Friday, July 2, 2010

From Brooklyn to "John Ford country"

If someone asked me which filmmakers they should study to understand what America is all about I would answer John Ford, Clint Eastwood, and Spike Lee. Lee may seem an odd choice considering almost all his movies take place in Brooklyn, and a relatively thin slice of Brooklyn at that. Just as Ford did with his western stories, Lee's Brooklyn tales manage to tell a wider American story. In his hands Bed-Stuy or Bensonhurst becomes a microcosm of us all. Lee (and Ford and Eastwood) "get" both the glory and the shame of the American experience. I would have said all that even before I watched Clockers last night, Lee's 1995 film about street-level drug dealers in the Brooklyn projects. This scene -- accompanied by Terence Blanchard's elegiac cue -- blew me away with its evocation of John Ford and the wide open possibilities of this big beautiful country.

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

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