How tragic: a study a few months ago states only 5.28% of San Franciscans are African-American, while a whopping 47.24% are White! Why? The beautiful home of the golden gate bridge demands more Blackness, which The Last Black Man in San Francisco appropriately wants you to cry about.
You just can’t watch this movie yet at the same time can’t cover your eyes, as it reminds you of all the problems that exist both in the industrialized society and within yourself. Even if the senior citizen characters here are mere plot devices, much like the antagonistic forces, the two leads are fleshed out well; they wear the same clothes every day like they know their fates as cows lined up for slaughter, so lack motivation to seize the day. Their interactions with the surrounding culture pulses the same savage nature of Birdman, even harking back to the iconic Times Square scene by forcing a White guy to strip on the street like a dog rolling in his own vomit.
Meanwhile out in the hot California sun, a little girl glances up at a gas-masked cleaner on the street with the same intimidation as a little mouse against a snake. Meanwhile, a guy lives the normal living predicament there: a hermit crab existence inside his car. In both these circumstances, you desire to learn the backstories despite how briefly they’re shown. With the main storyline about Jimmie and his best friend, the bold camera compositions parallel your insignificance compared to the feel of inevitable seclusion; the framing pans up toward buildings to make them extra powerful, which further amplifies one shot of an organ vibration forcing dust out of the ceiling… from a bird’s eye view. These shots are made to look like you are peering from a scorpion’s stinger down onto a lonely little ant that’s hoping you will put it out of its misery. It helps too that everyone’s constantly stuck within the lower third of the screen, ultimately felt via the very tender theatrical piece near the end. That performance of inner agony gives ironic relief off the racist White realtor who portrays America’s current manipulative predatory housing industry, which ultimately justifies why the poor homeless folks must lash out an attack on you as you watch their story come out.
On the streets of Fog City, nobody acknowledges an old naked man out at a bus stop, which even then is not nearly as queasy as moments in the film that force the camera to go handheld, as if the cinematographer has a bomb chained onto his chest. So it goes to show why this culture forces Jimmie to try his best to enlighten his own deep grey spirits. Thus, he repaints the exterior of the old 1946 house that sits beyond a vine-ridden narrow entrance and wears a witch hat of a dead culture made to look like a loaded crossbow pointed upwards towards Krypton, doing what could easily be called no good to anyone beneath it. That is, Jimmie’s restoration efforts are foiled when he gets angrily sent away by the lady living there. But once inside the spacious stark house, the architecture’s old design imposes the subjects of the screen further down.
Now, these events are based on a real account, and this Jimmie is the actual guy the story is about, and as good as his acting is here, he still doesn’t fully portray his friendships intentionally, for you know little about him (which really though is more blame to the script that his acting). There is a gang who hangs out nearby him and his friend, they don’t behave believably enough because they are just there for scenes focused on the film’s message, such as powerful sequences of a preacher on a pedestal. But at the same time, that’s how you’re supposed to feel about these gang members, how their existence is as worthless as your own unknown future.
In the end, Joe Talbot’s deeply personalized feature debut says how despite the smoke our eternal isolation exists beneath, San Francisco is OUR home. Except a couple of visual metaphors he throws in lack necessity, particularly a fish with two cartoonish eyes on one side of its face, which doesn’t seem to have a payoff for its presence later. But for the creative touches that are complete with their own arcs, you hear an opera singer’s pain on the street. Even without sensing the city’s decaying “Black” culture, the music alone chokes you up. The beautiful use of Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco” sounds contemplative mixed alongside the didgeridoo sounds within the melodic score, you almost suffocate from the sadness that surpasses Tony Stark’s funeral.
Ideally, nothing would try to kill you other than old age, but the lonesome world makes your throat lump whenever you see a certain someone without you, a feeling that makes you unable to distinguish your surroundings when rejected. Now, a home should be a place where you declare yourself comfortable, a place where you seldom wish of being anywhere else, as your needs are met. Once you extinguish those sorrows, hopefully you may find home thanks to The Last Black Man in San Francisco.
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!
The Last Black Man in San Francisco. A24. Web. <https://a24films.com/films/the-last-black-man-in-san-francisco>.
“San Francisco, California Population 2019.” World Population Review. 6 Jul 2019. Web. <http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/san-francisco-population/>.
Taylor, Ella. “The Last Black Man in San Francisco, directed by Joe Talbot, wowed audiences at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.” Digital image. National Public Radio. 6 Jun 2019. Web. <https://www.npr.org/2019/06/06/729778759/the-last-black-man-in-san-francisco-is-a-ravishing-achingly-heartfelt-elegy>.