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Although many know him primarily through his work on film(notably the landmark "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song"), what the entertaining and illuminating documentary "How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company(And Enjoy It)"(perhaps the best title ever for a documentary) sets out to prove in fine style is that there is much more to Melvin Van Peebles than just that. As he is the epitome of the modern renaissance man, Van Peebles has also been a navigator for the air force, drove a trolley in San Francisco, a writer, a musician(although as one person puts it, he sings like a 'frog on crack'), a television commentator and, oh why not, a Wall Street trader. He came to filmmaking while living in France where as a writer he was able to get a part-time filmmaking license.(Which is so cool by the way.) And that led to Hollywood, followed by his greatest success with 'Sweetback' that as the documentary puts it, made it hip to be a revolutionary, unlike the movie's many imitators which simply did not get it.
Okay, there are some places where this documentary does not go very deep, but probably for the best, considering it would involve Van Peebles' personal life. And I would like to salute his stamina for his prolific love life which in reality probably did lead to more than its share of heartbreak. And sadly there is no mention of his son Mario's film "Baadasssss!" about his father's film, nor about Mario's very small and controversial part in said film.
loved it. i wouldn't have given "baadasssss" another thought had i not seen this (though i still dont plan on checking it...but have more of an appreciation for it). fascinating individual.
Fascinating & edifying.
Melvin Van Peebles is a genius! His body of work is insane. Broadway, Films and Wall Street!!!!
Fascinating look at the life of Melvin Van Peebles. Best known for his controversial film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song", he's also spent time as an author, musician, Tony-nominated playwright and as a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
briliant. first dude to commoditize "blackness."
A great look at one of the pioneers of groundbreaking independent film - I didn't know much about him other than his work in cinema, which is such a shame since Melvin's resume is varied and fascinating.
A fascinating film, about a fascinating man.
Glosses over some of the defects of character explored in "Badasss", but illuminates some of the more fascinating aspects of a man who was truly a jack of all trades. Air force pilot, writer, musician, cabaret performer, theater and film director, Wall Street Stock trader, director of the highest grossing independent film of its time, perhaps Godfather of hip-hop, American spoken word, and regretfully Blaxploitation cinema, and Knight of the French Legion (achievements which don't come in the chronological order, you would expect).
Most people know him for "Sweet Sweetbacks Badasss Song", but few know of his two films in French(which he speaks fluently, along with Dutch, and sings horribly, but amiably in), or his Broadway shows and musical comedies. A man for whom revolution, was every bit a creative as much as political maxim, and one who knew better than to take himself too seriously in the meantime. There are four stages in your life he tells his son, "Melvin who?, Melvin, Get me Melvin, and Melvin who?". Perhaps someone less willingly provacative, would have had an easier career, but a less interesting one too. Melvin Van Peebles wakes up to the kinds of limitations Lars Von Trier and company, impose on themselves, for artistic "purity", and embodies DIY aesthetic, more than the most vocal of punk bands professing the creed. At the same time, during an academic discussion of one of his films at a university panel of Black film-makers, when someone in the audience commented that "Sweetback", was too dark and shadowy, he replied that there were no mistakes in his film, each decision was an artistic choice, when the man in the audience responded "well...its looks fucked up", Melvin left the stage, walked to into the audience, to the mans chair, and punched him in the face. Needless to say he was not invited to too many more discussions.
Visually the only constant in the film, is a wax replica of Van Peebles being constructed, as the story of his life, is laid out in interviews and archival footage. A brighter, much funnier, film than you would imagine. Critic, Elvis Mitchell says it best, at one point in the movie, "He was the P.T. Barnum of African American film....and I mean that in a good way".
Melvin Van Peebles is an interesting guy.
Melvin Van Peeples is the type of fearless artist you can't help but admire. What a driven, uncompromising, talented guy. Great look at a complex man who wouldn't concede to the status quo. Loved it.