Throughout the film, Lee empowers women through their ownership of sexuality but at times undercuts it through the use of music. In the musical scene at 1:21.40, Lee utilizes the song “Oh Girl” which preaches the powerlessness of men without women in their lives, “Have you ever seen such a helpless man.” Though the lyrics place the power in the hands of the women, their behavior in response to the song demonstrates the opposite as they slowly succumb to the song.They were only successful in resisting the “stimulation” of the music through the assistance of ear plugs. The dependence upon these ear plugs emphasizes the inability of women to resist temptation set forth by men without outside aid. The ownership of women’s sexuality is the only consistent source of power for these women, yet the oversimplified “Operation Hot and Bothered” is nearly successful by men in taking that power back.
Inside Man starts with “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” a Bollywood film track, a rather unconventional choice for a film that has no Bollywood connections in its plot or aesthetic.
As we rewatched the final scenes in Crooklyn today, I started to take note of how the soundtrack complemented and in some ways, drove the scenes it accompanied . In particular, the scenes set to The Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child” were particularly powerful. These scenes were the most emotional for me, as I was caught between feeling pride and admiration for Troy’s strength, but also a deep sorrow for this young child who just suffered an irreparable loss. The uplifting lyrics, combined with an upbeat snare and choir-like singing, juxtaposed next to the despair of the events just reiterated Troy’s loss. The idea of things “getting easier, brighter” were so hard to stomach because I didn’t want Troy to have to understand what it was like to need this kind of hope so early on in her life.
It starts as she shoulders the responsibility of “her mother’s happiness” by being coerced into getting dressed for her mother’s funeral. The camera slowly pans onto Troy’s reluctant compliance, pouting as she shuffles down the stairs to the car, the lyrics cooing, “Ooh child, things are gonna get easier, ooh child, things’ll get brighter”. The camera imitates the earlier panning after the funeral and again pans slowly onto the entire family huddled, walking out of the church together. The song overwhelms the light conversations that take place after the wedding. As the lyrics proceed to “Some day, yeah, we’ll get it together and we’ll get it all done, some day, when your head is much lighter, some day, yeah, we’ll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun, some day” the music plays over the conversation taking place between Woody and Clinton as Woody delegates familial responsibility onto Clinton, reflecting how the conversation was tossed aside. As the eldest, Clinton should have shouldered his mother’s responsibilities, but in reality that responsibility is assumed by Troy.
The most emotional scene connected to this song for me is the next one, when Clinton sits down next to Troy, grabs her hand and holds it. That brief moment of sibling intimacy was a testament to the loyalty and strength within families and made me think of my own brother. Throughout the film Clinton often bullies Troy, calling her a “flat chested wench” and excluding her from activities with the other boys. But in this moment as they’re surrounded by strangers, mourning the loss of their mother, he’s supportive, protective. This compounded with a choir-like singing reminding us of their loss and suffering reduces me to tears every time.
Marlon Riggs tells the story of an encounter from his adolescence with “a white boy with grey-green eyes.”
In a film I already thought of as sincerely confessional, this scene struck me as even more intimate and private. The tender zooming-in and zooming-out on the photo of this “white boy,” overlain by Riggs’s soft, carefully-rehearsed narration and Roberta Flack’s wistful song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face; these elements allow us to feel the twin affects of pain and primal desire that Riggs associates with this memory. The love of another here is inseparable from a hatred of the self – “What a joy… what a curse.”
Before we get focused on our midterm posts I figured I would share a little bit about Spike Lee in the news, mostly due to the fact that some people were interested in a little more variety outside of film analysis.
Spike is one of the headliners for the upcoming Red Bull Music Academy Festival that is set to take place in late April and early May. He is giving the talk on May 2nd about how and why he incorporates music into his films. While I am sure we will be stuck at school here, you can tune in online at Red Bull Music Academy Radio. Also, on a personal note, this festival came to my attention because my brother has taken part in producing a documentary called “Kiki” that will be premiering/kicking off the entire festival. While the film is still touring festivals all over ( Sundance, Berlin) I attached a little bio review for anyone who wants to learn more about an underground dance community and its affects on LGBTQ youth. While I haven’t seen the full documentary, I am certain it is thoroughly engaging and thought provoking.
I hope this wasn’t too much of an off topic tangent, I just wanted to throw some other things on the blog that are semi-related to Spike Lee and some of the thematic elements we have discussed thus far. Let me know what you think!
What I would like to focus on, looking at Inside Man, was the opening and closing song of “Chaiyya Chaiyya” written by Bollywood heavy-hitters A. R. Rahman in collaboration with Gulzar. Given the distinctly American blockbuster-crime-thriller-cop-movie feel of the film, I was very surprised to hear a popular Bollywood song as part of the film’s opening sequence. Written originally for the Bollywood romantic thriller Dil Se, I have a hard time seeing how this song relates to the rest of Inside Man. The two romance sub-sub-plots of Denzel Washington and Clive Owens’ respective love interests are so irrelevant to the larger plot that they barely bear mentioning, and had no real effect or impact on the narrative arc of the film. Why then a song whose lyrics are all about passionate love and lovers, walking in the shade together? Is this trying to make sense of an ending where Denzel is about to propose to his girlfriend with the diamond Clive slips to him? An ending that feels disconnected from the rest of the film?
The closing version of the song comes inserted with Punjabi MC’s English rap. He talks about New York, Bollywood loving stories straight out of a film: “that was the moment she pulled the world together / now all I gotta do is show my love back” is a lyric that resonates with the other Hindi lyrics of the song, but not with the film overall. I wanted to bring this up because in previous Spike Lee films, the song at the opening/closing credits provided a valuable lens through which to examine the movie, but I struggle to do the same here.