Hurrah, I bit the bullet and bought an unlimited cinema pass! Keep an eye on the blog for multiple film suggestions, because I plan on really making the most of this subscription. The first film I saw with my newly-found freedom was Blackkklansman. Onwards into the review/ramble.
Blackkklansman focuses on Ron Stallworth, the first black police officer in the Colorado police department. Stallworth is a real person, and Blackkklansman is Spike Lee’s adaptation of Stallworth’s memoir.
This is the real Ron Stallworth (right) with John David Washington (left) who plays him in the film.
The film follows Stallworth’s introduction into the department, and his rapid move into undercover work. Stallworth makes it his mission to infiltrate the KKK. Stallworth gains membership using a fellow (white) undercover agent to do the face to face stuff, and he maintains phone contact with senior members of the KKK. The case makes Stallworth the first black member of the KKK (and probably the last…)
Laura Harrier plays Patrice, who is one of the damn heroes of this film. Sorry, heroine. She’s just fantastic in her unbending views and political anger. She plays the leader of the black student union and is, sadly, a fictional creation. However, though she wasn’t in the real Stallworth’s life, she sure as hell makes an impact on the fictional Stallworth. She is a ball of fire: willing to argue but unwilling to accept anything that distracts from the liberation of her black brothers and sisters. Annoyingly, I think some of her stubbornness is unhealthy to begin with (she sees all police as ‘pigs’) but damn, she is pretty correct in her assessments and does even eventually make peace with some police officers.
There were too many standout characters for me to write about. Suffice to say, Adam Drivers (as Flip) was incredible. In the film, Stallworth does put himself in the line of fire but Flip is the one who has to actually become a member of the KKK and surround himself with people filled with hate. Flip has the added bonus of being Jewish, though he doesn’t practice, so there are some really beautiful moments where Flip struggles to continue with the case, and struggles to understand how he feels about his own faith.
One important person to remember? Connie. One of the members of the KKK, Felix, holds meetings at his house and we meet Connie, his wife. Connie represents a very important part of our history. She is a white woman, complicit and more than willing to partake in the disgusting treatment of black people. Connie represents the position of the white woman. The KKK was not a male-only organisation. Connie represents an often forgotten side of the racial wars – the female, shadow cheerleader of racism and terror. Lee shows Connie’s importance, and the danger of ‘devoted’ marriages which circulate hate.
This is Stallworth rocking a sweet ’70s ‘fro in Blackkklansman. One particular element of Blackkklansman which I bloody adored were the ’70s vibes which were fine-tuned to perfection. The costume department outdid themselves, and somehow introduced humour into the dark content simply by whacking a plaid shirt onto a redneck and leaving just the hint of a mullet. The style throughout the film is flawless and beautifully retro. Obviously, I’m a late 90’s baby so I never lived the ’70s – but the aesthetic is beautifully portrayed and definitely adds to the comedy of the film.
Speaking of, Blackkklansman is hilarious – and gut-wrenching. It was obvious to me that the film was going to be funny, with Spike Lee at the helm. What I was only half-expecting, however, was the sheer sorrow I felt as the credits started to roll. It’s been a while since a film actually made me laugh out loud – and cry out loud.
SPOILERS (kinda) – if you’ve seen the film, the funniest scene for me was when Stallworth finally reveals to David Duke who it is on the other end of those phone calls. This already hilarious moment was multiplied by a sweet old lady in the cinema who had a glorious, hacking, rasping laugh: she found the scene fucking hilarious and continued to laugh about three minutes after the conclusion – so, we continued to laugh as well.
The saddest? At the end of the film, there are a couple of scenes included from modern KKK rallies and attacks. I must be severely naive, but it hadn’t occurred to me that the KKK were still operating in such a direct manner. It hadn’t occurred to me that all named members wouldn’t have been charged, or at least that the groups would have been disbanded. I’m sure it is a hard thing to crack down on when modern America is so tense in terms of racial wars and the dreaded debate of free speech – but, I stupidly thought that more had been done since the ’70s, that more progress had been made. The film ends with a memorial to Heather Heyer who was killed in the 2017 Charlottesville counter-protest to a white supremacist rally. Honestly, it was one of those hand-over-mouth-in-shock moments where you can’t quite understand the brutality of what you’re seeing.
There’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to Trump, too, which made most of us watching sort of suck air in through our teeth and hang our heads. Stallworth says something along the lines of ‘the American people would never elect someone like David Duke into office’. David Duke is a raging racist and an ignorant white man. The moment is so clearly a tragic reference to the state of affairs which is the current occupant of the White House. Ouch. Just, ouch.
The point is, Spike Lee has created an incredibly funny, aesthetically beautiful, colourful, powerful, and extremely politically relevant film. I was entertained, and educated. I escaped into an atmosphere of genuine terror, which somehow seemed inviting. I was welcomed into the black power movement with open arms, while burning with genuine rage. I think it’s important to give credit to Lee for how he created such an incredible tapestry of feelings. I’m honestly in awe.
Go see it, you won’t regret it.
I’m still locked out of my twitter.. watch this space. Twitter, get your shit in gear. xoxo