Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review of 'Black Klansman'

A really good tense thriller, with quite a lot of humour, a great soundtrack and a visual delight - with absolutely no doubt as to where its poltical sympathies lie.

There are some plot holes and gaps that don't entirely make sense. The newly-appointed first black cop in Colorado Springs somehow manages to launch his own inflitration investigation into the local KKK, and though the police chief is a racist he still gets enough support and resources to make the investigation work. Although our black cop does the phone calls to the KKK his Jewish colleague does the actual in-person infiltrating...I'm not at all sure why that should be necessary as it makes the whole thing more risky for no obvious gain. Why can't the Jewish cop do the phone calls too? But it does provide some scope for some humour as KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke tells our hero that he can always tell a black person (not the word he uses) from his accent.

There is some real edge of seat stuff when we fear that the Jewish infiltrator is going to be fingered as a cop, and some parallel stuff with our black hero's infiltration of the local Black Students' Union, which includes several gorgeous leather-clad women militants with big Angela Davis afros. The KKK are really frightening - not the funny sheet-wearing buffoons that sometimes appear in films. Harry Belafonte has a cameo role as speaker to the black students.

There's a sort of coda to ensure that we understand that the monsters of the far right haven't gone away - something that it's easy to forget in films about say the Civil Rights movement, where the racists often look old and ridiculous and the narrative seems to say "isn't it uplifting that no-one thinks like that any more?"

Lots of cinematic references, to blaxploitation films among others (surely not everyone in a small-town Black Students Union would have looked that fantastic?), and some others that I could recognise were references but nevertheless didn't quite get.

A small personal note: in 1976 the same David Duke depicted in the film (set in 1972) came to Brighton, and to the University of Sussex campus at the invitation of the local Federation of Conservative Students.

Watched at the Everyman Cinema in Muswell Hill

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