Spike Lee's latest entry-Bamboozled, is quite possibly the best film he has ever made. Bamboozled takes a satirical look at the treatment of African-Americans by both the electronic and print forms of media. Pierre De LaCroix (Damon Wayans) is the only Black writer for a fictional television entity. Totally disgusted with the company's treatment of his talent, Pierre (not his real name) seeks to create the most salacious and repugnant piece of racist imagery for broadcast. His hope is that the show will be so bigoted and hateful that he'll be fired and he can ply his trade elsewhere. Much to his chagrin, the studio loves it and MANTAN: THE NEW MILLENIUM MINSTREL SHOW is made a mid-season replacement and ordered for thirteen shows. Pierre then employs two homeless Black men to portray the title roles of Mantan (Savion Glover) and Sleep-n-Eat (Tommy Davison) in this retrospectively repugnant presentation. Like all minstrel shows, the actors apply "black face" and enormous red lips to re-create the images that have taunted/plagued, Black folks since the advent of print journalism. In any event, the show becomes the biggest hit of the season and Delacroix, feeds into his new found success and prestige and eventually believes his own hype. What was once an attempt to bring the studio to it's knees is now the key to his financial well doing. As such, Delacroix becomes the central figure in the shows' continued heartless success and is the linch pin upon which tragic and irreversible results will swing. The point of Spike's film (per the commentary) is not to make light of the subject of racism and bigotry, rather it is to enlighten the Black community in the way of recognizining the Minstrel shows of today, to which some of us are willing participants.
Powerfully moving and incredibly thought provoking, Bamboozled is easily one of the best films I have ever seen. It presents a storyline that is current and definitely needed in a society rife with all manner of minstrel show being offered as legitimite enterprise and entertainment, for all the world to see. Bamboozled is a deliberate attempt to illuminate the dulled minds of the Mantans and Sleep-N-Eat's of America, that have no idea about their true heritage and identity, and continue to provide ample fodder for the Minstrel shows of the 21st century. Black or White, Bamboozled has a message for everyone and it's a message worth giving heed.
The audio for Bamboozled is presented in a DD5.1 platform that is neither outrageously good nor tremendously bad for that matter. The audio for the feature is adequate. The center is perfectly delineated and the surround effects are more the sounds coming from the studio audience during the taping of the minstrel shows than from anyplace else. The most beautiful segment of the audio presentation is the Bamboozled score/theme. It's recurrent and very atmospheric tone creates an incredible aural presences that pulls you deeper into the incredible multi tiered experience of Bamboozled. Not too mention being extremely beautiful to boot. Terence Blanchard has again wowed us with a score that adds another rich level to an already dynamic film.
The Director's Commentary as provided by Spike Lee is an often funny and technical look at his point of view in staging a film bound to create controversy on both sides of the aisle. For a start, Spike identifies his major thematic influences in making the film such as Kazan's 1957 masterpiece A Face In The Crowd Mel Brook's The Producers and Sunset Boulevard. His homage to those films is tremendously obvious and very well detailed. When Spike isn't talking about the film, he's commenting on the erroneous press reports on his likes and dis-likes regarding shows such as the now defunct, In Living Color. Spike refutes all their assertions and goes so far as to explain his reasons for making the film and employing two of the actors from that successful series. Back on the film, he points out when and where the ad-libs came and what was involved in collecting all of the information needed to propel a film of this magnitude. Of great import was his discussion of the effects the wearing of "Black-Face" had on the actors. With Both Savion and Tommy, it became something of a soul-scarring experience. That soulless ache and pain was never more evident than when Tommy Davison shed real tears after having donned his black face for the filming of a particular scene. In the time it took to apply the makeup, it appeared that Tommy Davison, felt the collective pain our ancestors must have felt at seeing themselves made to look so "Un-real" and undeserving of the meagerest elements of human compassion and warmth. Minstrel shows were/are incredibly repugnant in their presentation and Spike wanted to capture the expressions of those viewing the film so that they could lend the needed realism to the picture. As such, he assembled an audience to watch one of the tapings of the Mantan Minstrel show and included their reactions in the final cut of the film. Needless to say, the audience had no idea about what they would see and their expressions were priceless. On the whole, Spike's commentary was very well done. It was informative and humorous while also detailing the elements used in the creation of the film.
The video is a mixed bag and purposely done. It's shot on both 16mm film and Mini DV. The Mini DV provided the lo definition imagery spike wanted to portray the everyday world of Pierre's in. Something like a surreal experience if you will. The 16mm film was used to portray all of the scenes wherein the minstrel show was being presented. Given the purposeful use of the Mini DV and the contrasting stark imagery of the 16mm film, the combined video presentation is very nicely done. I did not notice any transfer errors of any kind on this impeccable anamorphically enhanced widescreen presentation.
The extras on Bamboozled are plenteous. New Line Pictures has done it again in pulling out all of the stops in presenting a top-drawer full-blown Special Edition within their catalog of "Platinum Series" films.
There are roughly 20 deleted scenes in all. They range from extensions of scenes already in the film to scenes that never made it. On the whole, these deserved to be deleted as they either blurred the point being made or were so outrageous; they did not adequately convey the film's true intent. In any event, it's good to have them as part of the collection. The quality of the scenes ranges from good to poor.
The Making of Bamboozled
27-minutes in length, this making of presents varying topics on the production side of the film. It contains interviews with the cast as well as commentary by social and literary critics such as Stanley Crouch, Jack Newfeld, Clyde Taylor and others. It also boasts an interview with the man himself on the making of the picture and his point in creating such a work. In Spikes' words, Bamboozled is a "Satirical look at the History of Film and Television in America." He couldn't have been more right.
Animated Photo Gallery
Here, Spike has a collection of promotional materials and authentic bits of minstrel show history, presented with Terence Blanchard's score playing over the images.
The Premiere of Bamboozled
The premiere for the film is presented with commentary by reporters and the headlines of papers whose critics either got it or didn't.
Two music videos are included. One from "Gerald Levert" and one from the fictional rap group "Blak".
Bamboozled is a movie that made me think unlike any movie before it has. Spike is definitely one of my favorite Directors and his social commentary is one that I relish experiencing. Bamboozled is not at all what I expected and it surpassed every mark I placed for it. I can't recommend it enough! To Black, White, Asian whoever, this is a film about the reclamation of dignity, pride and self-actualization. Regardless of race, negative self-imagery has been promoted on some level as long as there has been communication. Spike goes to great degrees to make it plain and dispel, the need for such imagery. Additionally, he's announcing a clarion call to those who are contributing to the minstrel shows of today by glorifying ignorance, degrading women and selling their souls for a few pennies. In true Spike Lee fashion, the elements of the story are hard hitting and take no prisoners. This is just a great film with pertinent social commentary.