BlacKkKlansman ★★★★½

#52FilmsByPOC 2018 pt. 27.

Yes, I could poke plenty of holes in this film if I wanted to. It's Spike Lee, a specialist in defying expectations, in combining cinematic elements in surprising ways to dig into uncomfortable truths, in fearlessly experimenting with form--and, consequently, not every experiment pays off. (For instance: no film so powerful and unsettling should be this fucking funny.) I could poke plenty of holes in it from an objective POV, but I cannot deny the visceral hugeness of seeing this film, in a packed theater, on August 9th 2018, in Charlottesville VA. After that epilogue ended and the credits rolled, there were at least 3 people in the theater audibly sobbing, and at least a few more with silent tears in their eyes. One of them was me.

It was not just that the epilogue (obviously) hit home for people in Charlottesville. It was the aggregate sensation of the whole film, as nailbiting an exercise in pure suspense as any horror film I've seen recently. Like I said, I can throw out plenty of quibbles. For instance, I'm not entirely comfortable with this film's attitude toward the police. It seems to suggest that plenty of individual cops are good, but the system will always be so corrupt that their efforts can only hope to be meaningful in the short term, which I suppose I agree with, but the "good" cops in this film are a little too good. I also am not sure about the way the film depicts women: like Sorry To Bother You from earlier this summer, it has a light-skinned love interest who more or less functions only as the hero's moral compass, and the only other woman who matters in the plot is an overweight white racist.

But there I go poking holes when I said I wouldn't. The subjective experience overrode all of that shit a thousand times over. While nothing terrible ended up happening in Charlottesville this weekend, we didn't know that then. Nobody knew what to expect--we were living in an uncertainty that the tension--the everpresent threat of racial violence, the sense of having only a tenuous hold on order and normalcy--laced through this film mirrored perfectly. When the act of watching a movie in a theater can simultaneously be entertainment, catharsis, communal mourning and community empowerment, you know it's something special.

Cf. Get Out

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