“Spike Lee’s Cannes grand prix winner is the director’s best work since his Oscar-nominated 1997 documentary 4 Little Girls. Combining the stylistic slickness of 25th Hour with the controversial potential of Bamboozled, it’s a stranger-than-fiction tale (“based upon some fo’ real, fo’ real shit”) of an African American cop infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s. Produced by the team behind Get Out (it was Jordan Peele who brought the story to Lee), BlacKkKlansman slips seamlessly from borderline-absurdist humour to all-too-real horror, conjuring an urgent blend of sociopolitical period satire and contemporary wake-up call.
John David Washington gives a wonderfully wry and nuanced central performance as Ron Stallworth, an afro-sporting idealist who becomes “the Jackie Robinson” of the formerly all-white Colorado Springs police force. Graduating swiftly from records to intelligence, Stallworth answers a newspaper ad for the KKK, posing on the telephone as a budding white supremacist.
Alongside his trademark dolly shots, fans of Lee’s films will find threads that lead right back to the director’s 1980 short The Answer, a biting response to The Birth of a Nation that nearly got him thrown out of film school. In BlacKkKlansman, Lee returns to DW Griffith’s Klan-aggrandising epic, using it as a backdrop for a sobering lesson about the power of movies to mould attitudes, from the heroically fluttering confederate flags of Gone with the Wind to the racist stereotypes of the Tarzan serials. Yet Lee also clearly believes in cinema’s power to change people for good, lending a passionate, proselytising edge to BlacKkKlansman.”
Taken from: “BlacKkKlansman review – a blistering return to form for Spike Lee”, written by Mark Kermode, for The Guardian, August 26, 2018.
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