Once In A Lifetime: Spike Lee & Do The Right Thing

I saw a 35mm print of Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989) at the Egyptian Theater tonight with Spike Lee in attendance and it was probably one of the best film experiences I have ever had in my film life.

He is, hands-down, one of the greatest film makers that has ever existed. While I am prone to hyperbole in general, this statement is not one of my “OMG ARIEL DRAMA statements.”

The first time I saw this movie I was so embarrassed because there was nudity in it and I was watching it with my parents. On the other hand, that scene? It was one of the first times I felt any kind of erotic feelings in my body. I was also 11 years old. It is the scene where Spike Lee worships Rosie Perez’ naked body with ice. It is scorched into my brain forever and I am forever grateful to Ernest Dickerson & Lee for providing me with images of a man blessing a woman’s body, a mother’s body, for existing.

The film is loud, in charge. It’s punk fucking rock. I cried throughout the entire film.

It’s 2018 and we have seen the deaths of so many young black men and NO ONE HAS LEARNED ANYFUCKINGTHING. Did no one see this film?

What is it that allowed Sal to sit there, in silence, while his goddamn son Pino chased Smiley off right after they had a very explicit conversation about why Sal wanted the restaurant to stay in the neighborhood? Racism. By saying or doing nothing, you say and do EVERYTHING. That one scene is the key for me.

This film is more emotionally viable to me that Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1940), as much as I have a Welles-obsession and have since I was a baby film girl. I rocked myself back and forth in my chair and memories of the LA Riots came rushing back to me like a broken faucet as I saw this film again on a big screen as a 40-year-old woman.

Spike’s Q&A was incredible. Short answers when needed, lengthy ones when necessary. A very potent look when the subject of goddamn Driving Miss Daisy came up (and rightfully so). His exposition on the power of cinema to drive real fucking change hit me HARD, especially as a moving image archivist. He spoke of his documentary Four Little Girls (Spike Lee, 1997), its place in the National Film Registry and how it had actually  catalyzed the reopening of that court case, allowing the investigation into what happened. This is what we strive for as archivists and preservationists: ACTION. CHANGE. MOTHERFUCKING JUSTICE.

I saw things in this film I had never seen before- when I was a young girl, I thought the firemen were trying to put out the fire at Sal’s Pizzeria. Now? I saw these same images as those I recognize from Civil Rights footage/stills of firehoses being used against POC. This is a painful film, painfully powerful, painfully important.

I cannot possibly do justice to everything I am thinking tonight about my experience or everything I heard, from Spike, from the film, from my own heart.

I am also incredibly grateful to have stayed for the 35mm of Crooklyn (Spike Lee, 1994) because WOW.
Anyways, I am detailing this at 5am because I have nowhere to write this but here. I am not getting paid to write anywhere or anything like that but I really needed to document this experience. I wish you all could’ve been there with me. I wanted to hold your hand.

 

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