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A film of moments in the life of a family in a black neighborhood in LA; mundane waiting behind the counter in the dry cleaning family business, goofy wrestling with the father in the backroom, helping the aging 'aunt' take her pills and reading to her from the bible, the old friend who comes out of prison, walking, standing around in front porches, teasing, eating grub in the small kitchen.
Yes the acting is mostly stodgy, the plot, whatever plot there is, very threadbare; a disillusioned son has to come to terms with his svelte brother's upcoming marriage to an upper class lawyer, his own life going nowhere and loss of more innocent times.
Yet I'll have this over a dozen Spike Lee films.
There is some reactionary sentiment but it is not bolstered by cutesy cinematic tricks, it does not yank us from 'real' presence in the film to Brechtian distance. The film does not emphasize the moral or political dimension, but simply the bedrock of frustrated life. It is enjoyable not because of quirks, but truthful ordinariness. It is atmospheric, but only because our gaze is transparent and the world seems vibrant, immediate in the way of Cassavetes. What truth is here is not so much for me in the squabbling and grievance, but in the fact that I can almost reach out to touch the cheap formica counter. Here's where the nonacting pays off; having Samuel Jackson in there would ruin the thing.
Normally, I'm not a fan of neorealism which this film owes to, until it was transmuted by Rossellini/Antonioni onwards to be simultaneously about the reality and landscape of mind, but I'm also a sucker for places and atmospheres I can visit. I saw this for my cinematic Los Angeles project, and already know I will return to it in the future; in its permeating sense of place, it joins The Exiles, Killer of Sheep, The Long Goodbye, Angel City, Killing of a Chinese Bookie.
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