Picks and Pans Review: The Statue of Liberty

updated 05/12/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Informative, witty and full of intelligent admiration, this tape was released as a theatrical movie last year and got an Oscar nomination for best documentary. But let's think of it as a 100th-birthday present for the Lady; she couldn't ask for a better one. In an hour-long portrait, director Ken Burns and writers Bernard A. Weisberger and Geoffrey C. Ward deftly mix old stills, artwork, historical footage and newly filmed sequences. They point out, for instance, that Liberty's sculptor, Frenchman Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, really wanted to place a huge statue of an Egyptian lady with a raised torch at the entrance to the Suez Canal. They remind us that many Americans didn't want the statue; one art critic said it looked like "a bag of potatoes with a stick projecting from it." Burns intersperses interviews with an imaginatively chosen group of modern Americans, including singer Ray Charles, movie director Milos Forman, poet Carolyn Forche and author James Baldwin, who says that for black Americans, the statue remains "a very bitter joke." The documentary's tone—one of challenge, openness, honesty—provides exactly the right perspective. The statue does seem to represent, however haphazardly, the best of what Americans aspire to. It is, says the narrator, historian David McCullough, "an act of faith." (Vestron, $24.95)

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