47 Years of Student Run Cinema
Student Film Society of the Year 2002, 2005, 2006
|home | what's on | reviews | join | the society | mailing list | discussion forum|
Spike Lee, USA, 1989, 120 minutes
Italian-American Sal (Danny Aiello) owns and runs a pizza joint on Bedford-Stuyvesant, a poor district of Brooklyn inhabited by blacks and Latinos. Sal has been there for 25 years and does not want to leave; he is not racist, unlike his son Pino (John Turturro), he likes the people he serves and employs, like Mookie (Spike Lee), Sal's delivery boy. Mookie has a three year old son but is reluctant to settle down with the boy's mother Tina (Rosie Perez). Also on the Bed-Stuy are a host of (beautifully depicted) characters all of whom have recourse to use Sal's pizza joint; they include Buggin' Out, a stirrer and would-be activist, Radio Raheem whose ghetto-blaster is part of his anatomy, Smiley a half-wit, a Korean shop-keeper who hates Jews, three codgers who spend the film drinking and pissing against a wall, The Mayor (Ossie Davies) a conciliator who utters the line that is the film's title, and the street's Earth Mother (Ruby Dee). Trouble starts when Buggin' Out tnes to organise a boycott of Sal's due to the fact that there are no photos of black people on the walls. Initial apathy ("you should boycott the barber who fucked up your hairstyle") turns to violence as the hottest day of the year gets hotter.
Lee makes excellent use of music (Public Enemy's Fight The Power reverberates throughout the film) to create tension and to comment on the action, and cinematographer Dickerson uses bright colours to give the sense of unbearable heat (actually it rained throughout most of the shoot). Lee keeps us waiting an unbelievable length of time for the violence to erupt while he carefully displays his characters, but when it does it is worth it. In conclusion, Spike Lee has made a thought-provoking and technically assured film; this could be his best work to date. Certainly its political message is better presented than the ad-campaign polemic of Malcolm X.
Review by Stephen Cox
Taken from EUFS Programme 1995-96