Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)
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Critic Reviews for Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
The first black director to break into commercial cinema, Van Peebles obviously feels deeply about black oppression. But he has chosen, paradoxically, to make the kinds of unrealistic films for which blacks have justly criticized white film-makers.
Most of the many vignettes are absorbing in themselves, notably an encounter with a white motorcycle gang.
A shrewd and powerful mix of commercial ingredients and ideological intent.
Totally uncompromising and grindingly repetitive, the film nevertheless accumulates a kind of hallucinatory groove, with unexpected shafts of bizarre humour and vigorous, experimental new wave direction.
Audience Reviews for Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
Let's see: is this a good movie? Well, it's definitely an important film. As far as being "good" though, well...yeah, but it's really rough around the edges, and overall, it's a big mess. But I do applaud the effort, this film's impact, it's influence, and I do find it entertaining. When I say it's a mess though, I'm not kidding. Some of this is hard to watch, and at times, I had no idea what the hell was going on. I appreciate the techniques being used though, as they add to the tension and the experience of being chased, but I think that they could have done a better job of editing, and toned down the experimental stuff. This is a landmark film, and for a lot of reasons. It is often cited as the first Blaxploitation film, and, along with Shaft, and Super Fly, remains one of the highlights of that genre. It's also an important film for African American in general (and African American films and filmaking specifically), and is also a fine example of super low-budget independent guerrilla filmmaking. It's not without it's controversies (and for good reasons), but it's an important film that needs to be seen regardless, especially for those interested in film history and blaxploitation films. This is a wild, rough, and crazy mess, but it's also very interesting, entertaining, and just something where it's better to see it than to be talked to about.
A necessary film; not quite necessary viewing. That is, unless you're a blaxploitation film buff, in which case you should look no further. Perhaps more interesting is the story that surrounds it, both in its making and in its reception. For instance, he performed all his own stunts so, for one scene, he jumped off a bridge a total of 9 times. He also performed numerous sex scenes himself, contracting gonorrhea, applying for worker's comp, and using the money to help him complete the funding of the film. This was one of the most important films that inspired the later films of the blaxploitation era. Incredibly innovative and creative for its time. It has some of the obvious drawbacks of a film made on a half a million dollar budget but much less than you'd expect for such low-budget film. All the more so, considering Melvin van Peebles himself wrote, scored, directed, edited, and starred in the film.
This is a landmark film for many reasons, and although it is rough around the edges, I urge everyone to at least watch it once, and then watch the story of the making of this film, Baadasssss! (A.K.A. How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass), made by the directors son, Mario Van Peebles. It is very easy for a modern audience to perhaps overlook this film as one of the slew of 'Blaxpliotation' films produced in the 70s, however this stands out firstly as virtually the originator of that mode of films, and as a crusade for a young, talented black artist and director to make a film that is both honest and challenging about the representation of black people in cinema. If nothing else you must respect Melvin Van Peebles for the Guerrilla film making techniques that created this movie. This film is a great argument for the importance to minority groups within any society to gain access to and control of media production in order to challenge dominant ideologies and representations put forward in mainstream media. It is also virtually impossible to view Baadasssss! without a tear coming to your eyes, so difficult and harrowing was Melvin Van Peebles journey to get this film made.
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