This final exam was a collaborative effort between @marquezdoee, @rpark16 (from blog 2), and @emersonking.
About an hour and a half into the film, Lysistrata comes face to face with Ol’ Duke and the rest of his sex-starved posse, The Knights. With a series of shot reverse shots, Lee constructs the sequence with a level of intensity that comes with any face-off, placing the men on one end and the women on the other. Throughout this sequence, Lee utilizes a combination of sound and image to communicate an interplay between the male and female characters on screen, a dynamic that causes a shift in power that begins with the Knights and ends up with the strikers.
Early in the sequence, the Knights pour into the armory in order to consummate the end of the sex strike. Lee characterizes this moment with the sound of their keys echoing off of the walls, allowing this moment of entry to empower the Knights with both visual and audio presence. Yet, once the sex-starved men come face-to-face with the women, the audio-visual paradigm shifts.
“You ain’t got no folks? You ain’t never had a Mami or Papi to school you on the female way? It takes a man to teach a heffer like you how to behave.”
After Lysistrata fires back with some barbs of her own, Duke steps closer to the camera, his footfalls silent against the hardwood floor. Not to be intimidated, Lysistrata returns the favor and her steps reverberate with a force that echoes off of the walls of the armory. This represents the shift in power between the two genders, allowing Lysistrata to assume an audio-visual presence that drowns out that of Ol’ Duke.
“You trifling little black bitch.”
Aside from the audio punctuation of this visceral image — one that causes all of the men to recoil — Lee utilizes the subsequent shot-reverse-shot structure to allow Lysistrata to maintain dominance through framing techniques. Throughout the monologue,Lysistrata’s face fills the frame while Duke’s countenance withdraws. Then, at the peak of her monologue that charges black women as the defenders of black lives, Lysistrata drops the hammer on Duke and the Knights.
“[This] is about bringing an end to this strife and giving the hood the meaning of life.”
Still withdrawn from the frame, Duke asks Lysistrata for the true meaning of life. Lysistrata responds with another question: “You don’t know, do you?” Dejected, Duke and the Knights drop their keys to the armory and the protest continues.
This image of keys falling to the floor, combined with the loud clanging of the keys, establishes a dialectic between sound and image. In other words, the image of keys crashing to the floor resonates with a sense of defeat while the sound effect echoes the Knight’s previously established power during their entrance.
This is an exceptional scene from Chi-Raq, and by that we mean both powerful, and an exception to the surface level levity of the film. This moment through audio-visual editing, represents the heart of the film in its attempt to approach a truth. It is not providing an answer for the viewer, but rather initiating a crucial dialogue.