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Analyzing a Scene in ‘The Color Purple’

“My name is Blitz Bazawule. And I’m the director of ‘The Color Purple.’” [SNAPPING] “So, this scene is where Shug Avery, played by the incredible Taraji P. Henson, performs at the juke joint for the very first time. Her character’s enigmatic. We’ve been hearing about her throughout. And we haven’t seen her perform yet. And so, Dan Laustsen my DP, and I, knew that this was a moment that would have to register in the audience’s mind as a moment of coming out, of sorts. My production designer, Paul Austerberry also really suggested that we do this practically and not on stage. And so, we found a swamp that we had to drain. It takes two months to drain out and two months to fill back up. But we drained it out to build the actual juke joint. And so, what you’re seeing is Shug actually performing in a juke joint on location. And what was special about this was, also, it gave my choreographer, the incredible Fatima Robinson, the opportunity to really shine. And it took us about two weeks of rehearsals to figure out just the blocking for this. A lot was going to be going on. A lot of storytelling was going to be happening. And a lot of bodies were going to be moving in this space.”

“(SINGING) Push the button.” “(SINGING) Push the button.” “(SINGING) Push the button.”

“It was very important that the blocking was right. It was also very important that we gave Taraji an opportunity to shine in this moment. She actually sung the song herself. She’s not dubbed. This is actually her voice. She took vocal lessons to make sure she got this one right. And it was incredible because it was all believable for her in the space, performing this song in real time. This is where it gets special, when the lights go out. And we find ourselves in darkness. Now, for me, this is a moment that also allows the dance break to be a special moment. The song is a bit long. So, we knew that we didn’t want the audiences just sitting through a redundant setup. So, I remember coming in to set one day much earlier. And the lights were — the environmental lights were on. And the blue light started to bleed through. I said to myself, I think that’s it. If we can go from light to darkness this way. I think we could have something special.”

“Ooh, it ain’t over yet, y’all.” “Now, ladies.” “What?” “I need you to work a little harder, O.K.?”

“The other thing that was special about this moment is the ending, when we find out that Shug Avery has actually chosen Celie and not Mister. So, there was a lot of storytelling. Even though it’s a big dance number, there’s still a lot of storytelling going on. So, by the time we find out that she’s kind of made this choice, it’s too late for Mister. Mister has been waiting. He’s spent all this time, expecting that Shug Avery would come to him at the end of this performance. And he would be the beneficiary of all of this amazingness that’s happened. And somehow, she kind of just sneaks past him and goes to Celie. And that’s a big emotional and romantic moment in this film. And I think that it was really special. And I love the look on Colman’s face when the realization hits him. It’s like, wow, all this for nothing.” [CHEERS]

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