Released by: Scorpion Releasing
Released on: November 6, 2012.
Director: Stig Björkman
Year: Dirk Benedict, Diana Sands, Lars-Erik Berenett, Stig Engström, James Thomas Finley Jr.
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Directed by Stig Björkman and written by none other than Maya Angelou, this film made in 1972 stars Diana Sands as Georgia Martin, a black nightclub singer who travels to Europe where she’s to perform in Stockholm. She, along with her older friend Alberta Anderson (Minnie Gentry) and her gay manager Herbert (Roger Furman), is surprised to be quizzed by the local press about American politics upon her arrival but brushes those questions off and instead talks about music.
As she sets about preparing for and then performing her shows, she meets and quickly falls for a white man named Michael Winters (Dirk Benedict). Passion ignites between the two of them pretty quickly but tensions arise when Alberta makes it clear that she doesn’t think Georgia should be with a white man. Instead, she’d rather Georgia get involved with Bobo (Terry Whitmore – who was an actual Vietnam war deserter), a black American who has deserted from the service in Vietnam who is biding his time in Stockholm. He and his fellow soldiers see in Georgia a way to bring media attention to their situation, something Alberta agrees with. Regardless, Michael and Georgia continue their relationship until Bobo has the pair followed. When word gets back to Alberta, she starts pressuring her even more, insinuating that she is a traitor to the black race. Things start to get thick and heavy between Georgia and Alberta, with the younger chanteuse starting to unravel and the older, more matronly woman’s pot obviously starting to boil.
A racially charged slow burning slice of seventies cinema, Georgia Georgia is quite a well made film. The movie takes a fair bit of time to get going and doesn’t really do a whole lot with Georgia’s character for the first half of the film, instead opting to develop the supporting characters enough so that when our lead is finally aware of what’s happening around her, we know the other players well enough for this to all fit. As such, her reactions become the focus in the latter half of the film, as she falls prey to the inner conflict she feels. Establishing her early on as essentially non-political and indifferent to the plight of Bobo and his fellow deserters instead content to focus on her music, the film puts her into a kind of grey area. Alberta, on the other hand, has little love for whites and makes no qualms about saying so. Quite happy to try and twist Georgia’s own feelings to suite her political leanings, it’s interesting to watch the attempts at manipulation play out.
The cast make this one work fairly well. Diana Sands is pretty captivating. Attractive enough to get our attention but a skilled actress who came from a theatrical background, she fits the part well and does a very good job with the material. While it’s hard to think of Dirk Benedict and not associate him with The A-Team, he too is quite good here as is Minnie Gentry. The rest of the cast are decent as well. The film has a few problems in terms of pacing and direction and it doesn’t feel as personal as it probably should have (or could have, had Maya Angelou been allowed to direct) and on a visual level the film feels unpolished. Where the night club scenes should have been glamorous they are instead fairly flat and additionally Sands just doesn’t quite ever light up the screen in this department. On the flip side, some decent location footage adds some welcome visual interest here and there.
Had the relationship between Georgia and Alberta been a bit more polished and a bit more focused, it probably would have helped the film. This is, after all, just as important to the story as the relationships Georgia has with the men in the film. That didn’t happen, however. The film winds up an interesting one worth seeing but not quite as successful as it probably should have been. As a curiosity item, however, it’s pretty fascinating – particularly when you take the commentary track into account. More on that in a couple of paragraphs.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks like it’s in the right aspect ratio as there are no obvious issues with framing. Shot on 16mm, the transfer reflects the grainy source material and is occasionally soft looking but otherwise quite nice. Some mild print damage is here but nothing that will distract you from the movie itself and colors are reproduced quite nicely.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono track is clean and clear and free of any major issues. The music is a little flat but that seems to be how it was mixed originally? Otherwise, no problems to report. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided.
The main extra on the disc is an interesting commentary track with director Stig Bjorkman and actor Dirk Benedict who are joined by moderator Steven Ryfle. This is a pretty informative track as it allows Bjorkman to talk about how he came on board as director and explain a bit of the history of the production. Benedict gives his side of things here too, talking about his character and giving us his input on what he feels works here. There are some interesting stories shared about other cast members and some discussion of the film’s reception as well – worth listening to, as the history behind this film and the intentions of those involved in making it are quite fascinating to hear.
Rounding out the extras is a Spanish theatrical trailer for the movie, a decent sized still gallery of behind the scenes photos, menus and chapter stops.
The Final Word:
Georgia Georgia is more interesting as a time capsule than it is entertaining but it’s worth seeing for curiosity value. If the movie itself isn’t a raging success, the commentary track that comes with it definitely is and the disc is worth checking out for that reason. As to the feature, it’s cool to see the cast assembled here involved in what was obviously a pretty personal project for its writer, even if ultimately its hampered by less than amazing direction.