Kidding? I’m not right now. Racial tensions are still as horrific as ever, it now seems every month there is a new film made to empower Black people while exploring those unjustified relations between them and White people. So appropriately enough, filmmaking legend Spike Lee gives us BlacKkKlansman to explore those very relations in a time when White cops kill innocent Blacks like dogs. Even when history books have records of the “Black Panther Party” threatening the United States back in the 1970s, the message is clear: We need to stop and learn from our historical darkness.
Kicking the can more, this film has a humorous plot scenario pulled straight out of real life: a Black guy applies to be a cop, leading him to work undercover. Essentially, he pretends to be White on the phone as he speaks to the leaders of a secret Ku Klux Klan organization, leading to that undercover investigation where his White partner pretends to be him. Beyond the mere ironic comedy, this Klan’s planned massacre of Blacks becomes quite disturbing as they are seen praying to God, complete with an oil anointment before they do their cross burning. This new Boston Tea Party as they call it is all a part of their plan to make America achieve its greatness again… because apparently they made America and must keep it for themselves. That mindset is visualized by a stain glass window with the words “Thine O Lord is the Victory” behind those who think they understand God’s will, but truly have the knowledge of a snowflake.
Key here may be Spike Lee’s history of exploring Blackness in America, but he’s trying way too hard to connect the early 1970s to today. That especially goes this movie’s historical inaccuracy, “Stallworth's real colleague wasn't called Flip Zimmerman - his true identity remains a mystery, in accounts known only as Chuck - and there's no indication that he was Jewish.” (ScreenRant) At least the expert acting is easy to like, as nobody ever tarries in their performances, always racing on their palms to let the true soul of Blackness come out. Yet I most want to commend how Paul Walter Hauser (Kingdom, I, Tonya) particularly confronts his role well as a Klansman damaged beyond repair, like he’s half-a-man dragged down onto the cement pavement.
Klans such as this one will certainly give anyone watching strong opinions, just don’t expect that to mean the character arcs will be the thing to suck you in to this film’s humanity. While effective, the main romantic subplot was unnecessary in influencing the protagonist or reconnecting him much with Black culture. His partners in crime also don’t seem influenced much by being involved with the Klan during their undercover case. Those Klansmen they bamboozle likewise are not multidimensional enough with clear fears written down on paper.
Kennedy would not have wanted to see this type of future after being assassinated in his Ford, but it happened, as the sincere nature of this film is kept through an inspirational speech at the Black Student Union of Colorado College. This whole scene helps you to listen, then the script hops right back onto its tongue-in-cheek humor, including how Blacks pronouncing “are” as “are-uh” puts a halt in our understanding. Then topping all the memorable lines off in the cleverly detailed dialogue is an awesome phone call that speaks fluent Jive, a very lively form of English! But the artistic language rich with racial segregation sadly is not helped by the handheld camera that could very well been supported by a gorilla.
King Kong may have had a bit of word to say in the editing and cinematography, but that’s not what will affect you the most while watching… it will be the realism. You’ll feel disturbed to see this KKK’s gunfire practice use targets of running black silhouettes in the autumn forest, but not nearly as much so as when these events connect straight to The Birth of a Nation, which the Klan reacts to with thunderous applause. Overall, the right perspectives are told from Ron Stallworth’s autobiography that will live on once he’s nothing more than a casket and bones.
Really though, while it means well, BlacKkKlansman paints an unintentionally immoral portrait of Spike Lee’s ideal America where any motivation by God is just a fuel for racism. Apparently, it’s all about humanism, but the Klan proves that we should not rely on ourselves, as its unnecessarily preachy final sequence proves: a series of modern day news footage showing the destruction caused by Black Lives Matter, all edited in a way that is not secretive about hatred towards our president. On top of that, this movie claims to be “based on some fo' real, fo' real sh*t" except it’s not, plenty of it is made up. So, with that put, this film’s message of relying on ourselves contradicts itself in a way. Likewise, you’d be better off living today for love, not rebellion, with the capacity to work of a donkey and the wise strength of an elephant.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
BlacKkKlansman. Focus Features. Web. <http://www.focusfeatures.com/blackkklansman>.
Focus Features. “Adam Driver and John David Washington in BlacKkKlansman.” Digital image. Vox. Vox Media, 9 Aug 2018. Web. <https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/5/15/17355432/blackkklansman-review-spike-lee-david-duke-charlottesville>.
Leadbeater, Alex. “BlacKkKlansman's True Story: What's Real & What Was Made Up For The Movie.” ScreenRant. 10 Aug 2018. Web. <https://screenrant.com/blackkklansman-movie-true-story-differences/>.
Molloy, Tim. “‘BlacKkKlansman’ Fact-Check: Spike Lee’s Film Stays Close to the ‘Crazy, Outrageous, Incredible True Story’.” The Wrap. 9 Aug 2018. Web. <https://www.thewrap.com/blackkklansman-fact-check-how-close-is-spike-lees-film-to-the-incredible-true-story/>.