13 August 2015

DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS

DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS

Promotional Title:
 The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint

USA, 2014
Director: Spike Lee

8/10








Due to the fact that director/writer/producer Spike Lee's last couple movies haven't been exactly successful ["Miracle at St. Anna" and the unnecessary "Oldboy" remake were box office bombs; "Red Hook Summer" only reached 41 theaters at its peak], he decided do finance his next movie - another remake - via Kickstarter. He was widely criticized for doing crowdfunding, and even more so after his campaign raised $1.4 million (incl. $10.000 from Steven Soderbergh...), but as always, he gave a fuck and eventually made the movie.


"Da Sweet Blood of Jesus" is the remake of the rather obscure 1973 horror-drama "Ganja & Hess", following wealthy African-American art collector Dr. Hess Green who finds himself overwhelmed with an insatiable thirst for blood after becoming cursed by an ancient artifact of the Ashanti Empire

My expectations towards it weren't exactly high, mainly because of the low Imdb/RT ratings and all the generally negative reviews, but also because I haven't seen or heard of the original before (though I checked it out right after - more about that below), and I'm also not exactly a connoisseur of Spike Lee's work, having seen only two of his films, "Malcolm X" and "Summer of Sam" (I enjoyed them both)... but you know what? For whatever reason, I really, really loved it. It's an insanely weird movie, and I can totally see why so many people don't like it, but there's something so special, so strange about "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus" that just made me fall in love with it.


The movie touches a wide array of provoking / thought-provoking topics, like  religion, addiction, vampirism, murder, suicide, racism, wealth, capitalism, class warfare etc. and stunningly manages to bring it all together in a compelling and intriguing way, thanks to Lee's absolutely terrific direction. Although he keeps the pace very slow and steady, there wasn't a single a moment where I felt bored or annoyed, due to a super-strange but extremely mesmerizing atmosphere that felt like a mix of 80s music-video and 00s Euro-arthouse, to the wonderfully stylish art direction and production design (insanely beautiful interiors, excellent settings and filming locations), and, best of all, to the tremendous feels-like-a-mixtape-soundtrack, consisting of super-cool hip hop & soul tunes from various really awesome unsigned artists. Songs like Govales' "Doors to Nowhere", Buffalo Black's "Enter The Void (Black Hole)" or Siedah Garrett's "As We May Dream" totally knocked me off my socks. And holy shit, there's also some music from legendary Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento! Awesomeness!


Next to all the awesome songs, we get to hear an equally impressive jazzy piano/synth score by the great Bruce Hornsby who once again proves why he frequently gets called one of the greatest pianists alive. The editing is almost flawless, cinematography and camera work are simply magnificent, and although the low budget is rather obvious, I still think that the overall production design looks top-notch. Stephen Tyrone Williams delivers a great performance, playing a fascinating character that feels like a black and wealthy version of George A. Romero's "Martin" crossed with Leonardo di Caprio's version of "The Great Gatsby". The gorgeous Zaraah Abrahams is similarly great, as are the performances by Felicia Pearson or Naté Bova. Highlights: a marvellously erotic lesbian scene, some freaky blood fountains, lots of ace nudity, an overlong yet absolutely stunning Gospel sequence with Raphael Saadiq on the vocals, and some hilarious dialogue, like:
"I'm Lucky Mays." - "Dick." - "You have a last name, Mr. Dick?" - "Yes." - "And?" - "Long." - "Hehe. Mr. Dick Long." - "At your service." - "Are you serious?" - "As Cancer."


Is it better or worse than "Ganja & Hess"? That's a question I'm unable to answer. I watched it the day after I've seen "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus", and to be honest, I didn't really like it, though I'm 100% sure that has to do with the fact that I didn't watch it first. It's an interesting-looking film with some excellent visuals and some superbly funky music, but I just couldn't get into it because I just couldn't get Spike Lee's version out of my head. Maybe in a couple of years, I'll give "Ganja & Hess" a second chance, but for now, I have to pass on this one and get back to the awesomeness of Spike Lee's remake, a splendid and deeply impressing movie that, if it wasn't so unique and stylish and ambitious, could almost be described as Blaxploitation-redo of "Only Lovers Left Alive". Well done, Mr. Lee!


Thanks to Rob Fleming (Prodigy PR) for the screener!

4 comments:

  1. I personally thought it was a pretty drab take on the Ganja & Hess story. Spike Lee can do better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't help it: I simply loved the hell out of it.

      Delete
  2. I wish you had seen them in the other order.

    ReplyDelete

Total Pageviews

:-)

:-)