Ragtime (1981)

Directed by Milos Forman
Written by Michael Weller

The film was dull. There, I said it. It focused in on the character of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (Howard Rollins) and Rollins delivers about the only passable performance, Cagney included. We were supposed to read the novel for class, so undoubtedly I did not. However, I can definitely tell that that narrative would have been much more interesting because there was a serious lack of depth of character here that annoyed me to no end. Characters were introduced and played around with for a little bit until they were put on the back burner for another and in the end it turned out to be the story of Coalhouse Walker. Forman, whom I have not seen a film of before, tries to develop the characters, but instead uses the 155 minute runtime to only do this partially, which is a real annoyance. I am actually somewhat curious about the novel now, but only because this is an instance where the book has got to be better than the movie.

The film was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and looking at most of them I can almost see it. The costumes were wonderful. The music score was great. And the cinematography was pretty good too. But I was just so turned off by the film within the first hour that the rest of the film ran by like routine and nothing exciting or gripping occurred to me. I get the message: racism is stupid and bad, but other films have done it better and more effectively. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect going in other than an array of characters and story arcs; well that is basically what I got, but this array ain’t no rainbow.

Commentary on Anti-Semitism

Well sadly I am unsure whether this will be able to be used for my paper. Unlike E.L. Doctorow’s novel, the film focuses in on the character of Coalhouse Walker, the main male black character. All of the characters from the book are present, but their stories, most notably that of the Jewish man Tateh, are skimmed over in favor of the story of racism and overraction of Walker. Yea, probably won’t use this is my paper.

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