Passing Strange (2009)
Critic Consensus: Spike Lee's document of the Tony Award-winning musical Passing Strange is every bit as compelling onscreen as it was on stage.
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Critic Reviews for Passing Strange
Lee doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to filming live theater, but he moves the camera artfully and edits with an energy that matches the music. And he makes good use of close-ups, capturing the sweaty faces of a troupe of remarkable performers.
You'll probably have to resist the urge to stand up and cheer with the onscreen audience during the emotional curtain call.
Spike Lee's Passing Strange: The Movie is basically canned musical theater, but this is one Tony-winning Broadway show that's well worth preserving and seeing.
The invigorating result, zestily edited by Lee's own inside iron man, Barry Brown, is in every way a knockout.
Audience Reviews for Passing Strange
In 1976, a young man(Daniel Breaker) is sleeping in on a Sunday morning in South Central Los Angeles. His mother(Eisa Davis) has other plans for him including church to which she drags him. While there, he has a religious experience but not the one she was hoping for. The message is musical, as the young man falls under the spell of Mr. Franklin(Colman Domingo), the son of the pastor. That leads to him being in a punk rock band with Sherry(Rebecca Naomi Jones) and Terry(Chad Goodridge). This is a film of the last performance of the musical "Passing Strange" at the Belasco Theatre on July 20, 2008. As such, one could argue its cinematic merits and its Broadway origins and cliches.(So many poseurs, so little time.) But what is undeniable is how entertaining the movie is, mixing genres and types of music freely. What resonated with me the most is something the narrator(Stew, who also wrote the book and co-wrote the music) said while speaking from either a podium(read into whatever symbolism you like) or sitting at a desk in that we make the biggest decisions of our life while we are teenagers, which could involve college, work or to leave home for the first time. Like the young man in the play, I thought it an easy decision but only deceptively so since I had no idea of what kind of person I would turn out to be.
Flashy filmed performance of a Broadway stage play. Set in the late 1970s, a young black musician rebels against his church-going, middle-class, South Central roots by traveling the world in an effort to experience something "real" in life. Los Angeles performance artist Stew narrates what is essentially a concert trip through a dizzying number of musical styles that touch upon gospel, punk, blues, jazz, and rock. The ubiquitous score is excellent, but it's surrounded by an incredibly stagy artifice with a noticeable lack of sets, that feels overly avant-garde. We're constantly reminded that this is a filmed play. Even the acting is affected and unnatural. The passion felt by those who were in attendance in that theater is not the same emotion felt as a viewer watching it on a screen. Brilliantly catchy songs include: "Love Like That", "Amsterdam" and "We Just Had Sex".
Now this was most excellent. Very entertaining musical with great performances and interesting format. Stew is highly entertaining, and Spike Lee does a great job of capturing the live performance vibe with a good blend of camera angles and shots.
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