Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Film Review: BlacKkKlansman (a Spike Lee film)

This film, probably Spike Lee's best work since "She's Gotta Have It" in 1986, is a joyous romp, karmic, powerful, absurd, and also flawed.  It walks a line between terrifying and funny, depicting a story that is based on a true story so implausible that, were there not a book memoir to read, one could dismiss it is a wild flight of fancy. It has beautiful and mesmerizing young actors, fascinating and snappy dialog, and the best actor impersonation of a young David Duke imaginable (compared at the end to the real McCoy).  The main protagonist, Ron Stallworth, is played with gleeful aplomb by John David Washington, who looks (in my opinion) utterly unlike his famous father Denzel, but is just as good an actor.  And Stallworth's sidekick Flip Zimmerman is played by Adam Driver (of Star Wars fame for playing villain Kylo Ren).  Driver's performance also stands out, and its good to see him in a non-villainous role.  The camera loves them both.

As the plot careens towards an inevitable confrontation, there is a lengthy segment that my husband found boring, but I thought was perhaps the high point of the film.  Cutting repeatedly between two groups of people, one all white (a high-level KKK dinner meeting) and the other all black (a Black Power meeting of young people at a collage), we watch as each speaker whips his listeners up into a frenzy of passion.  It's ominous when the white KKK members scream their hatred, and it's also surprisingly worrisome when the young, empassioned blacks wave their fists and scream just as loudly for black empowerment.  Spike Lee was clearly trying to make a point, one I appreciate particularly because just such angry energy scared me away from fully supporting the Black Lives Matter movement for a long time after it first emerged. 

I won't go into the film's faults; you'll see some of them.  But it has so many virtues that I found it overcame its own weaknesses.   And it also has a superb sound track.  Even if you hate the story, you'll love the music, and you'll be amused and worried at the same time.  And, most of it really happened.  It's a great case of truth being stranger than fiction.

I recommend it highly.

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