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Melvin Van Peebles
Meiji U Tum'si
Melvin Van Peebles wrote, directed, produced, edited, composed and starred in this powerful and inflammatory attack on White America. After the body of a black man is discovered, Sweetback helps two white 'acquaintances' in the police force to look good by agreeing to go with them to the station as a suspect. But he is forced to go on the run after brutally attacking the two policemen when they arrest and beat up a young black man. Written by
David Claydon <email@example.com>
SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAAD ASSSSS SONG has a reputation as a landmark film. Some hail it a masterpiece for depicting whites, and "The Man" as the oppressor. It is also called the first blaxploitation film (even though COTTON COMES TO HARLEM predates it). In spite of this reputation, few have actually seen it.
The truth is that SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAAD ASSSSS SONG, in spite of the good intentions of its message, is poorly made pornographic trash. At the opening of the film we see an under-aged Sweetback have sex with a fat prostitute- and when I say we see it, I mean we SEE it. Not too much time goes by before we see grown up Sweetback (director Melvin Van Peebles) performing in a live sex show. The viewer is treated to a closeup of the star's member as he strips off a female disguise. Soon thereafter the "plot" starts. Our hero is arrested by the Oakland police. He witnesses them beating a young black man and kills them in his defense. The rest of the film is Sweetback running from the racist cops, sometimes stopping for graphic sex.
The photography in this film is terrible. A number of scenes are shot at night without lighting, basically making the action invisible. There is very little dialogue and Sweetback almost never speaks. When people are talking, they are badly miked and their acting doesn't help matters. The chase scenes are done in psychedelic montage which is both ugly and confusing. There are a number of scenes where the cops are asking members of the black community (the film's real star) as to the whereabouts of Sweetback. These are taken from the cops POV and from how it looks, the filmmakers just approached random people on the street and asked them if they'd seen Sweetback. The editor somehow managed to cut off most of their answers. It's hard to tell what's going on half the time, since the camera work is so bad and the dialogue so hard to hear. At one point Sweetback winds up with some bikers. What's he do? He has a kind of sex-match with one of the female bikers. This scene features enough clumsy disolves to make you dizzy and enough genital shots to get the X rating for any ten movies.
I can't tell why this mess is called such a great piece of work. It fails in every technical aspect, the "art" is bad even for an acid-head movie, and the story is nothing special. If anything, this movie hurts the cause of equality since it essentially depicts blacks as inhuman sex-addicted stereotypes. The whites are pretty much shown as monsters. This is the worst blaxploitation film I've ever seen and easily one of the hundred worst movies ever made. SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAAD ASSSSS SONG is no more than badly made violent pornography for the acid head. It's not a classic and it's not important.
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