Review: ‘The River’

This is the second film produced by the Farm Security Administration, previous one having been The Plough That Broke the Plains, also written and directed by Pare Lorentz, with musical score by Virgil Thomson. It's a more arresting, more compelling job than the previous effort, although still failing to encompass the subject entirely.

This is the second film produced by the Farm Security Administration, previous one having been The Plough That Broke the Plains, also written and directed by Pare Lorentz, with musical score by Virgil Thomson. It’s a more arresting, more compelling job than the previous effort, although still failing to encompass the subject entirely.

Documentary pic seeks to tell the story of the Mississippi river, its sources, its majestic course, its destination, its uses and abuse by heedless man, and its relentless retaliation.

As the narrator [Thomas Chalmers] states, the Mississippi is the most nearly perfect river in the world, and something of that mighty quality infests the film. Film impressively depicts the beauty and the power of the river, how it has been squandered and destroyed, how terrible has been the inevitable result. But it fails to tie its interrelated parts into a whole that is entirely clear or convincing. It skips from fact to fact, argument to argument, but doesn’t quite weave a perfect pattern.

Thomson’s score, blended from symphonic sources, ballads, spirituals and original compositions, highlights the film dramatically. Narrative is vividly effective, being a com- posite of straight description and exposition and poetic prose.

The River

Production

Farm Security Administration. Director Pare Lorentz; Screenplay Pare Lorentz; Camera Stacy Woodward, Floyd Crosby, Willard Van Dyke; Editor Pare Lorentz; Music Virgil Thompson

Crew

(B&W) Available on DVD. Extract of a review from 1938. Running time: 30 MIN.
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