Saturday, March 10, 2007

Black Snake Moan

Thomas DeBari

Black Snake Moan
Written and Directed by Craig Brewer

The movie is drenched in the humidity of the south. A small town farmer Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) is broken. His wife left him with a bottle of moonshine and his blues guitar. His heart turns to a hard rose petal-killing monster. He finds solace in the warmth of his music and the bible. Laz is a stern man shaped by the farmland that carries him through the seasons.
Rae (Christina Ricci), a godless jezebel, runs around fucking and sucking her way through the first half an hour. She is possessed by molestation as a child and now has an uncontrollable void in constant need of filling.
With her character intact she is found beaten and left for dead on the road in front of Lazarus’s house. Lazarus nurses her back to health. Rae reunites with her boyfriend Ronnie (Timberlake) who was in the army, and they get married.

The movie is stylized as a retro and gritty picture. It contains the flair of Tarantino’s vision. The props were beautiful. A purple and metallic electric Gibson Les Paul guitar was owned by Lazarus, as was a chain with an enormous pad lock. The Chain/ chastity belt was used to chain up the half naked Rae while she was “being cured.” Her sexual identity was positioned as the devil. And something that needed to be broken. She is chained to the radiator so she wouldn’t run of during one of her episodes, which starts with the clutching her legs. Chained up she raps her sexuality twisting into sado-masochistic fantasy.

The aesthetic of the movie was saturated. The dream sequences were intensely strobing the near past images and her childhood. Ambiguous, due to the change in the depth of focus on the figures makes dust dreamily rain past the camera lens. The figure presented through this filter was of her molester.

The problem I had with the movie was the canned ending. It felt like Hollywood big budget and there was no final cut for the director’s taste. The film’s overall tone was gritty, with dirt that laid on you, and cicadas that filled the sweat that poured off your face. All the way through to the climax the films drive and feel was succinct. The end was what was horrible about it. In a film about redemption of the main character and the teaching of the bible, everything worked out. But it feels as if Gods wrath has been taken for granted, and in doing so does a great injustice to the characters. After all the grit and heart of the film, they end it with couples counseling for Rae and her boyfriend, and a sunset retreat. Fucking crap.

This is how they should have ended it. The Blues Bar’s dark sweaty purple light fades on Ronnie’s eyes through the window. Son House talks about the blues hurting a man. Reopening at Lazarus’ home Rae and Laz play the guitar and sing. Unchecked Ronnie comes up behind them and shoots Rae in the chest. Turns to Laz and falls as Laz snatches away his gun. The next scene begins with Laz at the jail and talking to Ronnie through the glass. Laz is seen trying to redeem Ronnie through the prison walls. If that was the ending they would respect the game of blues and the characters. Since the director chose this other ending all you can respect is the aesthetics of the film. There was no integrity in the overall consideration for this film, because he did a disservice to the characters individuality.

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