The Black Stallion ★★★★★

Beautifully cinematic. Poetic and propulsive. Acted with nuance and tenderness instead of ego (and that includes a surprisingly quiet performance by Mickey Rooney). Never condescends to its viewers, young or old. Edited so perfectly, it is somehow both efficient and contemplative. Devoid of laborious exposition. Packed with iconic images. With the exception of one slightly annoying characterization*, it exists almost outside of time, without aspects that date when it was made. Alec, played with extraordinary restraint by Kelly Reno, remains one of the most naturalistic, convincing young boys I've seen in a movie; it's a performance that came to mind watching the boys in The Tree of Life (which I mean as a high compliment).

This was one of the first big-screen movies I saw as a child, and I'd consider this to be my first encounter with great cinema — a film that impressed upon me early that the best filmmaking is not merely an illustrated narrative but a creative fusion of light and dark, image and music, fast and slow.

The Criterion Collection edition is a treasure. It suggests to me that their source materials may not have been in the finest condition, so I'm grateful that they applied their powers to restore it as much as possible to its original glory.

*The only thing in the film that makes me flinch slightly is the character of Snoe, played wonderfuly by Clarence Muse. His character is a bit too close to the discomforting cliché of the "Magical Negro" — the black character who, being imagined by a white storyteller, is made to seem almost like a fantasy character, equipped with strange intuitive powers (like Bagger Vance or Green Mile's John Coffey), and seeming to exist almost as an imaginary friend outside of an integral role with anyone but the central character. Still, Muse's makes a big impression in a small role.

Jeffrey liked these reviews