Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Baadasssss! (Mario Van Peebles)

Mario Van Peebles is not exactly responsible for a lot of cinematic dynamite ("New Jack City," anyone?), but this movie, about the filming of his father's influential, interesting, but not that good pre-blaxploitation independent movie "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," is by far the best Mario Van Peebles movie I've seen. By that, I mean it's better than the two and a half other movies of his I've seen, which doesn't mean a lot, but, seriously, it's way better than "New Jack City." Also, you almost get to see Adam West's wang. The movie is flawed. A handful of scenes are ruined by sentimentality and overbearing music, other scenes are just goofy, and the guy who plays the hippie executive producer is irritating. They also make Melvin Van Peebles out to be the first American independent filmmaker, though there were hundreds before him. On the whole, though, this is a really entertaining movie about just how hard it is to make an independent film, especially if you're a militant black man in the late sixties/early seventies. Not just a hagiography, the elder Van Peebles is presented warts and all, and his dark side and character flaws are given almost as much screen time as his strengths. It's also one of those films that makes me feel, despite my daydreams and fantasies, glad I'm not making movies. I think I'll stick to writing, thanks. All that hustling for money, coddling of sensitive personalities, fighting against time and lack of funds, having to use and manipulate people, and then having to find someone to distribute the film and hope you can get an audience. I don't think I'm cut out for that kind of life.

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