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|Index||51 reviews in total|
...it takes just as long the other way around in this movie. I have a
lot of respect for what this film represented to people in '71. And I
celebrate what it did to pave the way for the ideals that changed this
country and, I hope, are still changing it for the better. The black
revolution in film, which I believe this must have been nearly the
first of it's kind to be pretty widely distributed concerning the
"brothers and sisters who had enough of the man," is to be honored.
However, I found this film to be almost unwatchable. Almost.
I can't help it. I was uneasy and twitchy the whole time. The 60'ish style of almost constant repetitive music, dialogue, and visual, made me feel like I was tripping out. And I assure you that I was not. I wanted to kick the skipping jukebox. I wanted to shout, "O.K.! I get it! Just get on with it ! FOR GOD'S SAKE LETS GO!!!" It takes some patience and sticktoitofness...but the message is clear and you'd better watch your back cracker... cuz he's coming for you!
Director Melvin Van Peebles surpasses even Orson Welles in his attempt at the full-on auteur thing in Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, having written, produced, directed, scored, and starred in what is a fairly standard man-on-the-run film. The picture offers the non-stop sex and violence that would become touchstones of the blaxploitation genre, but the tone is darker and more bleak than many of the later entries. During the opening credits, the legend "Dedicated to all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man" appears on the screen. I saw this film at a festival screening recently and the crowd went absolutely nuts when those words popped up.
This is a landmark film for many reasons, and although it is rough
around the edges, I urge everyone to at least watch it once, and then
watch the story of the making of this film, Baadasssss! (A.K.A. How to
Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass), made by the directors son, Mario
It is very easy for a modern audience to perhaps overlook this film as one of the slew of 'Blaxpliotation' films produced in the 70s, however this stands out firstly as virtually the originator of that mode of films, and as a crusade for a young, talented black artist and director to make a film that is both honest and challenging about the representation of black people in cinema.
If nothing else you must respect Melvin Van Peebles for the Guerrilla film making techniques that created this movie.
This film is a great argument for the importance to minority groups within any society to gain access to and control of media production in order to challenge dominant ideologies and representations put forward in mainstream media.
It is also virtually impossible to view Baadasssss! without a tear coming to your eyes, so difficult and harrowing was Melvin Van Peebles journey to get this film made.
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song is Melvin Van Peebles harsh,
incisive, intentional baffling and revolutionary take on the black
experience in America. It isn't that, exactly, but it gets down the how
"the Man" keeps the black community down at every turn they can. To be
sure, this was the first of what was called 'black-exploitation' films,
but it isn't exactly that either. Sure, it shows the film's hero (and
believe you-me, Van Peebles IS a bad-ass hero, at least in some
circles) having sex with a LOT of women, mostly black and some white
thrown in at random moments, and it has a completely one-sided view on
the Caucasian presence in America (either rabidly racist and crooked
cops, or women with a 'craving' for the Sweetback, and the occasional
bikers). But it also intends to be a movie by black people, of black
people, and FOR black people, to make what is intended as a statement
on not just the image of African Americans in the country at the time,
but what wasn't shown in movies at all.
In this latter sense, Van Peebles is making an attempt, much like Godard did with his early films (particularly Breathless and My Life to Live), to break through and re-configure conventions into something that is kind of f***ed up, but is alive and interesting in ways that more expensive or resourceful movies would have. Peebles makes his movies sort of out of junk-yard avant-garde parts, like some kind of garish vision taken in via superimpositions, montages, and a soundtrack as a combination of great Earth, Wind and Fire songs and a collage of voice-overs during Sweetback's run. Now, if looking at it from a purely objective viewpoint, of how it is technically, it's a little all over the place and, of course, totally dated. Peebles is also so intense with his camera- and rightfully so- that he lets his script sort of go into a better lack of focus; a lot of the time I only had a slight understanding of what was going on, and sometimes just not at all.
This being said, it's a tremendous credit to Peebles as an independent filmmaker that the film even got finished; he had many production difficulties, as later chronicled in the film Bad Asssss. It's a very rough movie, with scenes going very much into the realm of pornography (even though, unlike most pornos of the period, it doesn't go for the jugular with its angles and shots- if anything Peebles is a little inert as a lover). All the same, it has a lot that pops out as striking, not just in its rambling assortment of visuals, which combine location shots of urban sprawl, deserts, and industrial areas, with the very real, un-glamorized faces of those in the 'ghetto', but in the subject matter as well. It is sensationalized for cinematic effect, but the point still remains today, and is quite ideal as Peebles's most notoriously crazy and weirdly exciting effort.
WOW!I loved this !!Melvin is a genius filmaker of his time ,and anybody who was there in his time knows there was only a little exageration in this.Much of America tried to ban this picture which the man not only stars in but directed and wrote.I recall that many critics not only dismissed the film ,but many said Peebles was insane .I feel he was crazy like a fox because in those days a Black man just did'nt finance a movie , certainly did'nt direct one and if he appeared in one he was usually serving something.The fact is movies reflect the society that create them ,and Sweetback is no different .Stunning in its intensity ,filled with colorful characters ,this is the film white America does'nt want you to see ,besides "Mandingo" perhaps .I got 3 copies as soon as I could.Melvin was a deep thinker and it shows ,this is hardly for young kids though .Run get a copy theres the directors cut out now!
reading others reviews of this film, I find myself both agreeing to
some degree, and alternately being in complete disagreement.
"sweet sweetback" is a confusing movie. the first time i saw it, having already been exposed to the plethora of "blaxploitation" that followed it, my reaction was... "huh?"
really... people aren't being entirely unfair, this movie is kind of a big mess in some ways... on the other hand, one could say the same thing about some of the writings of say, James Joyce. And like Joyce I think it's a piece of work (and yes, art) that needs to be meditated upon again-and-again, not simply dismissed.
I do, as I implied, at the same time disagree with the negative reviews posted by some others... clearly everyone has a right to their interpretation, myself I think, as I've watched the film again-and-again, that it deserves far more credit than it's being given...
Everyone knows this film is deliberately racist and ridiculously
exploitive in its sex and violence. But I wasn't prepared for the solid
ten minutes of full-frontal child porn near the beginning.
An ugly hooker about 40 years old forces the director's son Mario, who couldn't have been more than twelve, to have sex with her. The copulation goes on for what seems like forever, with this naked hooker simulating orgasms while this naked little boy, half her size, tries to penetrate her. The director doesn't even spare us a shot of the little boy's tiny, undeveloped penis.
If anyone did this today, they would be jailed immediately for sexual exploitation of a child. I wonder how grown-up Mario feels about his own father having done this to him?
The film is certainly anti-white, but I fail to see how anyone can call it pro-black. You'd have a hard time finding a worse depiction of black life than this one -- where the main characters perform kinky sex shows for groups of leering onlookers, just to take one example.
The director's attitude towards women is despicable. He goes overboard depicting every female character as a nasty, ugly spunk receptacle. Don't bother looking for some white racist's depiction of black women as worthless, filthy skanks ... you'll find that right here.
If Van Peebles wanted to make an anti-white propaganda film, fine. It's a free country. But he couldn't have made an uglier, less coherent, more inept and clumsy picture than this one. If it's remembered at all it should be as the filthiest insult to the black community ever put on celluloid.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are a few things you need to know about this film before you see it: 1) It includes pretty graphic sex scenes, one of them featuring the director's teenage son Mario (in the first few minutes). 2) It features a lead that barely speaks throughout the film. 3) It will be a nightmare to watch if you're in it for the action. "Sweetback" is a piece of history which talks about the meaning of race in the US. The film is not realistic, but a metaphor - its main character a "man without qualities," its setting a prototypical black ghetto, its story a mixture of fugitive slave narrative, black power pseudo-propaganda, and nightmarish action thriller. The story is pretty simple: a black stud performing in a sex show for white audiences in the black ghetto is routinely stopped by white police officers (to make up the numbers). Witnessing the cops beat a young black power activist, he uses his handcuffs to kill both policemen and elopes with the boy. All this takes about 20 minutes of the film - the rest documents Sweetback's escape. Sweetback's actions will evoke the worst of racism in the white establishment, while at the same time exposing the ideological malaise of the black strivers. The film is a pain to watch, and that's precisely what it should be. And it speaks against a reality that still exists - blatant white racism and unwillingness to address the issue of race, black conformism and political disaffection.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Any film that features in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die has got to be worth trying in my opinion, I have been both surprised and occasionally questioning the titles, and this is one I'm somewhere in between. Basically Sweet Sweetback (Melvin Van Peebles), named after his love for sex and large penis, grew up in a Los Angeles brothel after being orphaned, where he worked as a towel boy and lost his virginity to a prostitute, and now as an adult he is a sex show performer, i.e. male prostitute. A black man has been murdered, and the LAPD speak to Sweetback's boss Beetle (Simon Chuckster), and they get his permission to arrest Sweetback, blame him for the crime and then quickly release him to make peace in the black community. When they do arrest him they also bring in young Black Panther named Mu-Mu (Hubert Scales), who insults the police, and eventually the officers remove his cuffs to beat him up very badly, and Sweetback, still cuffed, beats them until unconscious. Next we see Sweetback travelling from South Central Los Angeles towards the United StatesMexico border, where he is arrested again for the earlier assault, only to escape again during a riot. After getting his cuffs removed with the offer of sex, he carries on his journey, getting captured by the biker gang Hells Angels, and the female leader lets him and Mu-Mu go as long as she gets sex, being impressed by his large penis. The police almost catch them, and while Mu-Mu goes with the gang, and he and another Biker (John Amos) are killed, Sweetback continues to run, and a sympathetic white man agrees to swap clothes so he can blend in with society. The police find out Sweetback's real name is Leroy from his foster mother, and the film ends with Sweetback forced to walk across the desert, escaping the hunting dogs, going into the Tijuana River and making it to Mexico, swearing to return. Also starring John Dullaghan as Commissioner and Rhetta Hughes as Old Girl Friend. Van Peebles acts, produces, composes and directs well enough, despite the fact the film is rather weird, with all the sexual behaviour, violence and prostitution element but it is I suppose important in the history of filmmaking, as it does not (completely) stereotype black people, and it is a different non-mainstream film, a strange but kind of fascinating blaxploitation. Good!
I was traveling cross country via Greyhound in 1971 when I had some
time to kill in Denver and saw this movie. I think I had a fever at the
time, but I sat there mesmerized.
I grew up in a white bread suburban neighborhood and had precious little knowledge of the black experience. This movie cracks whitey over the head--literally and figuratively. For me, it was an eye opener and the wild editing and psychedelic nightmare rhythm of it was fun.
For such a low budget film, I found it innovative, although now people may see it as indulgent and sloppy.
It still maintains an integrity and a legitimate anger.
The sexuality is raw. The violence, rough stuff for the time.
I saw it again recently and enjoyed it with certain allowances of style. It is uneven and exasperating, but it also has a soul and courage.
Calling it the first blaxploitation film works for me. Classic stuff.
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