Cul­ture

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS -

Spike Lee’s Black­kklans­man; Im­pres­sion City’s En­core Me­laka; Di­ver­secity’s KL In­ter­na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val 2018; More to wine than red or white; Port­land, Maine—the new haven for ur­ban­ites.

The Amer­i­can West, in the late Sev­en­ties. A rookie black cop—the first to serve with the Colorado Springs Po­lice De­part­ment—picks up his phone, di­als the num­ber for the lo­cal chap­ter of the Ku Klux Klan (they’ve bought a clas­si­fied ad in the paper), poses as a white supremacis—caus­ing much mirth in the sta­tion house, which is home to a few of those al­ready—and is in­vited to a meet­ing. In his place, for fairly ob­vi­ous rea­sons, he sends a fel­low of­fi­cer, who hap­pens to be a Jew.

Black­kklans­man, Spike Lee’s hair-rais­ing new film, drama­tises the Colorado cops’ un­der­cover in­fil­tra­tion of “the Or­gan­i­sa­tion”, an op­er­a­tion so com­plete that they are able to form a re­la­tion­ship of sorts with its rep­til­ian leader, Grand Wizard David Duke, played with cun­ning anti-charm by To­pher Grace. Praised as a re­turn to form for its di­rec­tor when it was shown at Cannes in May—it won the Grand Prix—black­kklans­man is based on a mem­oir by Ron Stall­worth, the black cop at its cen­tre, surely the only African-amer­i­can po­lice of­fi­cer to have been given a KKK mem­ber­ship card. Stall­worth’s is one of those pe­cu­liarly Amer­i­can sto­ries so im­plau­si­ble it can only be true. Or, to put it in Spike Lee speak, as the open­ing cred­its oblig­ingly do: “Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit.”

The re­sult­ing film—lee’s state­ment on the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, the hate-filled rhetoric of Don­ald Trump, and the rise again of far-right ex­trem­ism in Amer­ica—is ur­gent and im­pas­sioned, righ­teously an­gry, imp­ishly icon­o­clas­tic, ri­otously en­ter­tain­ing and mad­den­ingly un­even. It’s like Lee’s long and un­usual ca­reer in minia­ture, al­ter­nately punch-the-air bril­liant and cover-your-eyes baf­fling.

So dizzy­ing is the cin­e­matic mash-up of Black­kklans­man—so many are the tones set, the styles adopted, the moods ex­plored—that it can be hard to keep up. Black­kklans­man is an in­ter­ra­cial buddy cop bro­mance; it’s a funky Blax­ploita­tion tribute; it’s a cor­us­cat­ing med­i­ta­tion on the his­tory and legacy of racism in Amer­i­can cin­ema, from The Birth of a Na­tion to Gone with the Wind to Cleopa­tra Jones; it’s a larky, blackis-beau­ti­ful pe­riod farce; it’s a fe­ro­cious con­tem­po­rary polemic, fea­tur­ing sear­ing footage of the vi­o­lence sparked by a white na­tion­al­ist “Unite the Right” rally in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia in Au­gust 2017, in­clud­ing video of the in­flam­ma­tory (even for him) re­marks of Don­ald Trump and end­ing with a pho­to­graph of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old white wo­man killed when a car ploughed into a group of anti-fas­cist counter-pro­test­ers.

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