EXPO - Magic of the White City DVD [Import]
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Experience the world of 1893 through a cinematic visit to Chicago's Columbian Exposition. Many of the world's greatest achievements in science, technology and culture are unveiled there. Fairgoers also enjoy camel riding on the popular Midway and guilty pleasures like belly dancing, street fighting and beer drinking.
Nearly 28 million visit the Fair. Dubbed the "White City," it inspires future innovators like Henry Ford and Frank Lloyd Wright, debuts the Ferris Wheel and Cracker Jack®, and, in many ways, marks the beginning of the 20th century. Against the backdrop of 1893's troubles with workers' rights, prejudice, discrimination and corruption, the World's Columbian Exposition casts a brief ray of hope for the future of humanity. EXPO - Magic of the White City brings the Chicago World's Fair to life.
Filmed in High-Definition, EXPO - Magic of the White City immerses viewers in one of the world's biggest extravaganzas and one of the most unforgettable events in American history. There will never be another event like it...or will there?
Special Features include: Feature-length Commentary Track with World's Fair historian David Cope, Making the Fair, Art of the Fair, Storyboards of the Fair, Pictures of the Fair, Commentary tracks on special features by director Mark Bussler and writer Brian Connelly and deleted scenes.
"A dazzling trip back to another time." -- Bill Diehl, ABC Radio Network
"A notable release." -- The Washington Post
"Historically Significant." -- The New York Times
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The focus of this documentary was mostly a tour of the fair. In recent books on the fair there seems to be either a "horray for progress/wasn't the fair pretty?" or a "damn American imperialism, racism, and sexism" route. The tone of this documentary was neutral/celebratory as it largely omitted discussion of racism and sexism (with only a few passing mentions). There were photos I hadn't seen before, and the narration (Gene Wilder) was superlative.
I do have quibbles with the film, which are most likey not the fault of the creators. See, what I really want is a bigger-budget version of this, full of computer reproductions of the fair so that we can "walk through" it instead of just scenes of a camera panning over a still photograph or painting. The live reinactments were limited to a belly dancer, beer drinking, and the murder of Mayor Harrison. There was also some live footage of fish and animals that the fair goers would have seen, which I am ambivalent about. But don't just tell me that the great pyramid would fit inside the Palace of Manufactures and Liberal Arts, drive the idea home with a little graphic, even a simple one, of the pyramid sitting inside it.
All that said, this was worth every penny and contained a lot of great material which I am bound to watch over and over again.
EXPO is about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, an exposition of such majesty, scope, corruption, and expense that it is a feat unparalleled in America today. The closest we have to the Fair is Disney World, a lineage most explicitly drawn in The White City; Walt Disney's father, Elias, was a construction worker on some of the buildings at the fair.
EXPO is narrated by Gene Wilder. I'm admit to a bias - I'm a big fan of Young Frankenstein and he's the only "celebrity sighting" I've ever encountered in real life. Wilder's getting on in age (the DVD was produced in 2005), so there's now a bit of a whistle to his speech. Still, his lilting voice has enough emotion and wry humor to make his narration enjoyable. And there is a lot of narration.
We tend to think of previous American centuries as quaintly backward, where such modern notions as political correctness and global unity didn't exist. And while EXPO is careful to point out that American culture still had its own foibles and intolerance endemic to the time, the World's Fair put all those to shame. It was a global unification of wealth, prosperity, and cultural exchange in a way that's inconceivable in today's contentious world. We can learn a lot from the Chicago World's Fair.
EXPO uses old maps and photographs to detail events at the fair whenever possible, with few computer graphics or animation. There are occasional shots of live actors, none whom particularly add anything of value to the narrative. In fact, it's clear that the producers felt that the medium was a little dry, because there are copious live action shots of a belly dancer interspersed with discussion of the Midway.
Minor quibbles aside, EXPO works overtime to try to encompass the grandeur of such a huge undertaking without losing sight of the details. As a result, it necessarily glosses over some pieces (rampant corruption, the aforementioned Devil himself who is the subject of The White City book) and emphasizes others (global diversity, architecture, and the first appearances of American staples). That's okay though; EXPO is a huge undertaking with such a sweepingly broad subject that it's better served as a companion piece to a book. Like The Devil in the White City.
My wife's maiden name is Ferris. For generations her family believed they were related to George Washington Ferris, inventor of the Ferris wheel, which was first exhibited at the Chicago Columbian Expo.
Further investigations revealed that the family myths were just that, myths. The DVD gave us a lot of information on the inventions of the day, why the Expo was so popular. As a youth, growing up in Chicago, one of my favorite places was the Museum of Science and Industry. The only building still standing, from the fair. I think that museum may have had a lot of influence on my career. I'm an engineer. Great DVD.