It has arrived, and I had the honor of seeing the latest Spike Lee film – Da Sweet Blood of Jesus and can’t wait to hear and read what the world thinks of his newest visual adventure.
While the obvious connections are to Bill Gunn’s 1973 Ganja and Hess – I see much more than that. What I experienced was a mezmorizing and haunting tale with altered pacing and moods that seem to have transcended American cinema practices and embraced styles from both Europe and Africa.
I have been observing – for some time now – that audiences seem to expect some “sameness” from Lee films – a sameness that reveals obvious ties to his previous work.
We seem unprepared for the evolution of his filmic language, and since Do the Right Thing, somewhat closed to his cinematic “revolutions” – particularly when they are quieter.
I have been writing about Lee films for over a decade now and hope to complete a book in the next year or so but in the meantime – I offer this from my essay in the book Spike Lee by Andreas Ungerböck / Gunnar Landsgesell. As written:
Much has been said about Spike Lee and his work, he may well be the most talked about African American director and this book suggests, in many ways confirms that as fact. Many want to know if he has had an affect on filmmakers and filmmaking.
While I could easily say yes and proceed to defend the point, but it is more prudent to say that time will reveal the details of that fact.
Clearly, from what we have seen, he is one of the those great filmmakers who is engulfed in the possibilities of the film language and the possibilities of telling stories in that medium and is as conscious of our social and political context as he is of audiences.
His intent is not to make it easy for any of us, we have to work hard to get the point. There is a challenge set down for all filmmakers in Sergei Eisenstein’s Film Form that Lee seems to be conscious of and face head on with each film.
While the context of this passage is Soviet filmmaking the point is universal and timeless: “Along this path are still many difficulties, many risks of falsely understanding the principles of story-telling.
Of course the most terrible is the neglect of the possibilities given us now and again to liberate from the old traditions of the story: the possibility of principally and newly re-examining the foundations and problems of the film-story.”
Lee has Eisenstein’s thoughtfulness and curiosity, Stanley Kubrick’s relentlessness, Orson Welles’ stubbornness and his own political and aesthetic nature.
It is as hard to follow the effects of such a filmmaker, one who in is constant evolution, as it is to follow some of his film stories. In political terms Lee has been most successful.
Often filmmakers have to choose between making cinema of good intention or good cinema. Lee has managed to do both.”
And now, I will read the reviews and see the film again. Can’t wait.
 Sergei Eisenstein Film Form (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977), 121.