Saturday, January 15, 2011
One of the best films I saw last year was Passing Strange, Spike Lee's film of a Broadway musical's last performance at the Belasco Theatre. The musical is autobiographical, and is based on the life of its writer "Stew". Stew grew up in a middle-class black family in Los Angeles in the 1970s, but ended up passing as a ghetto black when he moved to Europe to develop his musical career. The film works on many levels, addressing issues of racial identity, prejudice both against blacks and within the black community itself, the difficulties faced by an artist attempting to find his "voice," good-old adolescent rebellion, family conflict, and more. Although he was not involved in the production of the musical itself, Spike Lee did an excellent job capturing the show's last performance on film. Highly recommended (and this from someone who ordinarily can't stand musicals of any kind).