BLANKET INDICTMENT

In spite of its pesky flaws and its faint whiff of smugness, it would be ungrateful to dismiss American Quilt. It celebrates the art of storytelling, it gives good roles to a bunch of great, near-great and very good actresses and, perhaps above all, it is achingly gorgeous to look at.

The cinematographer is Janusz Kaminski, the brilliant Pole who rendered Schindler's List in stunning black and white. With American Quilt, as with his other efforts, Grim Prairie Tales and Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill, Kaminski shows himself heir to the mantle of the late Nestor Almendros--master of bright color.

Near the end of American Quilt, there's a series of shots of Ryder, wrapped in the quilt and following a crow through an orchard, that has a mythic splendor. It's as wonderful a use of color as cinema can achieve. Moorhouse and Kaminski, both foreigners, sure know how to make an American movie.

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