Tuesday, July 17, 2007
BLACK SNAKE MOAN
BLACK SNAKE MOAN (2007, USA, Craig Brewer)
You can’t go around hurting people and then just say you’re sorry and it all gets washed away. Why would heaven want people like that?
What do you say about a movie like this? Well, for starters, that there is no movie like this. An exploitation flick with all the best intentions, where a rage-filled dirt farmer finds the town’s nymphomaniac beaten unconscious on a country road and chains her to the radiator for her own good. (The radiator in his house, that is: to chain her to the radiator of his truck would be too sick even for this nasty – or wannabe-nasty – little number.) It’s as trashy as a mildewed True Crime rag you’d find hidden in the barn, or a sex-obsessed drugstore paperback like “The Whole Town Knew,” with Samuel Jackson chewing the foulest of his dialogue like cheap, over-cooked steak, and Christina Ricci – lithe of body, gaunt of face – mostly naked and mostly in heat for much of the movie. Lurid. Violent. Crude. Outrageous. Exploitative.
There. You’ve been warned.
Now I’ll tell you this: that this is one of the most audacious, original Soul Food movies you’d ever want to see (or not). That it made me cry. That it’s got the ballsiest, truest preacher you’ll ever see on a screen, filled with grace that’s never cheap. That the film is as intent on this lost girl’s salvation as you hope the Jackson character will turn out to be. If this girl’s the kind of human trash that gives trailers a bad name, this movie’s all about refusing to see her as trash. Grindhouse for God.
There. You’ve been enticed.
And now this: that the story doesn’t quite have what it takes to pull off so genre-defying a feat. It psychologizes what it should only suggest, therapizes what should be worked out in action as shocking or at least intense as what’s come before (though the moment where she lifts her shirt and lays on the man’s bare back comes close). We start out mean as a trip to the dump to shoot us some rats, we end up realizing we’re on a school recycling project. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about recycling, both literal and spiritual. But for heaven’s sake, let the pay-off match the set-up: I couldn’t help feeling that this guided tour of the wrong side of the tracks falls short when it goes soft. Okay, not soft like a box of chocolates: we don’t end up in Hallmark land. I won’t spoil or misrepresent the movie by pretending everything works out fine. But neither do we stay in Flannery-ville, which is really where this story wants to live, right to a bitterer end, with redemption tough enough and hard-won enough it might barely look like redemption at all.
SHERRYBABY, THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA
Available at Videomatica