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New Escapist Column! On Spike Lee’s Cinema of Empathy and Allyship in “BlacKkKlansman” and “Da 5 Bloods”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. There’s actually a glut of new releases this week, but the one that felt most deserving of attention was Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, which is premiering on Netflix.

Early in his career, Lee developed a reputation as a filmmaker defined by his frustration with the way that things were, his films tapping into a real sense of righteous anger about the status quo. However, Lee’s films have always been defined by a strong sense of  understanding and compassion. This is true of both BlacKkKlansman and Da 5 Bloods, which are films that are largely about the need to come together and build coalitions in order to move forward. At their core, they are films about empathy and allyship. More than that, they are films about the power of cinema.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Da 5 Bloods

Da 5 Bloods argues that the wounds inflicted by the Vietnam War never truly healed.

The basic plot of Da 5 Plots is standard war movie stuff, recalling the set up of the classic Simpsons episode Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in “The Curse of the Flying Hellfish”, which itself drew upon a variety of inspirations including episodes of M*A*S*H and Barney Miller. The film follows four veterans who return to Vietnam ostensibly to repatriate the remains of their lost squad commander “Stormin’ Norman.” However, it quickly becomes clear that these former soldiers also have their eyes on a more lucrative prize.

The past never stays buried.

Co-writer and director Spike Lee uses the familiar trappings of war movies – and specifically of Vietnam War movies – to interrogate the legacy of the conflicts and the scars that it left on the national psyche. Indeed, one of the most interesting structural choices in Da 5 Bloods is to effectively invert the basic structure of BlacKkKlansman, which opened as a pointed genre tribute before seguing into actual contemporary news footage during its final act. Da 5 Bloods starts by offering a glimpse of the chaos of the early seventies before diving into the story that it wants to tell.

The result is to contextualise both Da 5 Bloods and its statement on contemporary American identity, drawing a strong line from the unrest and horror of the Vietnam era to the madness of the present moment. Da 5 Bloods was obviously written and filmed well before the latest crisis in the United States, but Lee is a shrewd filmmaker with his finger on the pulse. Da 5 Bloods feels like a movie that is both about the nightmare of this particular moment and the tragic inevitability of that moment as the outcome of unprocessed trauma that has been festering for decades.


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