Only Spike Lee could have made BlacKkKlansman


There’s a lot going on in BlacKkKlansman, the latest film from legendary director Spike Lee. It starts with Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard (Alec Baldwin) filming a white supremacist PSA, sputtering like a rabid dog between takes and spewing racist slander. It ends with scenes from the real-life 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. And in between, it sandwiches a wild true crime story that comes to life as a blaxploitation film.

The movie, which hits theaters Friday, is based on the story of black Colorado Springs detective Ron Stallworth, who in 1978 began an investigation into local Ku Klux Klan activity that ended with the chapter’s dismantling. But Lee shapes his adaptation with a certain frenetic energy, eschewing traditional historical tics and instead leapfrogging across genres from comedy to police procedural, historical biopic to historical atrocity. He invokes blaxploitation — a 1970s filmmaking movement centered on black heroes battling emblems of white supremacy in black communities — as a way to underwrite the tension of the subject matter. The effect of his genre-swapping is as dizzying as it is immensely satisfying.

A film as brazenly, bluntly, unapologetically entertaining as BlacKkKlansman could only be made by a filmmaker as brazen, blunt, and unapologetic as Lee, who built a career on making incendiary cultural statements about social transgressions. More to the point, it could only be made by a filmmaker with Lee’s experience. The control he exerts over his craft lets him nimbly avoid the monotone of biography. Another director would have taken Stallworth’s story and shot it with overwhelming sobriety, fashioning serious subject matter into self-serious cinema, the kind that is lavished with hosannas and nominations during awards season.

Lee goes a different route. He doesn’t treat the material like a joke, but he doesn’t grandstand, either. We’re clued into Lee’s more mischievous intentions right at the jump: When we meet Stallworth as he goes for a job interview, he meets with Colorado Springs’ chief of police, Bridges (Robert John Burke), and a recruitment agent, Mr. Turrentine (Isiah Whitlock Jr.). Turrentine’s entire purpose in the scene, it seems, is to quote the most famous catchphrase of Whitlock’s career. (Yes, it’s the one from The Wire.) That’s a slam-dunk laugh — and proof of Lee’s goals for the film.

He keeps the laughter going. Not longer after joining the force, Stallworth, having worked his way out of the evidence room and into intelligence, responds to an ad placed in the paper by the Klan calling for members, dialing the number provided and asserting to the voice on the other line his distinct hatred for all minorities, from Jews to Italians to the Irish, but particularly black people. The room goes silent. Every officer in the joint stares in stunned disbelief at what they’re hearing.

It’s a bit of racial comedy that would tickle Mel Brooks. From the other side of the lens, we sense Lee is having as good a time as we are.

But BlacKkKlansman doesn’t remain in that comic mode for the …read more

Source:: The Week – Entertainment

      

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