Mo’ Better Reds

Bleek Gilliam struggled to maintain the relationships and people around him. He struggled with loyalty, friendship, leadership, and honesty; this was something that the audience clearly perceived. However, it was Spike Lee’s affective structure using color and close-up cuts that established our feelings associated with Bleek’s conflicts throughout the film. 

The color red is very informative in this film. When Clark and Indigo walk into the bar with clashing dresses, the dresses were both bright red. Similarly, Giant, who is the one who warns Bleek about his anticipated conflict with the two women, is also wearing a full red suit. When Bleek walks out of the back dressing room to confront Indigo and Clark, red light fills the entire hallway, and Bleek emerges from the smoke of red light. Similarly, red light is also prevalent throughout other relationship conflicts. When Bleek and Shadow argue about the band and pay at a party, bright red lights reflect off of everyone’s clothing and faces. When Giant is being beat up awaiting Bleek’s rescue, Bleek plays his piece with intensity and incredible speed, making the audience’s heart race at the same time the tempo increases. The color red becomes a premonition for Bleek’s relationship problems with the people around him. When we see red light, we anticipate danger of something going wrong– in this case, it would be Bleek’s relationship.


Red Conflict
Red is a premonition for Bleek’s relationship conflicts with his band and Clark & Indigo.

Just as Spike Lee utilizes color to forecast relationship danger, Spike Lee utilized cuts, close-ups of body parts, and the various scenes of Bleek assembling his trumpet to create the affective structure of brokenness. Often, shots focus on various body parts such as his lips, arms, and legs in red light when Bleek makes love to Clark and Indigo. Body parts presupposes an incompleteness; it provokes a feeling of brokenness. With the combination of red and broken body parts, Spike Lee informs the audience of Bleek’s broken relationships. His relationship remains strained and incomplete. Further, coupled with images of Bleek’s trumpet parts, we begin to understand how the pieces of his relationships are connected with the pieces of his playing career. More importantly, we get the same sense of brokenness in his music career we do watching his relationships fall to pieces and parts. Using the color and close ups, Spike Lee presents a world in which we can never feel at peace, safe, or wholesome.

Red Parts
Parts of the body in comparison to the parts of a trumpet.

It is ironic that he was never complete until the most important part of him was broken– his lips. Once his lips were beyond reparable, Bleek was finally able to put his life together, piece by piece.


One thought on “Mo’ Better Reds”

  1. This is a really interesting and dope post Rachel! After watching the film, I too was thinking about color symbolism, particularly in that scene where he is having sex with Clarke/Indigo and sort of can’t differentiate between the two. When he is having sex with indigo the light is cool toned and like a light washed blue and when he is having sex with Clarke the light is red. I was wondering what you thought the blue meant in mo better blues in this scene in conjunction with the title! great read! dope media to support your post!


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