Tuesday, August 21

BlacKkKlansman Review


Dir: Spike Lee

Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Robert John Burke, Michael Buscemi, Corey Hawkins, and Brian Tarantina

Comedian Dave Chappelle made a comedy sketch for his television show about a blind Black white supremacist named Clinton Bigsby. The sketch is both hilarious and unnerving in its portrayal of the wound that racism has caused, and continues to cause, in America. But that fictional comedy sketch wasn’t too far off from a true story about a detective in Colorado named Ron Stallworth, a Black man who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.

Director Spike Lee has composed an illustrious career of films that handle aspects of race relationships, both present and past, in thought provoking ways. Mr. Lee has never retreated from difficult subject matter, instead the director often times attacks these sensitive themes with a fierceness unlike other filmmakers. It’s perhaps the auteur’s greatest strength. 

This makes a film like “BlacKkKlansman” seem perfectly tailored for the 61 year old filmmaker. This is not only one of Spike Lee’s best non-documentary film but actually a career highlight; it’s a film that utilizes every skill Mr. Lee has developed over his entire career in different, intriguing ways. For fans of Lee, it’s quite impressive seeing everything come together; the composition of the narrative is sensitive and abrasive in effective ways, the performances are nuanced, and the style is a mix of both classic Hollywood and 70’s blaxploitation in only a way that Lee could compose. 

Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is rookie in the Colorado Springs police department, but he is an ambitious young man looking for more opportunities than pulling files for detectives. Ron is provided the opportunity to join the undercover division of the department and doesn’t waste any time in targeting the local Ku Klux Klan who have bought ad space in the local newspaper to promote their hate. Ron, using his “white” voice, tricks the Klan into accepting him. Ron enlists fellow undercover cop Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to represent his character with the group. 

The first images of the film are of a scene from “Gone With The Wind” where the wounded Confederate soldiers are waiting at the railroad station. During the finale D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” plays, the scene involves white hooded men riding on horseback. Lee utilizes these films to display how inherently entangled history is with racism. It’s a small yet effective element that the director incorporates to strengthen the story of Ron Stallworth. 

At the core, “BlacKkKlansman” is a detective story, a strange noir of sorts that just happens to be based on a true story. It’s all the small things that makes this film so special, Lee has always filled his frames with an abundance of information, sometimes overly so. This film displays the filmmakers restraint and also his ability to control tone in big and small ways. Mr. Lee leaves the viewer stranded in living rooms filled with hate rhetoric, spying on a couple as they manipulate one another during a walk, and nervously shift with suspense that builds toward an inevitable clash. You can’t help but admire the quality of it all.

Director of photography Chayse Irvin interweaves the 1970’s era tone with precision. Pulling from influences like blaxploitation cinema, framing Ron Stallworth like John Shaft from “Shaft”, and classic Hollywood noir films. Assisting is a fantastic score from Terence Blanchard that evokes late 70’s jazz and soul melodies. This being a Spike Lee joint, it’s always interesting to see how the director will layer the film; this is a meticulous yet restrained composition that ultimately makes the different genre elements flow nicely throughout the film.

Spike Lee has composed a career tackling political, socioeconomic, and race issues with a clear and resounding voice and vision. That’s what makes Mr. Lee such a unique auteur. With “BlacKkKlansman” Spike Lee defiantly displays why his name should be considering amongst the greatest living American directors. Go see this film.

Monte’s Rating

4.50 out of 5.00

No comments:

Post a Comment