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The 1985 Meryl Streep/Robert Redford Oscar favorite gets a Blu-ray double-dip that might actually be worth re-investigating....
Universal / 161 Minutes / 1985 / Rated PG / Street Date: April 27, 2010
There's an undeniable 'Hollywoodness' to Out of Africa that may be off-putting to some, but now that decades have passed since we've heard Meryl coo that she 'had a farm in Africaahh.....', it's that very star-studded glow that truly defines it as a grandiose, literary piece of big-80s cinema art. Directed with David Lean sensibility by Hollywood standard Sydney Pollack (who won his first and only directing Oscar for the picture), Out of Africa is a panoramic picture postcard of a movie, one that's able to balance the oceanic spread of its gorgeous landscape with the old-fashioned movie star mojo of Mr. Redford and Mrs. Streep on screen.
In fact, somehow Pollack is able to make these two entities feed off each other with a kind of 'you scratch my back, I scratch yours' tack. Just when you think the romance can't get any more swoon-inducing, Pollack cuts to an open plain or a ragged hillside horizon that makes both aspects twice their once-apparent size. Like any great big-budget Hollywood romance, the amor isn't just between Streep and Redford, it's among the two of them and the landscape they travail: The two characters wouldn't have nearly the magnetized draw if it wasn't for Africa's natural makeup, and somehow the continent just wouldn't be the same if these two star-crossed lovers weren't treading upon it.
The story of Out of Africa is presented, again, in a sort of Lawrence of Arabia-meets-Doctor Zhivago capacity. Meryl plays Karen Blixen, a woman who, under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen, would one day write globally recognized tales of love and adventure on the African continent. Turns out that Karen married an obsessive Baron (Klaus Maria Brandauer), and he doesn't care much for the emotional nuance of his lovely betrothed, so Karen starts spending her days with gentleman Deny Finch Hatton (Robert Redford), who almost immediately catches her eye. Let the push-pull begin.
You know within ten minutes whether Out of Africa is for you or not - viewers with a penchant for the broad histrionics of old Hollywood will sigh with loving abandon; those wanting more meat on their romances may balk - but it goes without saying that the film is one-of-a-kind in its scope and vision. Pollack wouldn't direct a film half as good over the course of the rest of his career, and while Streep and Redford would ascend to different heights in the nineties and beyond, there's something about their match-up here that cannot be denied. I mean, there has to be a reason we keep coming back to it, no?