Jungle Fever – The Art of the No Theory

Each time I watch a Spike Lee movie, I fall in love. I fall in love with the atmosphere, the color, the actors, everything. Being a fan of exploitation movies, I had to draw a link between blaxploitation and Lee’s films, and just appreciate them better.

Jungle Fever didn’t escape my exuberant love, and with a Steve Wonder‘ soundtrack, how could it?

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 12.24.11Welcome to the streets of Harlem, welcome to the 90’s, and welcome to a time where black men were killed if involved with white women. In the memory of Yusuf Hawkins who died of not-even love.

Always a bit provocative, Spike Lee shaped his movie as a sort of denunciation of segregation from a secondary point of view, that I will explain later. But as every movie of his, we also got an insight of other stories.
The main issue that is tackled is about Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes), brillant architect, happily married and father of a little daughter, who happened to be attracted by the forbidden fruit that is the white woman, italian-american Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra).

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Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 12.32.57Not only did he put his marriage into the sink, but also his entourage. Both of them actually did, when they succumbed to the temptation. Rejected, outcasted, Spike Lee didn’t really focused on them trying to work things out, which at the end seemed insurmountable. Indeed, the director focused on the secondary characters, and how the relatives and friends were affected by this marginal adultery and relationship.
Racial differences brought violence and pain.

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Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 3.06.27Directed as a television film of the late 90’s, with a fuzzy cinematography, Jungle Fever is really enjoyable to watch, even though we are lacking bit of information here and there, because everything, from Angie and Flipper’s relationship to his drug addict brother Gator’s (Samuel L. Jackson) is blurry, we might take the movie as several quick sketches containing and conveying the most important idea.

Thus, Spike Lee didn’t want to focus on his “main” characters, he expanded the issue of interracial relationships from core to collateral damages, explaining the numerous characters. And tackled also the issue of drugs among the black population of Harlem.

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Purify is a cursed family which doesn’t really represent or deserve its name; a crackhead and a disgrace for flirting with the enemy. The mother, Lucinda (Ruby Dee), devoted had to carry the burden that her addict son had become and then bear the news of her youngest giving up his sweet family for a forbidden temptation. She will collapse, thanks to no great support from her husband, Good Reverend Doctor (Ossie Davis), reciting all day parts of the bible in a judgmental tone.

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Anyway, from the start, the end seemed a little predictable, or at least the course of things, and this is where the director caught me for good. From the beginning the attraction between Angie and Flipper was strictly based on curiosity, the forbidden, the unattainable, and it floated around the seeing-for-yourself concept.

In a nutshell, beautiful music, amazing performances (I think of SLJ’s one in particular) and great color palet.
At the end you get a reverse moral where you despise every character: fighting against all is worth nothing, better stick to stereotypes and avoid Adam and Eve’s mistake.

Ps: you should really peek into the movie to watch Halle Berry playing a junkie. Motherfucker.