Steven Spielberg took a melodramatic DW Griffith-inspired approach to filming Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple
. His tactics made the film controversial, but also a popular hit. You can argue with the appropriateness of Spielberg's decision, but his astonishing facility with images is undeniable--from the exhilarating and eye-popping opening shots of children playing in paradisiacal purple fields to the way he conveys the brutality of a rape by showing hanging leather belts banging against the head of the shaking bed.
In a way it's a shame that Whoopi Goldberg, a stage monologist who made her screen debut in this movie, went on to become so famous, because it was, in part, her unfamiliarity that made her understated performance as Celie so effective. (This may be the first and last time that the adjective "understated" can be applied to Goldberg.) Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including best picture and actress (supporting players Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Avery were also nominated), it was quite a scandal--and a crushing blow to Spielberg--when The Color Purple won none. --Jim Emerson, Amazon.com
On the DVD: The Color Purple makes a sumptuous transfer to DVD in this special edition. The lush and vibrant cinematography is well served by the widescreen format; Quincy Jones's warmly enveloping score, shot through with jazz age references, is superbly enhanced by surround sound. The extras are ideal companions to the main picture, detailing the passage of Alice Walker's novel from book to screen. Walker herself recalls the anxieties of the process, while director Spielberg and various cast members remember many poignant moments during and after filming, reminding us with a jolt that this beautifully made, hugely popular and inspirational film didn't win a single Academy Award. --Piers Ford
Stephen Spielberg directed this adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer prize-winning novel, which spans 40 years in the life of Celie (Whoopi Goldberg), a poor black woman who endures years of abuse from her father and her husband (Danny Glover). When her husband embarks on an affair with beautiful Shug (Margaret Avery), friendship also springs up between the two women, and Celie finally begins to blossom.