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NOTHING BUT A MAN

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NEW 35MM PRINT
Restored by the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation

NOTHING BUT A MAN

(1964, Michael Roemer) “Baby, I feel so free inside.” But not in Alabama, not in the 60s. On a night out, while stogey-puffing co-worker Yaphet Kotto (Alien, Blue Collar, Homicide: Life on the Street) memorably plays pinball to the beat of Martha Reeves' "Heat Wave”, railroad man/single dad Ivan Dixon meets preacher’s daughter Abbey Lincoln (the legendary jazz singer in her first acting role) and tries to build a dignified life. But after getting fired from a mill and a filling station by racists, shunning a $2.50 a day job picking cotton, a difficult visit with his embittered, boozing dad Julius Harris, rejecting a reunion with his little son, and a physically painful argument with Lincoln, what’s he gonna do? Made on a shoestring by independent Roemer, with rich  b&w photography by his producing partner, Robert M. Young (see also: The Plot Against Harry on Jan. 27), a vintage Motown soundtrack, low-keyed performances by a soon-to-be-eminent cast including Gloria Foster (“Oracle” in The Matrix) and Moses Gunn – and only a year later, Dixon would become nationally famous as co-star of tv’s Hogan’s Heroes -- Man was a sensation at the Venice, London, and New York Film Festivals:  at the end of its screening at the second NYFF, the audience of 2,000 broke out into spontaneous applause. Approx. 92 min. 35mm.

AN ARTISTS PUBLIC DOMAIN/CINEMA CONSERVANCY RELEASE OF A CINEDIGM/NEW VIDEO FILM

REVIEWS

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****! [4 stars]
[4 stars]
“A LANDMARK OF INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING! Its historical import as a peripheral civil-rights document can’t be understated… seeing the film today, it’s impossible not to gauge the distance traveled and note the miles left to go."

– David Fear, Time Out New York

“One of the great American independent films and one of the great films about how racism defines African American masculinity, Roemer’s most dramatic directorial choice is to shoot close and keep the narrative largely within Duff’s point of view. Locked into his subjectivity, one feels in one’s own gut the humiliating and enraging experience of being forced to deny your humanity for the sake of preserving your life. The film is toughest for not holding out that hope to Duff… it is left for us to hope that in the future they will grow.”
– Amy Taubin, Artforum
Click here for full review

"Shot in the summer of 1963—the summer of Medgar Evers, George Wallace at the University of Alabama, and "I Have a Dream"— set in the segregated South, Nothing but a Man has a commanding veracity that makes a viewer trust in its truth. The title almost suggests manhood as something trifling. The film, however, confirms it's a mighty hard ideal to reach."
– Nick Pinkerton, The Village Voice
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"With novelistic richness of detail, Nothing But a Man earns its political heft, paradoxically, by dedicating itself to specifics of the characters' day-to-day lives. Roemer's subdued style, a theater of "the real," similar to something like Shirley Clarke's The Connection or Kent MacKenzie's The Exiles, ensures that what Duffy goes through really carries a string. It's not so much the point-to-point journey his character undertakes, how what he sees and experiences changes him, as the fact that—true to film's title—Duffy is finally, irreducibly a man, and his choices, whether they come from his hopes or his emotional sickness, are his own."
– Jaime N. Christley, Slant
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“No other American film has yet treated a black male/female relationship with as much sensitivity. Watching Dixon and Lincoln come to terms with one another and their own lives, we realize, more than ever, how much of the black experience has been ignored or evaded by the American commercial film.”
– Donald Bogle

“In its own observant, understated way, the movie is devastatingly powerful. Even while Duff and Josie (Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln) are still courting, the deck seems to be stacked against them… Perhaps no other film has captured so completely the everyday details of living in a country that, in essence, belongs to others. Or has shown how grinding and constant the commonplace slights and insults, the denials and closed doors, can be.”
– Hal Hinson, The Washington Post

“A restored print reveals that the movie is even better than I remembered it; the basic drama remains strong, but what's also surprising is how well the more subtle moments hold up, and how gifted the actors are… Nothing But a Man is remarkable for not employing the easy liberal pieties of its period in an attempt to reassure white audiences that all stories have happy endings.”
– Roger Ebert

“When I first saw it at the New York Film Festival in 1964, it seemed to depict a particularity of experience I'd never seen in a movie before and I'm not sure I've seen since.”
– Amy Taubin, The Village Voice

"A seminal work in the history of American independent film"
Harvard Film Archive

Nothing But a Man remains as triumphantly timely as ever. A quietly stirring, beautiful little movie shot in black and white, it hasn't aged a microsecond. Photographed evocatively by Robert Young, it has a documentary-like sureness. The most melodramatic situations -- racist teenagers catching Duff and Josie in a car at night, a carload of good old boys confronting Duff at a gas station -- are subtly etched, unhysterical affairs. Yet they don't lack for powerful, dramatic tension.”
– Desson Howe, The Washington Post

“The film, released in 1964, was a pioneer effort on several levels. Independently made, when many movies of the time were still the product of the studio system, it concerns the contemporary life of blacks, a subject that few studios were willing to tackle. At the same time, it was written, directed and produced by whites. And although the story inevitably lends itself to political interpretation, the film is free of rhetoric, and is distinguished by a naturalistic visual style, almost like a documentary.”
– Vicki Vasilopoulos, The New York Times  (2004)

“A sincere, intelligent, and effectively acted independent feature from 1964. Directed by the able and neglected Michael Roemer”
– Jonathan Rosenbaum

NOTHING BUT A MAN

 

 

 

 

 

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NOTHING BUT A MAN: Q & A with director MICHAEL ROEMER (Recorded Nov 9, 2012)