From 21:08-21:44, Spike Lee places us in Bleek’s gravitational pull. Lee strategically uses the circular motion in Bleek’s trumpet practice and places him in the center to signify his internal psychology. Through the movement of this sequence, Bleek confronts his audience with his intimate relationship with his instrument, breaks the fourth wall, and acknowledges the audience with intention and directness that translates to a power dynamic that disintegrates as the movie continues. Continue reading “Bleek’s Gravitational Pull”
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. Continue reading “Mo’ Better Reds”
This screenshot from Mo Better Blues urges viewers to think critically about the role of women in Bleek’s life, and in the context of other men in the film.
Do any of you feel as though the discussions in this class are often too unapologetic to Spike Lee? The only reason I bring this up is because we discuss him as an infallible figure. Speaking generally, just off the top of my head, I’m thinking of sexist undertones in Mo’ Better Blues and overt homophobic themes in School Daze. Thoreau has an entire chapter, Baker Farm in Walden, that I found to be some of his poorest work which was irreprehensibly contradictory. This does not mean I reject all other aspects of Thoreau’s– or Lee’s– work because of specific pitfalls. It does mean I question certain parts of each mans work. Thoughts?
In Mo Better Blues, Denzel Washington plays Bleek, an amazing trumpet player who is an asshole. His existence and popularity depends on his relationship to women, but also his lips. In class, we talked a little about the ending scene where we see Bleek as a broken man and unable to play his trumpet again. He then turns to Indigo to fix him. During their encounter, she touches his broken lips, the one thing that has helped him to make his living and engage in relationship with women.
A topic we discussed in class was the matter of agency in relationship to Indigo in the scene where Bleek comes knocking at her door in the middle of the night. And then again, her agency in the final montage sequence when Bleek tells his son he is done for the day and can go play. When reading the first scene, this can get hard to differentiate Indigo’s autonomy and Bleek’s will being subjected upon her. I believe a strong argument can be made for both sides, but since I am reading these two scenes together I have decided to interpret Indigo as in fact having agency in these moments, whether the audience agrees with her decision or not. Continue reading “Mo Better Blues: Agency”
Women are subjected to a lot of things and unfortunately are taught to become accustomed to certain types of subjection. Whether it be in careers or American domesticity, women are subjected to unfair and unequal standards in comparison to men. Laura Mulvey published an essay in 1975 that argued that the camera in film forced the same kind of unfair standards that existed for women in the outside world also in the world of film. She argued that there is an inherent male gaze in cinema that often portrays women in parts or in inferior positions to their male counterparts. Even when a woman is a main character in the film her role is often subjected to the decisions and emotions of the men in her life. The camera also focuses on women in ways that it rarely focuses on men. While a woman is talking it may often travel her body and linger on/highlight her legs, breasts, or hair. It constantly is compartmentalizing her. Mulvey uses examples from Hitchcock’s Rear Window and other popular films during the time to make her argument.
What’s interesting about Mo’ Better Blues is that the camera interacts with Denzel’s character, Bleek, in the way that Mulvey says it does to women. Bleek is constantly being compartmentalizing by the camera. He is cast as a musical genius and a playboy, and both those categories make the audience understand and like him for his physical capabilities. The camera is consistently zooming into his lips while he plays– forcing the viewer to admire them. When is he not playing his instrument is he often hooking up with women and therefore other parts of his body are highlighted along side his lips: his eyes, his hands, and his chest specifically. The women in the movie are not sexualized nearly as much as Bleek is– which is a rarity in this period of film (late 20th century.) Lee’s use of the male gaze on Bleek deviceful and adds to his character development or lack thereof to be honest. It is not until the end of the movie that the audience gets the chance to see Bleek as more than just a player or a musician. He becomes a father and a husband. When he transitions into these roles then the camera stops viewing him in parts and starts showing him in more full body shots and as a complex individual that had a planned out past but now an unknown future.