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Thursday, March 20, 2014

GEORGE WASHINGTON Criterion Blu-ray Review

Courtesy of The Criterion Collection
Criterion Blu-ray Review
2000, 90 minuted
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

David Gordon Green's George Washington is a beautiful little film that was a clear indicator that Green would go on to have a remarkable career both in and out of Hollywood.  Like his 2013 film Prince Avalanche, George Washington captures small moments of humanity that bring the film to life.  George Washington tells the story of a group of teens living in a depressed North Carolina town and how they cope with a tragedy over the summer.

The two most striking aspects of George Washington are the acting by the cast of non-professional actors and the cinematography by Tim Orr.  There are no performances that can be singled out for greatness because they are universally excellent.  In a cast reunion special feature included on the disc, many cast members said that there were quite a few scenes that had completely improvised dialogue.  This explains why almost all of the dialogue sounds natural.  Watching George Washington, I felt like a fly on the wall, watching the characters' lives play out.

Tim Orr's naturalistic, heat-drenched cinematography gives the movie a look, a feeling that feels like running around in the late-afternoon sun in late summer.  The warm colors of the images combined with the new high-definition digital transfer on the Blu-ray makes this really fantastic to look at.  The colors are vibrant and crisp and the texture of the images pop.

George Washington has a central narrative but it isn't as if this is a story of twists and turns.  It is a film about images and feelings.  The movie captures a time and a place in exquisite detail.  The texture with which Green and Orr imbue this film with gives George Washington a magical realist feeling, not unlike that of Beasts of the Southern Wild.  There is nothing fantastical about George Washington, but the sense of wonder and decay that it simultaneously captures is striking.

The new Blu-ray includes three of David Gordon Green's student short films that I did not view, but also includes a theatrical trailer, a deleted scene (tedious), and cast reunion featurette that is too long but lends some interesting insight into the making of the film.

Overall, George Washington is a film that shows the work of a filmmaker who has gone on to make many memorable movies including Prince Avalanche and Pineapple Express.  In both films, the characters and little moments are what make them distinct and entertaining.  Criterion's new Blu-ray of the film looks amazing, as always, and for Green fans, this may not be a must-buy, but is certainly a must-watch.  Anyone looking for a great drama should take 90 minutes and view this movie.

Film: 3.5/4
Special Features: 2/4
Blu-ray Image Quality: 3.5/4
Overall: Not a must-buy, but well worth viewing

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