Saturday, February 25, 2017

Steve's Top Ten Films: Eve's Bayou

Because of Eve's Bayou, you will never hear me offer too much criticism of the effects of social media or the advent of home entertainment.  A film this small and with such a limited release never would have crossed my radar if not for the internet.  Specifically, if I had not been regularly reading Roger Ebert's movie reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times, something I was only able to do because of the internet.

From reading his reviews, I was able to learn about all kinds of films from a reliable source.  I didn't always agree with Ebert on his assessment of a film, but he always offered a comprehensive and varied examination of released movies, many of which never got much media attention and certainly wouldn't have made it to a theater anywhere within driving distance of me on the Delmarva Peninsula.

In 1997, Ebert released his top ten films for that year, and topping it was a film that received very little attention outside of film critics.  The fact that Eve's Bayou beat out such films as Titanic, Jackie Brown, and L.A. Confidential in Ebert's opinion intrigued me greatly.  As soon as it became available on VHS, I watched it and instantly fell in love with this charming and heartbreaking movie.

It is a family drama set in the Louisiana Bayou of 1950s or 1960s.  The Batistes are a well-to-do black family with a seemingly picture-perfect life, but there are secrets and bitter resentments simmering under the surface.  Samuel L. Jackson stars as Louis Batiste, the patriarch of the family and a doctor, who enjoys a certain measure of prestige and popularity in the surrounding community.  His wife, Roz (Lynn Whitfield), finds herself torn between her love for her husband and her sense of betrayal as his many infidelities begin to come to light.  Caught in the middle are their three children, who are old enough to know something is wrong even if they don't understand fully everything they see and hear.

The story is told from the point of view of the middle child, Eve, and opens with her very ominous narration: "Memory is a selection of images, some elusive, others imprinted indelibly on the brain. The summer I killed my father I was 10 years old."  From that moment, I knew I was watching a film of striking originality and strong narrative voice.

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