Tuesday, January 22, 2019

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

I know Godard and Tarantino are the directors most often held up as examples of Filmmaking as Film Criticism, but Spike Lee is no slouch either. It’s no accident that BlacKkKlansman opens with a clip from Gone with the Wind. Of course Lee’s prime targets are White Nationals and the President who has emboldened them, but NYU Professor Spike clearly also has his sights set on Film History itself.

It makes perfect sense that back in film school, Lee made a short about a black filmmaker being hired to remake The Birth of a Nation, because BlacKkKlansman serves as a perfect inverse to D.W. Griffith’s Klan-glorifying epic. Whereas the older film reinvigorated a once dormant Hate Group, Lee’s Joint is aimed at ridiculing that same Hate Group, and depicting them as the racist Terrorists that they are. The most brilliant stroke is that Spike uses Griffith’s own weapon against him - crosscutting.

Lee and his editor, Barry Alexander Brown weave together a tapestry of parallel actions that leave poor D.W. in the dust. They cut between characters, cut between locations, cut between time periods, between fiction and documentary. They even cut between their film and Griffith’s!

You can have quibbles about the film’s possible glorification of the police, or the ways it plays fast and loose with “real” events, but thanks to Lee and Brown’s skill with montage, there is no way in Hell for you to come out of this film with even an ounce of respect for White Nationals. There are no “fine people” to be found there. And that’s the triple-truth, Ruth!

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