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Sapphire


This past Saturday was cold and overcast, so Ashley & I stayed inside (mostly) and watched a couple of movies. One of them was the 1959 British film "Sapphire," directed by Basil Dearden. This is one of four films that constitutes the Criterion Collection Eclipse set of Dearden films released from 1959 - 1962, all of which focus on modern societal issues, quite a bit ahead of their time. One of the films, "Victim," deals with the blackmailing of homosexuals, while "Sapphire" is about the murder of a young woman who appeared to be caucasian, but was in fact bi-racial (caucasion and black), although like many bi-racial folk, she is considered to be strictly black (or "coloured," as they refer to blacks in the film).

"Sapphire" is a taut, well-directed, well-written and well-acted movie that kept me engrossed from the very first scene of the title character's lifeless body being dropped onto the ground in Hampstead Heath. The police detectives begin their search for the murderer, which weaves them in and out of white and black London (very much separated), and the characters are nearly all well-realized, with depth and complexity. Even the racist family is not painted as a completely lost cause. The black characters cover a wide swath of backgrounds, and are presented fairly and respectably. The movie is filmed in rich color, and is quite vivid in its look and feel.

I look forward to watching the remaining three movies in the Basil Dearden Criterion Collection, and in the meantime, recommend that you try and check out "Sapphire." It's a good, solid film that represents some groundbreaking cinema for its day.

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