Rembrandt Q Pumpernickel’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is the summary for Harlan County U.S.A. on letterboxd: "A filmed account of a bitterly violent miner strike." I worry about writing about this film myself and whether or not I will just be elongating that concise but limiting sentence. Of maybe every movie I truly love, Harlan County U.S.A. is the one I may have the least words for. It is me. It is what my passion is. Film combined with social justice. How does one find the words to define one's self in such a way?
I'll start with the beauty of the film. It is musical. I have never seen a documentary or really any not avant-garde film that approaches tone poem status as much as Harlan County, USA. Somehow every line sounds like part of a larger song, whether sung or not. This film feels so woven together, a true tapestry of this life. I can hardly ever believe that it is a documentary; it's so well put together and gorgeous and terrifying to look at.
Sometimes when I think of what makes a good director, I ask myself do they make each face look unique? This may seem like an easy task to achieve as all faces are unique, but I rarely feel like directors manage to capture a face's unique character and, therefore, the person behind it. There are hundreds of faces in Harlan County U.S.A. yet Kopple captures each one magnificently, even those of the ostensible villains.
Anything I write will just feel inadequate, and I've already listened to this album twice trying to write this little bit. Everybody should see this film.