475679, just seen it for the first time|
Posted by Rolo_Tomasi, Tue Sep-15-09 06:58 PM
apologies for the new post on the same topic.
Do the Right Thing was both celebrated and reviled on its release 20 years ago. We introduce a season that includes some of the films that influenced its making, as well as just a few that it influenced.
Boyz n the Hood, Clerks, Do The Right Thing, La Haine, Hollywood Shuffle, I Like It Like That, Juice, Killer of Sheep, Krush Groove, Malcolm X, She's Gotta Have It, Stranger Than Paradise and Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song.
Introduction by Michael Hayden
In December 1986, three black men were driving through the Howard Beach area of Queens, New York, when their car broke down. They wandered into a nearby pizzeria, hoping to use a phone and eat, but were hounded out, to be confronted by a gang of white youths wielding baseball bats. They were brutally attacked, and one of them, 23-year- old Michael Griffith, was chased into the path of a car and killed.
That was not the only incident to provoke Spike Lee to focus on racial tension for his third feature, though it was indicative of a climate in New York, and more broadly, in America, that he wanted to address. It was a bold step for Lee. While his previous features may have gained him a name as something of a provocateur, they had only been seen as political in the sense that an African American was making them. With Do the Right Thing, he was explicitly attempting to strike an angry, and vital, blow against racism.
Yet, on its release in the summer of 1989, Lee was accused of whipping up racial hysteria, of putting dynamite under cinema seats, of being a racist himself. Critics claimed he'd have blood on his hands from the riots that would inevitably follow screenings of the film. Such reactions seem somewhat hysterical now, but it's worth noting that this was a time before the likes of Denzel Washington and Will Smith were genuine A-list movie stars, when black film-makers worked almost exclusively in the independent sector, from where Lee emerged, and it was a long time before anyone considered there might be a black man in the White House. The current President of the United States is said to have taken his future wife to see Do the Right Thing on their first date. Lee has joked that if he hadn't made the film, Barack and Michelle would have had to make do with Soul Man.
The 'inevitable' riots didn't materialise when the film was released, and it has survived to be justly revered by cinephiles, probably because it was made by one. In his journal on the making of the film, Lee constantly references other films: Powell and Pressburger influenced the brash colouring of the film; he wanted to use 'Chinese angles like the ones that were used so effectively in The Third Man'; he screened In the Heat of the Night, Body Heat and Apocalypse Now, to get a sense of how heat is conveyed in film; and he wanted the humour to be like that in Dog Day Afternoon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Network or The Last Detail, 'serious movies that are funny as shit.'
Mookie, Lee's character in Do the Right Thing, repeats his mantra, 'I gots to get paid.' This season is an attempt to give Spike Lee his dues, and recognise the film as one of American cinema's finest.