A Raisin in the Sun Blu Ray review

 Chauffeur Walter Younger (Sidney Poitier) and his maid wife Ruth (Ruby Dee), their son Travis live in a poor tenement. Alongside them are just retired Walter’s mother Lena (Claudia McNeil) and training to be a doctor Walter’s sister Beneatha (Diana Sands). Walter and Beneatha’s father has recently died, and Lena is waiting for a life insurance check for $10,000. Walter wants to invest the money in a liquor store but Mama has religious objections. Ruth has just found out she is pregnant and worries that keeping the baby will add more burden to the family. Beneatha is in love with a Nigerian student but what will come of them when the check comes…

Lorraine Hansberry play is pure poetry. Hansberry distilled from this and writing the screenplay for the film crafted something exceptional. It defuses nothing and heightens everything. A rare thing but one that makes the piece. You see here is the power. In the written word. Aspiration, prejudice, materialism, racism, sexism and family values all coalesce. Though to define any single motif in A RAISIN IN THE SUN is pointless. It explores the diverse lives of black Americans as the middle of the century brought new problems and new opportunities. See its cast to understand this dichotomy. Poitier was about to win the Best actor in 1963 (the first black person to do so). However he was a Barbadian and this award would not be extended to Black Americans for fore more decades. Ruby Dee was a major star but never received recognition for her work until after her death in 2014.

The disc produced by Criterion has a lot of good and a single bad note. The good is very good. The 4K has taken the DVD version and ripped it apart. You can see the textures of their living space. The richness of the lives becomes more because of this. The interview with Hansberry has been around before but is well worth visiting. Theater Talk is excellent and sees Dee talk about the role. She contains such charm and with her late husband Ossie Davis, they both bounce off each other. My down point is that Mia Mask is not given enough time. Let her talk. She has such things to say and yet is cut short.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Interview from 1961 with playwright/screenwriter Lorraine Hansberry
  • New interview with Imani Perry, author of Looking for Lorraine
  • Episode of Theater Talk from 2002 featuring producer Philip Rose and actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis
  • Excerpt from Black Theatre: The Making of a Movement (1978), with a new introduction by director Woodie King Jr.
  • New interview with film scholar Mia Mask, coeditor of Poitier Revisited
  • Interview from 2002 with director Daniel Petrie
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by scholar Sarita Cannon and author James Baldwin’s 1969 tribute to Hansberry, “Sweet Lorraine”

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