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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt Pratt@moviecitynews.com

The DVD Geek: The Strawberry Statement

The further they recede in time, the more fascinating the campus riot movies become.  Despite the brief resurgences of similar sentiments in the Occupy Wall Street movement, there is something very alien about the militancy of the youthful rebels.  And while violence as a means of suppression by the authorities has continued as a practice, usually of last resort or near last resort, that practice has not been depicted in popular entertainment since the spirit of the Sixties subsided.  Directed by Stuart Hagmann, the 1970 MGM campus riot feature, The Strawberry Statement, released as a Warner Home Video Archive Collection title, won some sort of secondary award at Cannes, and has some interesting stylistic touches.  When the climactic riot begins, there are even shots from ‘inside a gas mask’ as the police approach the gymnasium where the protestors are peaceably demonstrating.  The police begin running smoke machines, which one supposes would have the protestors coughing and leaving the building as soon as it got heavy enough, but rather than waiting, the police also start whacking on them with nightsticks and such, and dragging them out by their feet.  The logic is illusive, but logic in the heat of such situations is also illusive.

Bruce Davison, back when he still had promise, stars as a member of the college rowing crew who by chance becomes curious about the protestors that have taken over the school’s administration building and gradually becomes involved in their cause.  Kim Darby, who was, briefly, believed to have boxoffice clout, co-stars as another protestor, and the core of the film is the easygoing, college romance that develops between them.  Bud Cort and Bob Balaban also have major roles.  The film really doesn’t have much of a plot, however, as it is relying instead upon the dynamics of the campus protest itself—from the discovery in the Dean’s office of documents that link corporate malfeasance to the college’s financial shenanigans, to the execution of the riot at the end—to justify its narrative.  Maybe in 1970 it did, and the Cannes judges must have believed it so, but now it just seems disjointed, aimless, and strange.

Two versions of the film are presented on two separate platters.  The ‘Original Theatrical Version’ runs 103 minutes (with story-generated chapter encoding) and is presented in letterboxed format with an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback.  The color transfer is fresh and smooth.  The ‘International Version,’ presumably the one seen at Cannes, runs 109 minutes (with generic chapter encoding) and includes an elaborate and provocative erotic sequence featuring Davison, but not Darby.  The International Version, however, is presented in full screen format, adding just a little to the top and bottom of the image and losing a lot from the sides.  The picture is also a little grainier and colors are a little weaker.  So, if you want the sex, you have to pay for it.  The monophonic sound on both versions is fuzzy if you raise the volume too high, but fine if it is kept at a sensible level, and the soundtrack contains several intensely nostalgic Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Neil Young tunes, along with other choice songs from the era.  There is no captioning.  A meandering trailer for the Theatrical Version is also included.

2 Responses to “The DVD Geek: The Strawberry Statement”

  1. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Now I have to see the whole thing again, just to see the “elaborate and provocative erotic sequence”!

  2. Bob Burns says:

    saw this at a midnight show, packed theater, when it was released. I was a college freshman and identified strongly with it. will probably leave it at that.

The Ultimate DVD Geek

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“TIFF doesn’t make attendance numbers for its Lightbox screenings publicly available, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many filmgoers the Lightbox is attracting (or how much money it’s bringing in). But the King Street West venue hasn’t become a significant draw for film enthusiasts. The Lightbox’s attendance has plunged – 49,000 fewer visitors last year, a drop of 27 per cent, according to figures recently reported in the Toronto Star. Its gallery space – designed to showcase the visions of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers – saw most of its exhibitions staff quietly axed this past fall. And its marketing barely escapes the Lightbox’s walls. Unless you are a TIFF member or one of the city’s most avid filmgoers, you could walk by the Lightbox and remain blissfully unaware of a single thing that goes on inside. TIFF “still has a world-class brand,” said Barry Avrich, a filmmaker and former board member, “but it’s going to take some fresh vision from retail, consumer programming and marketing experts, given how the lines have become intensely blurred when it comes to how people watch film. They will have to experiment with programming to find the right blend of function and relevance.”
~ Globe & Mail Epic On State of Toronto Int’l (paywalled)

“I’m 87 years old… I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive… The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes. I just hope there’s nothing. Like there was before I was born. I’m not really into religion, they’re all macrocosms of the ego. When man began to think he was a separate person with a separate soul, it created a violent situation.

“The void, the concept of nothingness, is terrifying to most people on the planet. And I get anxiety attacks myself. I know the fear of that void. You have to learn to die before you die. You give up, surrender to the void, to nothingness.

“Anybody else you’ve interviewed bring these things up? Hang on, I gotta take this call… Hey, brother. That’s great, man. Yeah, I’m being interviewed… We’re talking about nothing. I’ve got him well-steeped in nothing right now. He’s stopped asking questions.”
~ Harry Dean Stanton