THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The Sixties were a fast moving decade, crammed with significant social and political
advances. So, it's no wonder that MGM has released Sidney Poitier's Lilies of
Field (1963) under their "Vintage Classics" banner while his In The Heat of the
Night, released just four years later, falls under the classification
Classics". That's because, while In the Heat of the Night burns with an anger
never ages, Lilies of the Field belongs to an earlier era.
Lilies of the Field is the story of unemployed handyman Homer Smith
(Poitier) who stumbles on a group of German,
Austrian, and Hungarian nuns in the middle of the desert. The nuns, led by
Mother Maria (Lilia Skala), are in need of some help in repairing the roof of their
living quarters. Once Smith fixes the roof the
nuns goad him into staying for dinner. In a strange but energetic scene Smith teaches
the nuns some English phrases by acting them
out: "I stand up! I sit down!" The scene as written is too cute and silly to exist in this
world but Poitier, through his
ever present charm and eloquence, elevates the material above embarrassing. In fact,
he does this throughout. When the
nuns enlist Smith to help build a chapel, it's Poitier who turns the overly precious material
into something more. There is a commendable
simpleness to the film that runs straight through to the abrupt ending, but in light of the
complex racial and emotional dynamics of
some of Poitier's other films Lilies comes off as somewhat shallow.
The black and white cinematography is simple but effective, with some high contrast
scenes. Colorized in some video release, this
is the best Lilies has looked in a long time. The transfer is good but a little
muddy at times. Still, considering the age
of the film it looks good. The transfer is not anamorphic but it is not a very widescreen film.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is a bit quiet at times and some of the dialog a little tough
to decipher. No English subtitles are included (why?) but French and Spanish
The folksy score by Jerry Goldsmith is terrific, however.
Only a trailer.
Although Poitier won an Oscar for his role in Lilies of the Field it is hardly his
best film. Still, it exudes a certain kind of innocence that can be refreshing.
Also starring Sidney Poitier:
In the Heat of the
Gil Jawetz is a graphic designer, video director, and t-shirt designer. He lives in Brooklyn.
E-mail Gil at firstname.lastname@example.org