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The idea of "My Baby Is Black!" is wonderful and I hate to see it
considered as an 'exploitation film'--which it clearly is since it is
being distributed by Something Weird Video--a company that ONLY
releases exploitation movies. It's also a noble film in many ways--too
bad the end result is pretty crappy at times!
The film begins with a white woman in the hospital. She's giving birth and the baby is black--and so begins this French film. Then, the movie goes back in time to when this woman met the black man who fathered the child. Considering how nice he is and gentle, it's easy to see why she'd fall for the guy. However, they both know that their relationship is an uphill battle--even in a more liberal-minded France.
The idea of this film is very nice and parts of it are very good. Unfortunately, there is also a lot to dislike--part of which is due to horrible dubbing and part of it is due to very, very poor production values. As far as the dubbing goes, the actors all have very American accents--which doesn't make a lot of sense for the black man, as he's supposed to be from some country in the tropics. Also, all sound effects are missing--resulting in a strangely quiet film other than their dialog and lots of music (some of which is just weird--such as the extensive use of the harpsichord in this modern tale). As far as the bad production values go, the film looks like it was made by someone who envisioned themselves as the next French New Wave director--with lots of supposedly artsy shots that just look dumb. For example, when the couple talk (which they do INCESSANTLY--INCESSANTLY I say!!!), you see lots of irrelevant scenes (such as shots of their feet or a clock) or shots that are heavy-handedly symbolic (such as the pigeons cooing). And, at other times, the characters do a lot of goofy bohemian things that seem out of place (such as the topless lady--which made no sense at all). And often, you see the characters doing nothing in particular at all but you hear them talking and musing again and again--like the characters from "Last Year at Marienbad". It's a shame, as even with a small budget it SHOULD have been a lot better. Heck, the basic story idea is very good.
Overall, I'd give this one a 3. It gets a 9 for the story idea and a 1/2 for its technical merits! Too bad, as it could have been groundbreaking and thought-provoking.
This is a weird movie. It's a mix of romance, art-house, and drama. I wouldn't say exploitation exactly because that would mostly be the title. But even saying all that doesn't help explain much. The way all the scenes fit together is unlike anything else I've seen. The only way to explain the weirdness would be to watch this movie for yourself. You can get a laugh out of this movie if you want. There certainly is enough random scenes, goofy romantic scenarios, and weird artistic moments to get a laugh out of. Like I said, the story is weird (mostly due to the stuff mentioned above) but the title is misleading. The title is clearly meant to draw in American audiences to make them think they're going to see an exploitation film when really it's not. and while the opening scene is the baby's birth, I think the Cinema Snob said it best in "The rest of the movie shows how her baby came to be black". This is a french movie, and I guess it's interesting to see another country's take on race. It also Fortunately manages to not fall into any bad ideals or stereotypes and is certainly well intentioned and does it's best to show love can conquer racism- but it's just weird. I don't know what else to say. It is definitely worth checking out if you enjoy blacksploitation, riffing movies yourself, or even pre civil rights movies on race, even if this is a french film. I can't explain this movie. It simply has to be seen.
My Baby is Black! (1961)
** (out of 4)
Francoise (Francoise Giret) is a white woman who is taken into a hospital where she goes into labor. When the doctor pulls out a black baby we then flashback to tell her story, which involves Daniel (Gordon Heath), a black man who is smart enough to know the downside of a mixed race relationship.
MY BABY IS BLACK! is the title this French film was given to give it a more exploitation feel. If you're going into the film expecting some sort of wild and crazy exploitation movie then you're going to be disappointed because this a straight drama from start to finish without a touch of exploitation. If you've seen the American poster then you realize that this was really sold as something it wasn't so I can't imagine how many people might have bought a ticket and felt cheated.
As far as the film goes, its subject matter is certainly ahead of its time and it's certainly something that wasn't being explored in the Sidney Poitier type of films of this era. Heck, GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER? wouldn't be released until seven years after this so that alone tells you how ahead of the game this was. The subject matter is certainly an interesting one for its era and we're given some interesting dialogue that captures the mood from both sides of the coin.
The problem with this movie is that it suffers from some really awful dubbing and this includes a white guy doing the vocal work for Daniel. Another problem is that the film is certainly poorly made and it just doesn't ring as striking as it should. There's some very frank and rough racial talk towards the end as well as another scene that shows some of the injustice towards black men that got its point across without being preachy.
MY BABY IS BLACK! is certainly worth watching as long as you know what you're getting yourself into.
The subject of race and sexual relationships is even a hot button topic
in our world today, so it was probably almost taboo to broach the
subject in the 1960's. Yet, that is what this little French films tries
to do. And I stress "tries," because the inept way the subject matter
is handled ruins what could have been an interesting and thoughtful
drama on the issue.
The story revolves around a young French woman named Françoise (played by Françoise Giret) who falls in love with a black man named Daniel (played by Gordon Heath), as she is forced to deal with some of the unsavory complications interracial coupling brings in the 1960's.
As I said, it is some very heavy subject matter to explore. That's why it is such a shame that very little exploring is actually done on it. Oh, there is a lot of (dubbed in) talking about the struggles and strife interracial couples go through, but very little of it is actually shown until near the end of the film. Much like the college professor here (played by Aram Stephan) does in his class, it's all talk, talk, talk! We are rarely shown Françoise and Daniel actually dealing with the bigotry and racism they complain about and we would expect them to face. They spend much of the film walking around the city and in the bedroom, musing over what it means to be a black man in a white man's world, or how hard it is for an interracial love to survive in those modern times. In a film that is trying to tackle such serious themes, not showing very much of the conflicts within those themes shows an inexperience that borders on the insipid. Like someone telling you what it's like to be in love, without ever having been in love themselves, the film has no spark, heart, or soul. It makes a lot of sound, while knowing little of what it is actually talking about.
Much of the rest of the film is spent watching unrelated material dealing with the bohemian group that Françoise and Daniel hangout with. It doesn't really add anything of real value to the story, but feels merely like filler material to pad out the film's 77 minute run time. Some of the cinematography tries to play at an artsy feeling, some of which works (like a scene where Daniel is out walking in the snow) and some of which doesn't (like a close-up shot of their feet, when they come together for a meeting on a bridge). There really is little in the background elements that brings out any real interest, which only goes to reinforce the lack of interest in the main subject matter.
I'll give the filmmakers a couple points for trying to tackle what was a very touchy subject, both then and today. But the complete mishandling of that serious subject matter tarnishes any nobility in the points and issues they were trying to make. Their reach most certainly exceeded their grasp here. This could have been a very evocative drama of its time. Instead it's just a meandering bore, that talks more of a good game than it actually delivers. Unless you are looking for pointers on how NOT to tackle such material, you can easily give this one a pass!
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