Sunday, February 10, 2013

Do the Right Thing (1989)

This week in film class we watched Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and talked about cinematography especially.  Every time I see this film, I notice another layer of meaning.

This movie shows racial tensions in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, on the hottest day of the summer.

As serious as this movie is, it has so many funny moments as well and it was great to see the movie with an audience and see everyone laughing so much.

Ernest R. Dickerson, the cinematographer, uses expressionist techniques to show the intense heat of the day such as painting an entire wall red.

The movie begins with Rosie Perez dancing to Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" in a sea of red light in front of a row of stoops that is an homage to West Side Story.

Many canted angles are used to show the increasing tension as the day goes on.

But this movie is about LOVE just as much as HATE.  Radio Raheem, a character who walks the streets with the largest boom box wears both of these words, rings, one on each hand.

He has a monologue much like the one Robert Mitchum does in Night of the Hunter, another movie with expressionistic cinematography and beautiful lighting.

There are so many great performances in this movie by so many actors including Spike Lee himself, Bill Nunn, Rosie Perez, Martin Lawrence, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Joie Lee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, John Savage, Samuel L. Jackson, and more.

At the beginning of the movie, Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) tells Mookie (Spike Lee) to "Do the Right Thing." Does he?  At the end of the movie, Mookie does something that causes a riot to break out.  It's not obvious that he does the right thing but I think he does--one could argue that the riot is a diversion for the need people have at that moment to kill somebody.

Does Sal, the owner of the pizza joint Sal's pizzeria, have the right to only put photos of Italian-Americans up on the wall or should he like Buggin' Out asks put up photos of African-Americans too since all his customers are African-Americans?  Students will always be divided on this issue seeing both sides.

One student wrote on our discussion board later that he had to get pizza after the movie--ha ha.  Try to find a place where extra cheese isn't two dollars.


Matt Morris said...

What a great connection with the Laughton film. This has never occurred to me. Did you know Spike Lee's favorite movie is MIDNIGHT COWBOY, and that he always shows it to the cast of each of his movies before they start filming? I found this out recently and thought it was interesting.

Golda Fried said...

Didn't know that but that's cool.