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Nothing but a Man Movie Review

film robert michael roemer

A sincere, well-meant film about a black worker in Alabama, Nothing but a Man was among the first 250 American films selected for preservation by the National Film Registry. It is still an important film for its era, but if you turned down the sound, you might mistake it for a British kitchen-sink drama. The characters are SOOO serious, like they've got the weight of the world on their shoulders 24 hours a day. Michael Roemer's perspective feels like that of an outsider, as if whatever real-life characters he observed couldn't afford to relax their company manners and let their hair down in front of a stranger. The one moment when the protagonist Duff (Ivan Dixon) expresses his hostility at the system that's doing a good job breaking his spirit, he lashes out at his nice, sympathetic wife, Josie (Abbey Lincoln). She understands; he's under a lot of pressure. Even though things seem to work out for them at the fade-out, I still didn't feel as if I really got to know either of them over the course of 95 minutes. Earnestly made on a tiny budget of $230,000, Nothing but a Man showcases some fine actors, arty cinematography by co-scripter Robert Young, and a great Motown soundtrack.

1964 95m/B Ivan Dixon, Abbey Lincoln, Gloria Foster, Julius W. Harris, Martin Priest, Yaphet Kotto, Leonard Parker, Stanley Greene, Helen Lounck, Helene Arrindell; D: Michael Roemer; W: Michael Roemer, Robert M. Young; C: Robert M. Young. National Film Registry ‘93. VHS

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