This is now just being shown in select theaters across the country andI got the chance to see this film just the other night,and it is awelcome sigh of relief from the outcome of summer rubbish that isclogging the nearby multiplexes. But with "Baadasssss!",co-writer anddirector Mario Van Peebles has offered a stunning tribute to hisfather,Melvin Van Peebles,whose groundbreaking 1971 classic film becameone of the highest-grossing independent films of that year,and alsoopened the floodgates for a string of blaxploitation movies to comethroughout the decade of the 1970's. The film is also a case ofcinematic one-upsmanship in which Mario Van Peebles,himself,plays hisfather Melvin,warts and all,during the course of the older man'sproduction of his greatest claim to fame,the cult sensation independentfilm of 1971,"Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song",which was in fact afilm that didn't get much hearsay when it first came out,but by word ofmouth became the surprise hit of that year since the 1971 film was "X"rated by an all-white jury for some outlandish content and shockingscenes.<br><br>For those individuals who have never seen this blaxploitationclassic,or who have managed to see it in its entirely in the videostore or in college film courses or during midnight screenings oncollege campuses(where it is shown during Black History Month)or mostrecently during Black Film Festivals where panel discussions are formedregarding this landmark cinematic piece of African-Americanfilm-making. The picture "Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song",starsMelvin Van Peebles himself as a bordello stud performer in Los Angeleswho gets arrested and beaten by racist White cops,kills two of them,andmanages to escape(the movie concluded with Van Peebles runningendlessly over hill and dale)while he stays on the lam,while the chantsthroughout blasts out: "You killed my momma!","You killed mypoppa!","You killed my brother!", "You killed my sister!"......."Butyou won't killed me!"............. The picture was very low budgetmaking it grainy and hallucinogenic in the fashion of that era and itfeatured a throbbing,Greek chorus style accompaniment from an unknownband at the time...Earth,Wind,and Fire who would go on to become one ofthe most successful funk/R&B bands of the 1970's. "Sweetback" iscredited with being the first film to have a black man taking charge ofhis own production and his own financing of the film and his ownrepresentations through his own independent film company,which was abold and prosperous move at the time. "Sweetback" introduce to theworld black street language and attitudes plus it wa also a winner tocelebrate a lawless hero who stood up to the wrongful doings of the Manand came up a bonafide winner. <br><br>In "Baadassss!",Mario Van Peebles re-creates from start to finish themaking of "Sweetback" and the convulsive life around the production.Now in his mid-forties,he plays his father at roughly the same age,andfollowing his father,he wrote the screenplay for the movie(with DennisHaggerty),co-produced,and directed it. He has not just stepped into hisfather's shoes,but captured every stanza and every body movement and itworks very well here. The story of this famous tale of Melvin VanPeebles goes this way:in 1970,after directing the controversialsuccessful comedical satire "Watermelon Man",starring GodfreyCambridge,Van Peebles(who had a three-picture deal with ColumbiaPictures at the time)turning his back on the glad-handing executives atColumbia,and the way Hollywood portrayed blacks on film,was thinking ofexplaining his vision to his agents whom turned him down so instead tomake this film he had to be manipulative and devious enough to pull offthe impossible,and he did. As far as the story goes,he did a lot ofhustling to get this film made whatever the odds were against him whichwas a phenomenal amount of accomplishments he had to face to get thisoff the ground and running. Melvin passes the film off as a black"porn-movie" and shoots a scene to further that impression,but he hadto enlists the help of a lot of people including a white stoner,a blackporn producer,a reclusive gangbanger,and other social undesirableswhich includes a Bob Evans-style producer that turns out to be agay-shooter too(and that is played by Adam West....yes,that Adam West.That's right boys and girls....Batman himself)not to mention using hisown kids for this project as well. The movie captures some of thedesperation and the easy pleasures of the period which turns out to bean exhausting,pleasurable,great piece of entertainment for a greatsummer escapism. However,"Baadassss!" is a celebration of sorts,whichin turn reminds us that the political fervor that animated the films ofMelvin Van Peebles and his contemporaries has largely disappeared fromthe American scene which there are notable exceptions such as MichealMoore's "Fahrenheit 9/11",and Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing". In anera where black entertainers are producing too many borderline minstrelentertainment like "Barbershop","White Chicks","Soul Plane",Mario VanPeebles' "Baadassss!" is a welcome call to arms,and its a grand honorto represent one of the great pioneers of Black Cimema. But it is alsoa mystery to this day for the son of Melvin Van Peebles,Mario whosegreatest achievement as a film director,the 1991 crime-drama,"New JackCity",and the 1992 all-black western "Posse",and as an B-listed actordoesn't get the ultimate respect he greatly deserves. Let's hope hegets some respect here with this stunning tribute.
Biography / Drama
Biography / Drama
Melvin Van Peebles stunned the world for the first time, with his debut feature, The Story of a Three Day Pass. Filmed in France and selected as the French entry in the San Francisco Film Festival, Melvin's film was awarded the top prize. Saying it was controversial would be an understatement. In 1968 for a black man to walk up to the podium and accept the top festival award for a film he had to go abroad to make--now that's how you make your mark. After his comedy, Watermelon Man, Melvin was determined to push the Hollywood boundaries with the groundbreaking, and even more controversial, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Turned down by every major studio including Columbia, where he had a three-picture deal, Melvin was forced to basically self-finance. Risking everything he had Melvin delivered to the world the first Black Ghetto hero on the big screen--whether they were ready or not! More than 30 years later, history is being fashioned again in the telling of this very tale. Mario ...
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