Marvin & Tige
Starring: John Cassavetes, Billy Dee Williams and Gibran Brown
108 Minutes
Cinematic release, 1983
Video release, 2000

Film purists will probably sneer at me for this, but I'm no film purist, I just like what I like. John Cassavetes was one of my all-time favourite actors and I prefer to see him in other people's films rather than his own. So there.

He was also a marvelous director, the required stuff of university film classes everywhere. And many such students of film would scold me and say that he only acted in other directors' films as a necessary evil to make money for his own productions. And that's true, his films (Faces, Shadows, Husbands, Mikey and Nicky, A Woman Under The Influence, et al) were financed by his acting in more mainstream films. But I've always found his own films very difficult to sit through—not because they are boring or badly made, but because they are so disturbing and claustrophobic. But when he was in other, less intense films, I could really enjoy him for the genius he was. And these other directors' films aren't so bad; Rosemary's Baby, Who's Life Is It Anyway, Tempest, The Dirty Dozen. These are not films to sneer at. Which brings me to Marvin & Tige, another one of those films he took on to pay the bills, so to speak.

Tige Jackson (Gibran Brown) is an 11 year old African-American kid who's been through the mill. Growing up devastatingly poor with no father, his mother too depressed to care for him adequately, Tige is forced to steal food to survive. When his mother dies, he decides he's had enough and gives up on life. On the edge of a suicide attempt Tige happens to meet Marvin Stewart (Cassavetes), a lonely man who's also lost so much that he's turned his back on society years ago. Marvin takes Tige in and shares what little he has with the boy and despite their racial and cultural differences, they grow to love and need each other.

When Marvin decides he wants to legally adopt Tige, he's told he must find out what has happened to Tige's father (Billy Dee Williams) before any steps can be taken. When he finds him the real pain begins in deciding what's right for Tige.

I first saw this movie years ago. I taped it off cable and whenever I wanted a good cry I'd dust it off. So be warned, tears abound! It's great to finally be able to get it on a nice new video cassette, released just last year.

The film was shot in Atlanta in the early '80s. I was born there but I never got to live there, but it's an interesting city that I've always liked to visit. One of the many cool things about this film is that even though it's set in the famous southern city, no-one was told to put on fake southern accents and affect a crazy southern demeanor. Everyone's just regular. That's a nice change.

Basically the film is sweet and moving. Nothing controversial to debate here, Marvin is an unforgettable character always living by his own strict moral code, despite the fact that he may or may not be an alcoholic on the skids. He will not tolerate stealing or violence in any way, and that stirs up some uneasy moments with Tige as they get to know each other.

If you can rent it where you live, prepare the tissues. If you catch it on cable, don't miss it. You're in for a treat.

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