The Cotton Club (1984) DVD Mar 7, 2010 10:51:28 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Mar 7, 2010 10:51:28 GMT -5
Francis Ford Coppola created one of the most iconic gangster movies of all time in The Godfather. He followed that up with one of the best sequels of all time with The Godfather Part II, and equally iconic gangster movie.
So when Coppola returned to the genre in 1984 with The Cotton Club expectations were, understandably, high. But instead of more Godfather style filmmaking, Coppola created the anti-Godfather movie.
Where The Godfather was deliberately (and fairly slowly) paced, the Cotton Club breezes by at breakneck speed. Where the characters in The Godfather are meticulously detailed and fleshed out, the characters in The Cotton Club are not as detailed and are more surface sketches rather than the 3 dimensional sculptures of The Godfather.
Thus much of the public and many critics lambasted The Cotton Club. Unfairly.
Taken on it's own terms, The Cotton Club is a good movie. No, it isn't great (while the Godfather films are), but it is good - and very entertaining.
Beyond the gangster aspect of the story, though, lies the other half of what the movie is all about. The music of one of the most famous nightclubs of the 20th century - the Cotton Club itself. Musicans and dancers of the highest caliber performed on the Cotton Club stage, and that is reflected in the movie. Coppola does a fantastic job of staging the musical numbers and recapturing what the Cotton Club would have really looked - and sounded - like back in the 1930's. The music and dancing in the movie is specacular. Gregory and Maurice Hines play a pair of tap dancing brothers who are hired to perform at the Cotton Club, and they do an amazing job. Their dancing is one of the highlights of the movie.
But as good as the music and dance numbers are, The Cotton Club, like any movie, has to stand or fall on the script, the acting, and the directing. On all three counts the movie gets a passing grade. Richard Gere is particularly good as cornet player (and then actor) Dixie Dwyer. Also very good in the movie is a very young Diane Lane as Dwyer's ambitous love interest. Also in the cast in one of his first movies is a young Nicolas Cage, who at this point had not yet found his voice as an actor. His performance is OK, but nothing to write home about. He had not yet developed his signature quirky style, which actually helps the movie as it has aged as a more, "Traditional," Nicolas Cage performance may have been distracting to modern viewers more familiar with his work.
While The Cotton Club is not on the level of The Godfather (I or II), it is a solid movie when taken on it's own merits. The direction is quite good and the production really does a great job of capturing the atmosphere and look of the 30's. Where the film falters is in it's lack of depth. What is in the script is fairly good, but it's what's missing that keeps this movie from being truly great, and what's missing is depth. Depth of character, depth of plot - the movie is all surface. It's a nice looking surface, but it's just a veneer.
Still, there is just enough there in characterization and plot to keep the movie afloat, and with all the other positive points that the film has The Cotton Club definitely earns a passing grade - and an above average one at that.
The picture and sound quality on the DVD are good, but like the movie itself it lacks a little depth. The movie is a quarter century old, so that can be forgiven to a point. The picture is sharp and mostly clean, and the sound is good enough that the music comes across really well.
All in all The Cotton Club is better than it's reputation. Maybe not a lot better, but it's still pretty darned good.