Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sweet SweetsBacks Baadasss Song

Sweet SweetBack's Baadasss Song (1971)
Dir: Melvin Van Peebles (Watermelon Man/Don't Play us Cheap)
Starring: Melvin Van Peebles (Jaws: The Revenge/Panther)

Well this one is not gonna be easy, SweetBack is widely considered the first Blaxploitation film ever which is not altogether true since Cotton Comes To Harlem came out one year prior, But it still does go down in history as being one of the more influential films of the genre. Honestly my opinion of this film may not be popular but I really did not care for this film much. The film is really an odd one and hard to describe but to me it came off as kind of a Blaxploitation version of Eraserhead because the characters for the most part are all very odd and the soundtrack is so clustered together with random footage thrown together it comes off as a art film more than an actual story driven film throughout.
            The actual story is pretty basic and after a disturbing opening scene of young Sweetback who was apparently raised in a whorehouse has sex with one of the whores we flash forward several years where Sweetback is living with Beetle at the same house and is part of a live sex show performed for perverts ad the high society alike. Beetle is approached by some police about a recent murder that they have no leads on and they ask for a favor of allowing them to bring in one of Beetles men to question in order to make it appear that they are actually on the case. Sweetback is offered to the officers and he is just to be brought in for faux questioning and then released , in order to keep the press off the stations back. While being taken to the station the two officers receive a back up call and they take a young man named Mu Mu into custody and beat him brutally in front of Sweetback when at one point he has had enough and Sweetback attacks and kills the two officers. From this point on the entire remaining duration of the film is literally Sweetback running from the police.

After the attack Sweetback returns to Beetle's place where he is told that he must find somewhere to lay low for awhile until the heat blows over since the cops are on the hunt for Sweetback. As he leaves Sweet is taken into custody by two officers who believe that Sweet has nothing to do with the murder until they see the Bloody Handcuffs on him and then the Commissioner is alerted to the news and the cops are told to beat Sweet and get info on Mu Mu's whereabouts. This leads to some more officers being killed as their squad car is sabotaged by someone while they were away. Knowing he will be blamed for this as well once again Sweet runs. again a large portion of this film is Sweetback running only to occasionally run across some strange folk in the process.

On his travels Sweetback runs into an ex girlfriend who offers to take his cuffs off if he will give her some sexual gratification, while back at Beetle's Place the cops are roughing him up in order to find the where Sweet has headed. After we see Sweet run into Mu Mu and the two fugitives continue to run, until they come across a biker gang and in one of the weirder scenes in the film Sweet is challenged to a duel by the Biker gangs leader who happens to be a woman and the duel is of course of a sexual nature. After pleasing the pres. they supply Sweet and Mu Mu with room and board to hideout , though shortly after  cops arrive and yet again Sweet manages to kill the two officers before Mu Mu is wounded and they are saved by a black biker who has been sent to take Sweet to safety. Sweet instead insists that the Biker takes Mu Mu to get help.

So now Sweetback has decided to head for the Mexican Border and the fuzz is hot on his trail. From this point the last 40 minutes or so of the film is strange choppy footage of Sweet running and the responses of the Neighborhood folk being questioned about Sweetback. The film winds down as Sweet makes his way to the border and he is finally tracked down by a pair of officers and some bloodhounds. The dogs are released and when the barking stops the officers celebrate unaware that sweetback had taken out a few of the dogs and made his way across the Border I believe. Then the credits roll after a interesting statement comes across the screen before the film fades to black.

Sweetback's Baadasss Song is definitely necessary viewing for those who are completists of the genre but honestly there just is not much to it. It reminded me allot of The Brown Bunny with the focus on the main character just running aimlessly the entire film. The whole movie is just a clusterfuck and the acting is downright awful. On top of the frantic film making the soundtrack is strange to say the least, There is only about two entire songs that play through the film and at times the music is overlapped creating a wall of sound that makes it hard to concentrate on what exactly is going on on screen. As I stated before as lame as the movie may be it is in fact a piece of history as it is considered to be one of the forefathers of Black cinema and in some cases this film is quite highly regarded, I just don't get it. Perhaps if the film focussed more on character development and not the main guy just running through the city for what seemed like hours on end this film would have been a nice dark and strange tale especially with some of the side actors being downright odd and would fit right in , in films like Private Parts and Eraserhead but what we get is just sad and truly boring.
Ass-Kickin': 3 ( Not much action in this one and what there is , Is so dark you cannot see what is going on.)
Jive: 4 ( With the exception of Beetle and a few of the random townsfolk, Not much dialog at all)
Funk:  4 ( The title track "Hoppin John" is a solid track and there are a few nice songs but not enough to make it classic)
Playa's and Whitey's:4 ( Not enough development to make the viewer care about anyone in the film)
Ass and Tittay's:5 ( Quite a bit of nudity but not high quality at all , Ugly is ugly naked or not)
Overall on the Funk-O-Tron: 4.5 out of 10


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