BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman ★★★★★

Reviewed on Cinema Eclectica. And boy is it ever reviewed - Sarah and me get through pretty much everything that struck us about this wild, kamikaze film barring one detail which was perhaps a little too much of a tangent. It's the matter of Boots Riley's criticism of the film, which if you haven't read it is very good.

My immediate reaction was that this is a reflection of the current schism in the American Left between those who think the system needs fixing and those who think the system needs overthrowing. For Lee - who recently ended an Observer interview with a shout-out to Robert Mueller - the idea of anti-racist law enforcement is something to be devoutly wished for. For Riley, it's a contradiction in terms. But this seemed too easy - and anyone wishing to cast Riley as the Bernie to Lee's Hillary should remember the opening of BlacKkKlansman, where Alec Baldwin's white supremacist lecturer deliberately echoes the infamous "super-predator" remark that came back to haunt Clinton in 2016.

Riley sees Ron Stallworth as being a villain in his own right, but other than that all of the objections he has to Lee's film were things I instinctively felt while watching it. Riley points out that Stallworth remained a mole in black civil rights organisations for much longer than Lee depicts, and this complicates his status as a fighter against racism. But the fact that Lee and his co-writers turn this into a character arc rather than maintaining the contradiction is not the same thing as not addressing the topic at all. Rather, Lee has found a way to talk about the exact same issue as Riley - Stallworth's dual identity as activist and reactionary - in a way that's also enjoyable and dramatic, and smuggles discussions of W.E.B. Du Bois into the multiplex.

Ah, you say, but it's not the journey, it's the ending that makes the message. And that's true. On first reading I thought the heaviest blow Riley landed on Lee's film was his critique of where Lee's trademark "dolly shot" comes. In isolation, yes, it seems to suggest an alliance between the police and civil rights activism that never existed. Considered as part of the film, though, it's a false dawn. The hero shot of Ron and Patrice immediately resolves itself into the already-infamous finale, a finale which makes it clear that Ron Stallworth's victories didn't change America for the better. Even the nice officers who help Ron nab the odd racist don't see fighting white supremacy as a vital element of maintaining a lawful society; they see it as helping out their friend. And once their friend moves on, so does their conscience.

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