Blu-ray Review: Claudine | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 30th, 2020  


Studio: The Criterion Collection

Oct 06, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

A feel good film at heart, John Berry’s Claudine is a terrific look at Black love and joy. Set in 1970s New York City, the film follows housemaid and single mother of six children, Claudine, played by Diahann Carroll –  who was nominated for Best Actress at the 1975 Academy Awards for this film. She agrees to go on a date with Roop (James Earl Jones), a charismatic garbage man, and the two instantly hit it off. As Claudine’s and Roop’s relationship grows, her kids’ relationship with Roop does as well. Things become more complicated for Claudine as she attempts to balance dealing with welfare and social workers while maintaining a healthy and progressive relationship with Roop and her children.

Carroll’s Oscar-nominated performance as Claudine is incredible. The actress is able to sink into her role with unerring skill, nailing each emotion so well that Claudine never feels like a character in a film. Her chemistry with James Earl Jones is undeniably effective. The way they build off of each other’s acting skills sets the foundation for why the film works so well. As a love story set within the confines of hardship, there’s an innate sense of realism associated with each moment of Claudine. The film delivers on that premise with performances that successfully relay the film’s serious themes while remaining joyous and charismatic.

Claudine’s soundtrack – composed by Curtis Mayfield and performed by Gladys Knight and the Pips – is one of the greatest parts of the film. When the funk is played over the shots of various streets or areas in New York City that Berry uses, the film feels like a time capsule – a showcase of a different city, a different world, and a different time.

It’s hard not to sit through Claudine without a smile on your face – even while watching the characters’ challenges. This is particularly the case when Claudine, her family, and her new partner must confront the bureaucracy and difficulties of living on welfare. The film swings from happy moments to sorrowful ones, from emotion to emotion, with extraordinary ease. Nothing that happens on-screen ever feels forced or tonally off-key.

Criterion’s transfer of the film into 4K is stunning, recreating the world and look of 1970s New York City in a way that feels fresh and fit to the modern day. The release also includes entertaining and fascinating archival footage such as the 2003 audio commentary from the principal actors and George Tillman Jr. (The Hate U Give). While there isn’t much bonus content featuring director John Berry, there’s a lot of other material worth unpacking. Claudine is a welcome 92-minute dose of escapism.



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