Melvin Van Peebles
A landmark of Black and American independent cinema that would send shock waves through the culture, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song was Melvin Van Peebles’s second feature film, after he walked away from a contract with Columbia in order to make his next film on his own terms. Acting as producer, director, writer, composer, editor, and star, Van Peebles created the prototype for what Hollywood would eventually co-opt and make into the blaxploitation hero: a taciturn, perpetually blank-faced performer in a sex show, who, when he’s pushed too far by a pair of racist cops looking to frame him for a crime he didn’t commit, goes on the run through a lawless underground of bikers, revolutionaries, sex workers, and hippies in a kill-or-be-killed quest for liberation from white oppression. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’s incendiary politics are matched by Van Peebles’s revolutionary style, in which jagged jump cuts, kaleidoscopic superimpositions, and psychedelic sound design come together in a sustained howl of rage and defiance.
With his lush and sensual visuals, pitch-perfect soundtracks, and soulful romanticism, Wong Kar Wai has established himself as one of the defining auteurs of contemporary cinema.
Four charming comedies from Eric Rohmer.
Melvin Van Peebles’s edgy, angsty, romantic first feature could never have been made in America. Unable to break into a segregated Hollywood, Van Peebles decamped to France, taught himself the language, and wrote a number of books in French, one of which, La permission, would become his stylistically innovative feature debut.
Melvin Van Peebles
DCP, Blu-ray, DVD
A triumph at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival, the revelatory debut feature from codirectors (and twin brothers) Arie and Chuko Esiri is a heartrending and hopeful portrait of everyday human endurance in Lagos, Nigeria.