Saturday, February 13, 2016
BLACK SNAKE MOAN (2006)
Written & Directed By: Craig Brewer
Cinematography By: Amy Vincent
Editor: Billy Fox
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, David Banner, S. Epatha Merkerson, John Cothran, Michael Raymond-James, Adriane Lenox, Kim Richards, Clare Grant
A God-fearing bluesman takes to a wild young woman who, as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, looks everywhere for love, never quite finding it.
An exploitation film at heart. Though it offers an explanation and while it stays a small story. It provides a broader view of subject and characters. Seems like the film is inspired by the movie SHANTY TRAMP.
There are plenty of scenes of nudity and sex. The film provides an openness when it comes to the subject. And doesn't pretend to be politically correct at all. It marches to It's own beat and is almost like it's own fable.
The film almost succeeds, but never makes it quite clear. What it wants to be. So that it plays both sides that come together, but not necessarily smoothly.
The film seems like it is going to bring a exploitation back with name actors starring in the film. Which i Will admit was part of the interest for me and I am sure others. It's premise at first almost sounds like a pornographic fantasy. Which it uses to lure the audience and while there is sex. The film turns it on it's ear and gives you a different type of film. That is deeper then what you suspect.
All the actors give brave performances. No one more then Christina Ricci, who shows vulnerability and no fear in the role. In which she gives full body and soul to. She is seen more as a fantasy and object of lust. throughout the film she shows and sheds the layers to her character. Where as at a certain point the film feels like a fable then turns a bit towards reality. Then seems like down home psychobabble with drama at it's heart
In a way this was the beginning of another phase of roles for Christina Ricci. Who had already broken out of child star roles in films like NOW & AGAIN and CASPER to indie darling bombshell in movies like BUFFALO'66 and THE OPPOSITE OF SEX. Then nubile mid 20's sexpots in ANYTHING ELSE and PROZAC NATION. those roles lasted and were highly touted, but never were the star making vehicles that were predicted, though she got plenty of acclaim, but at least she stayed familiar in people's minds. As she had been around ,audiences and critics for used to her to a certain degree. Even though she was great in these roles there wasn't much definition to them. Nor really were the films that memorable. So her performances got lost in the shuffle. Though she always is one of my favorite surprises as an actress.
Southern soul and blues has harsh realities, but deals with it's own world. This film tries to pull you in and feel it as Samuel l. Jackson tries to exorcize the sex and temptation demon. He feels is possessing Ricci's character. As she's powers to be a nynphomaniac. Who has no strength to overcome her urges and be used and abused as well as doing the same to others. He tries to drive it out or at least tame it.
It is more her beauty and desire that causes the men to lust after her to uncontrollable levels in this film. She seduces as well as gets taken advantage of more shocking as Christina Ricci is the star. While she has played adult roles before and has broken out of her child star phase quite a few times. You are still shocked to see her to this far and deep into this role. When she really doesn't have to, shows her commitment and is fearless in her performance. In a role most actresses would take to get noticed and break a previous mold. Showing how far they will go on a role. That seems designed to get notice for It's more demanding aspects. (She actually wore real 40lbs of chains on her during her captive scenes.) As it is an instant attention gainer considering the cast, subject and being released by a big studio. Which considers it an important release.
This is director Craig Brewer follow up to HUSTLE AND FLOW. It has the harshness and love of music in common with that film as well as location. Though is on a different wavelength with just as sad yet realistic ending. Would love to see him tackle a western. As a majority of his films are set in the south and are like them in spirit, energy and folklore. Only here modern day and dipped in mysticism.
This is one of Justin Timberlake's first acting role and especially of any depth. Even though it is a small supporting role that barely was acknowledged in its advertising. I give him kudos for playing such a outwardly tough but deeply sensitive vulnerable character. Who easily cries which also helped play into his heartthrob status as a singer in real life. Though he shows a certain bravery for what happens to his character. As most in his position would have wanted a tougher or starring role. Here the role is well played and chosen.
Seems at first more poised to Present itself and the cure as more of a belief In Spirituality and the power of a kind of voodoo or mysticism. More homespun home remedy types before it finally realizes it is better off presenting itself psychologically and leaving a little t chance and some old black magic.
It seems crazy and utter no sense yet it works and stays entertaining. While also lending itself to certain exploitive set-ups and happily Turing some on their ear. Though also letting itself delve more into them also.
The film could have easily slipped into an out and put exploitation grind house movie. It has it's moments where it feels that way, but then corrects itself. So that it doesn't feel as dirty and demanding. It always has a reason for where the story goes. revealing itself to have humor in such a sad state of affairs. As well as being a thought out drama.
Rumor has it the original ending involved Justin Timberlake's character shooting Smauel L. Jackson in the back of the head during the scene where Christina Ricci sings "This Little Light of Mine". Director Craig Brewer decided, however, that it would be better to make the film happy, and with a very positive ending. Though considering the ending is open ended more or less though confirms certain things. Then again it seems that some who watch the film feel it is a cop out as the film plays very dark and twisted then in the second half all of a sudden becomes more spirited. Though if the original ending would have stayed. It would work more as folklore and match the rhythms of the songs that play throughout
At least director Craig Brewer tried something original. He didn't quite succeed, but at least it is different in a good way. The film marches to the best of it's own drummer.