Cinema: One More Sad Song

RAGTIME Directed by Milos Forman; Screenplay by Michael Weller

It should have been a silent movie. Facts and faces flicker through E.L. Doctorow's novel with the speed and power of jerky images from a newsreel of the American soul circa 1910. Archetypes are intercut with tintypes; a panorama of mass or class dissolves into a closeup of an agitated bourgeois mind; fable is superimposed on history. And they all run like hell to the D.W. Griffith finish line. Long shot: Harry Houdini performs thrilling escapes, restaging his own birth trauma for a country just...

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