By: Thomas Kallergis
Film Critique: Analyzing the Star or Director Through Their Films Spike Lee - Modern Star Director - She’s Gotta Have it, Crooklyn, Inside Man
Spike Lee, born Shelton Jackson Lee, is a modern Black director who was born in Atlanta, Georgia but grew up in Brooklyn, New York. It can be said that Mr. Lee is not one to shy away from controversy, be it in his films or public statements. The production company that Mr. Lee founded is called “40 Acres and a Mule” referring to the famous American policy in 1865 that gave newly freed slave their own land and a mule as reparations for slavery. (Sharecropping) That policy was rescinded less than six months later. With forty-six titles to his credit, including feature films, documentaries and television, Mr. Lee has a multitude of material to watch and critique and it is quite the task to choose just three films that span his career as an American film director. The three films that will be reviewed in this essay are; She’s Gotta Have It (1986), Crooklyn (1994) and Inside Man (2006). After reading reviews, looking through plot summaries and watching trailers, I chose the three films above because they span three different decades, one is Mr. Lee’s first feature film, and another is his second to last feature film. What do these films say about Spike Lee? What do they say about American culture? What do they say about society? How have they changed film making? Directors are storytellers, interpreters. As Mr. Lee himself says “storytelling... that’s the most important thing as a film maker”. All three of these films have a great deal to say about American culture. Both She’s Gotta Have It and Crooklyn were written and directed by Mr. Lee. Both of these films center around racial, cultural, social and economic situations. Although Inside Man was not written by Mr. Lee, and on the surface it may seem as a typical action heist film, it also has significant racial, cultural, social and economic undertones. She’s Gotta Have It is a story about a young black woman who is dating three men simultaneously. This film’s narration is not linear, it is presented as a documentary styled narrative with flashbacks between interviews that allows the viewer to piece together the story based on what is witnessed by the viewer as well as what is told by several different members of the woman’s life who are all trying their best to explain why or why not she is a “freak”. Mr. Lee “aimed to rouse his audiences from a cultural stupor” (Kennedy) when he made this film. Nola, the woman who’s life the film is based around is trying to buck the stereotypical view of gender. She likes her three men because they all give her something unique and different that the others lack. To Nola, it seems that her activities are normal and constantly rebukes all three men’s persistent efforts to force her into a monogamous relationship. This is no a typical female gender role. There are also cameos of other people in Nola’s life such as her father, her psychiatrist, her ex roommate/friend, her lesbian suitor and a series of suitors that might also be exes of Nola’s trying to shed light on her life and her personality. Narration is the key element in the film Crooklyn. The narrative is straight forward, linear and is very easy to follow. Situated in the early 70’s, Crooklyn is a semi-biographical film written by Mr. Lee and two of his siblings. The main story behind the film is what a typical, lower middle class Brooklyn black family’s life is like. Mr. Lee does a great job identifying many of the typical characters one might see in a city neighborhood. There are the annoying neighbors, the immigrants, the derelicts but most of all the film is a showcase into what childhood is like for millions of urban youth. The cultural and socio-economic differences between the black children are evident in the manner in which they tease each other. There is taunting and teasing, arguments and squabbles but at...
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