Manray

Baboozled

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In this scene, Manray dances for the producers for the first time. To me, the cinematography is notable in that it explicitly highlights the “performance” theme of the film– Manray stands on the table like stage, surrounded by onlookers. Sloane is visibly uncomfortable while the other man is enjoying the performance, yet they are almost peripheral to Dunwitty, as Manray’s performance is physically directed towards him. The viewer actually cannot look at Manray without looking at Dunwitty’s head. Manray’s dance is not only a performance in that he is dancing for the three people in the room, but it is also in the very performance of the racist caricature that becomes the center of the rest of the film. In some sense, his performance becomes his identity. It’s also interesting to note the three screens (two TVs and one computer) facing Manray dancing, almost as if to capture or at least judge his performance as well. However, what also faces Manray are the pictures of great black performers in history. The black and white picture of Willie Mays actually stands out the most in the shot. This emphasizes notions of performance but also juxtaposes Manray’s performance with that of other black entertainers and emphasizing its strangeness and almost a sense of judgement/shame.

Lastly, Delacroix is not featured in this shot, yet he is known to be in the room during the performance. (He emerges when Manray stops dancing). This emphasizes Delacroix’s ‘behind the scenes’ role in the show, but his role as its creator, as he is presenting his creation to an audience (particularly for the approval of a white audience). We see later in the film, however, that Delacroix’s behind the scenes role is crucial to the success of the film; as stated by a female TV producer later, the show only works because Delacroix created it and he’s black (“so it can’t be racist”). With this reading, the fact that Sloane and the other black man are placed behind him (along with the pictures and statues), all facing Dunwitty, seems to purport that they authorize Manray’s performance as okay as they physically “stand behind” him.

Bamboozled

In this scene, Pierre and Manray are discussing Sloan, whom in the previous scene, Pierre has fired.  Manray tells Pierre that he has made a mistake, and Pierre responds by telling Manray that Sloan got the assistant job by sleeping with Pierre.  Pierre calls Sloan an “opportunist,” which is ironic considering that Pierre himself uses the minstrel show as  an opportunity for fame and Hollywood success.  Manray is visibly upset by the news and in the next scene confronts her about the situation.

The scene takes place in a corporate boardroom and features two cut outs- one of Manray and one of Womack, who has quit the show.  The screenshot of the scene (1:40:08), portrays the cutouts as a sort of out-of-body extension of the two men.  The two cutouts run opposite to the tone and setting of the scene. Manray is very serious throughout the scene (as one usually is in a corporate boardroom) but every shot of him includes his cutout.  It acts as a looming reminder of his appearance to the world as solely entertainment, and highlights the dehumanizing aspect of minstrelsy.  The viewer cannot see him without seeing Mantan, and it influences the way we interpret what he’s saying.  Pierre is  placed next to Womack’s cutout, as if to say that Pierre has taken Womack’s place.  Womack quit as an act of protest as he realized that he was being exploited- something that Manray had yet to realize and Pierre will not accept.  Every shot of Pierre in this scene includes the cutout as well.  It creates a similar effect as Manray’s cutout.  It presents both men, though they are stern, as if they have a permanent “joke” attached to them, which they both cannot escape.  The background of the skyline highlights that they have both “made it” and are successful but the other aspects of the scene stress the cost of that success.

 

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