Slow Pan

Spike Lee’s use of this slow pan heuristic is intended to re-center and refocus the attention of the audience to the facial features of Mookie and Pino. With the slow motions, audiences observe every single eye movement, every blink, every twitch in the face. Simultaneously, as the audience follows the camera pan, we are entranced by the thoughts that may be going through Mookie and Pino’s minds based off of these facial expressions. The slow motion is intended to capture the audience into the scene, and not merely listening to the words of these characters, but rather, contagiously feeling the contempt and disgust Mookie and Pino are experiencing.

In this particular time stamp between Sal, Jade, Mookie, and Pino, it is also important to note that the audio has an impact on the audience as well. As the slow motions distills the audience within the minds of Mookie and Pino, we continue to hear the voices of Jade and Sal. The more we focus on Mookie and Pino, the more we drown out the audio, and the more these voices become equalized. The slowness of the camera accompanied by the continued conversation somehow reduces Sal and Jade to just their voices, a form where looks do not matter, and color is not noticed. The refocus of attention brings our eyes and ears away from the real world into a less fathomable mental world, one engrossed in judgment yet allows for an alternate, un-colored realm.

That being said, Sal’s reduction to colorlessness in this scene paints him as a white man who struggles to fit in in the community. Like Ebert says, “Sal is sincere when he says he likes his customers, and he holds his head in his hands when Pino calls them ‘niggers’ and berates a simpleminded street person. But in his rage, Ral is also capable of using ‘nigger’” He tries to fit into a black man’s place as a white man; he expresses interest in a black woman to which both his son and Mookie disapprove. Sal struggles to find a compromise that both sides will approve, which emphasizes the adversarial nature between the blacks and whites in that community. To put it simply, even when Sal is reduced to his colorless voice, the camera immediately jumps back to him being the white skin-colored man he is in reality.


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