February 22, 2024

The new movie version of “The Color Purple” has gained prime success particularly due to its masterful tone, which plays like a legend filtered through the pleasure and pain of storytelling. The movie, a musical, draws from Alice Walker’s novel and Marsha Norman’s book for the stage play. The intermingling of musical sequences in the drama gives the story both narrative distance and emotional immediacy, conveying the feeling of tales retold, reimagined, and relived. Blitz Bazawule, the movie’s director, captures the mysteries and wonders in his characters’ lives, which are filled with extremes of sorrow and joy, enduring traditions, and collective memories spanning the land.

The film begins with a symbol clash, suggesting conflicts between secular and religious Black American culture. Bazawule references Julie Dash’s 1991 film “Daughters of the Dust” to acknowledge the work as a landmark in the history and as a fundamental inspiration in his approach to historical drama.

It follows the story familiar from the novel and the 1985 film adaptation by Steven Spielberg, predominantly set in a small town on the Georgia coast. The narrative unfolds against a backdrop of complex and often grim circumstances in the rural South at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Bazawule unfolds these complex stories with attention to their thematic and metaphorical dimensions, such as the ambient threats of lynchings and the mystical connection to nature. His direction embellishes the incidents with elegance and excitement, framing practicalities with fervent empathy and lyrical grace.

The musical numbers in the movie are far beyond conventional Hollywood norms and have been enriched with unique style by Bazawule. His experience as a longtime musician allows him to create visually rich and dynamic production numbers, elevating them to the level of a kind of visual music filled with rhythmic variety and contrapuntal motion.