Courtesy of MX
Craig Brewer looks lovingly at the South as a stormy, redemptive canvas of forgotten blues and heated sexuality threatening to seethe to the top. Following the undervalued Hustle & Flow, Brewsters penchant for wreathing gender roles, stoic religiosity and music into a fireball of provocative pulp is amplified. He transforms the sticky, lurid atmosphere of the Deep Souths salacious bravado into a passionate bravura of flaunty tells and brazen intimations of bondage, kinks and slavery in Black Snake Moan, one of the years best films.
This is no weightless homage to exploitation cinema, a trait that endless Tarantino clones pursue in a vain attempt to facetiously offset their own limitations at fanboy fantasy, an epidemic that inadvertently castrates the genre's interpretive tendons for the sole purpose of glorifying hollow spectacles. Black Snake Moan is in its very essence a part of exploitation cinema with a cranial capacity to include its own ravaged spirit, vitality and neurosis. Its decency of worth lies in its outrageous obscenity, an attribute that makes it so disarmingly life affirming.
The raw charm that it exudes is sagacious in manner as is its crudely effectual symbolisms. The biblical blues man Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) is also a broken man, fraught with the burn of loves betrayal and looking for salvation through his embittered righteous benevolence. And the scandalised, apparently vandalised visage of the aptly named Rae (Christina Ricci) is abandoned at the side of dirt road for the reformative Lazarus to pick up, and then chain up to a radiator.
Its the visual intensity of this imagery that propels its psychology. An emaciated, feral white girl barely covered in tattered rags, a Confederate flag in the background and an angry black musician leashing her gives way to a transgressive milieu thats fittingly guided down South, a hotbed rife with racial tensions, tenuously soothed by the calming rhythms of the blues. And it is to Brewers credit that he does not pontificate, or even nigh explore the themes he resiliently showcases. But just as there was in the stylings of true exploitation, theres an unanxious and casual evocation of absurdity in this film. With a character that could have been merely presented as a means to an unwelcoming end, Riccis nymphomaniacal Rae is the epicentre of Brewers earth shattering truisms of neglected, emotionally disabled people who redeem each other. In Raes debauched frenzy, Ricci does not just rise to the occasion. She becomes the occasion.
Brewers exaggerated storytelling magnifies the illusory artifice of cinema and reveals a clearer picture of hopelessness and wont despair. The audacity exemplified through his confrontational arrangements of disparities that subvert the status quo is in of itself a cause for comfort, and that its incendiary conflicts manage a spark of perceptive lyricism through its convictions.
My favourite film this year by far.