite the noble efforts of all involved. Michael Hirst has succeeded in bringing the bare bones of the Carson McCullers book (and Edward Albee play) to the screen, but director Simon Callow has not sufficiently filled in the emotional and atmospheric blanks necessary to make this delicate, difficult story the involving and wrenching experience it wants to be. Ballad is an outsized piece, requiring bold and confident yet discreet direction, and Callow's work is too hesitant and too reverential. That Ballad manages to work as well as it does is primarily due to the mesmerizing performance of Vanessa Redgrave. Wearing close-cropped hair and a weathered face that somehow suggests David Bowie, her performance is a powerhouse, almost an act of nature in its strength and intensity. There's life and vibrancy in every move of this character, perhaps too much so; at times, Redgrave overreaches, makes choices that simply don't work , especially given the restraint with which so much of the material is otherwise handled. But she at least has the courage to make those choices and to strive to capture the painful poetry that informs the McCullers original. Ballad needs to dig deeper to capture the perverse beauty it purports to celebrate, but Redgrave provides enough lightning flashes of brilliant illumination to make the film worthwhile.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/18/2005
  • UPC: 037429198629
  • Original Release: 1991
  • Rating:

  • Source: Merchant Ivory
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 1:40:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Vanessa Redgrave Miss Amelia
Keith Carradine Marvin Macy
Cork Hubbert Cousin Lymon
Rod Steiger Rev. Willin
Austin Pendleton Lawyer Taylor
Beth Dixon Mrs. Mary Hale
Lanny Flaherty Merlie Ryan
Mert Hatfield Stumpy McPhail
Earl Hindman Henry Macy
Anne Pitoniak Mrs. McPhail
Trula M. Marcus Woman
Shirley Rich
Technical Credits
Simon Callow Director, Screenwriter
Paul Bradley Producer
Marianna Elliott Costumes/Costume Designer
Scott Hale Set Decoration/Design
Michael Hirst Screenwriter
Carson McCullers Source Author
Drew Kunin Sound/Sound Designer
Walter Lassally Cinematographer
Andrew Marcus Editor
Ismail Merchant Producer
Richard Robbins Score Composer
Michael T. Roberts Art Director
Donald Rosenfeld Associate Producer
Bruno Santini Production Designer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Opening Credits/Jimmy Crack Corn [6:32]
2. Swamp Water and Moonshine [5:22]
3. Kin to Me [6:45]
4. Wild and Foolish Talk [3:44]
5. Entertaining the Townsfolk [3:23]
6. Staring Into the Dark [3:23]
7. "You Know I Like Company" [4:56]
8. The Price of a Human Life [5:29]
9. Papa's Acorn [4:28]
10. All of Us Are Sinners [5:01]
11. Holy Matrimony [5:01]
12. "I Ain't Finished With You" [5:24]
13. The Lover and the Beloved [2:43]
14. Serving Marvin Macy [5:25]
15. The Buzzards Are Circling [7:08]
16. Shake Hands and Come Out Fighting [10:01]
17. Wanton Destruction [8:11]
18. End Credits [4:37]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play the Movie
   Chapters
   Additional Commentary by Simon Callow
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