DRIVING MISS DAISY
PG, 1989, 99 minutes, closed-captioned, Warner Home Video, $92.95.
"Driving Miss Daisy" shows us that friendship is forged through small kindnesses, a slice of pie, a laugh shared, a sigh of consolation. It is an eloquence of medium-size miracles, changed minds and steady at the wheel, the everyday of the former South articulated in accents as rich as Georgia's red mud. Set in the waning years of segregation, this odd couple's bicycle built for two features Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy, extraordinary in tandem. Theirs is a duet marked with unaffected grace and generosity of spirit, a cotillion in which even the lifting of a spoon reveals something of character. Freeman, arguably America's foremost actor, reprises the role of the unflappable chauffeur, Hoke Colburn, which he pioneered in Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Tandy is new to the title role of Miss Daisy Werthan, but it fits her like a white summer glove. When the cantankerous 72-year-old widow crashes her '48 Packard into the azaleas, her son Boolie (excellent Dan Aykroyd) hires Hoke, a steadfast widower in his early sixties, to carry the reluctant Miss Daisy to temple, the Piggly-Wiggly and her weekly mah-jongg games. Though at first she rejects him, the persistent Hoke prevails, and so begins a friendship that lasts over the turbulence of the next 25 years. Director Bruce Beresford, an Australian attuned to the rhythms of the South and the irony of its people, was the forgotten man at the last Academy Awards when all three stars and the movie were nominated, but Oscar snubbed Beresford. Perhaps that's the price of taking a road less traveled. -- Rita Kempley
PG, 1990, 92 minutes, closed-captioned, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, $89.95.
"Courage Mountain" is that rarest of all children's films -- the kind that makes absolutely no compromises in reaching its audience. The film is wondrously realized, sumptuously handsome and in every aspect nearly flawless. Its heroine is a Swiss girl in her early teens named Heidi who, after a lifetime spent growing up in her tiny Alpine village under the care of her grandfather (Jan Rubes), is about to leave for a girls' boarding school just across the border in Italy. With Europe in the throes of the Great War, the prospect is both stimulating and frightening to young Heidi, who is played with great poise and expressiveness by Juliette Caton. Her first days at the Brookings School don't do much to ease her trepidation. Even with the help of Mistress Hilary (Leslie Caron), the school's headmistress, she's made to feel like a country mouse among the European sophisticates. Before she's able to fully acclimate herself, the Italian Army takes possession of the school, forcing all but a few of the girls, including Heidi, to fall under the charge of the sinister Signor Bonelli (Yorgo Voyagis), who runs a local home for strays. Bonelli, with his leering black eyes, is a grand-scale villain, and the dark, humid world of the orphanage that director Christopher Leitch and his art director, Damien Lanfranchi, have created has a Dickensian squalor that's both sinister and velvety. The story's outlines are not unfamiliar, but the craftsmanship of Leitch, who directed the film for producers Joel and Michael Douglas, and the expressiveness of the actors give it a spirited freshness. The youngest kids may find "Courage Mountain" too sophisticated and not quite action-filled enough to hold their attention. But for everyone else -- and in particular for girls around the age of the film's heroine -- the movie will be a treasured find. -- Hal Hinson
R, 1990, 123 minutes, closed-captioned, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, $89.95.
Tony Scott's "Revenge" is fascinating for one reason only -- as an example of full-scale, mega-star perversity. The star in this case is Kevin Costner, and there's a willfulness in the extremes to which he's gone here to alienate his public. Costner pitches his performance at his audience like a dare, as if he were seeing how far out on a limb it's willing to climb with him. The answer is, not this far. "Revenge" is little more than "Dynasty" with shotguns, but it's not honest enough with itself even to provide the fast and dirty pleasures of low-pitched melodrama. The movie has no subject other than its own slick and impersonal style. Everything is played like sex, or at least the kind of sex we know from television commercials, in which every shot is a come-on and the air is honey-thick with suggested meaning. The momentum is haltingly slow, as if Scott were moving huge, weighty pieces of story into place in order to express monumental themes. Costner plays an ex-fighter jock named Cochran who, after his retirement from the Air Force, travels to Mexico to enjoy the hospitality of his friend Tiburon (Anthony Quinn). A man of great wealth, Tiburon is a kind of Mexican godfather who fills his stables of power with lackeys and politicians. Madeleine Stowe is Miryea, Tiburon's sable-haired bauble, his trophy. What the filmmakers seem to have wanted is a mannequin, a bland and impassive boy-toy, but what they got was a doll with a real woman trapped inside. She's a true beauty, but she adds a note of real pathos to her sexiness. The movie they've made is about the deepest kind of cynicism there is -- when everything, love and revenge included, is meaningless. But my bet is they don't even know it. -- Hal Hinson THE NEW SOUSA BAND
Unrated, 1986, 58 minutes, Proscenium, $29.95.
Conductor Keith Brion not only plays the music of John Philip Sousa with superb musicianship and authentic style; in this video, taped at the Wolf Trap Barns by Maryland Public TV, he and his band duplicate Sousa's performances down to such small details as the red, white and blue bunting that decorates the stage. The musicians are dressed in uniforms like those of the famous Sousa Band and perform the kind of pops program he played on his tours, using Sousa's own arrangements. Even the large cards that are set on an easel to announce the (very frequent) encores are like those that Sousa used. Half of the 14 selections on this tape are Sousa's, including "The Stars and Stripes Forever!" and the "Washington Post" march. The program opens with Suppe's "Light Cavalry" overture, briskly played in a splendid band arrangement, and includes the Prelude to Act III of Wagner's "Lohengrin," Grainger's "Country Gardens," "The Last Rose of Summer" and a humorous arrangement of "The Whistler and His Dog" -- music that evokes the innocent pastimes of a bygone era. The band is excellent, as are the four guest soloists: soprano Erie Mills, cornetist Charles Daval, Laurence Trott on piccolo and Don Harry on tuba. Beverly Sills is the hostess, and devotees of Wolf Trap may recognize Catherine Filene Shouse in the background with Sills. -- Joseph McLellan