July 9, 2018  (Web Review)

Blaze

Kino Lorber, 120 min., R, DVD: $11.99, Blu-ray: $19.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Based on the true story of exotic dancer Blaze Starr and her love affair with Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long, Ron Shelton’s adaptation of Starr’s 1974 memoir stirs plenty of wry humor into a tale of populism, cronyism, corruption, and practical politics in the Deep South of segregation-era America. Paul Newman stars as Long, a hedonistic, gleefully corrupt politician who charms the public with his folksy manner and rousing speeches while managing to keep his indiscretions out of the papers. He’s an entertaining contradiction, playing the segregationist in public while also supporting black voting rights and progressive social causes. Newman shares the screen (and story) with Lolita Davidovich as Blaze, a self-confident stripper who promotes herself into a successful career in part because of her ability to charm her audiences. The movie plays rather loose with historical accuracy according to Long biographers, but it’s still a very entertaining film with two dynamic personalities at the center, one that offers an interesting look at the contradictions at the heart of the populist governor while also highlighting the power of the political machines in mid-20th-century politics. Extras include audio commentary by Shelton. Recommended. (S. Axmaker)