Monday, May 18, 2009

Spike's Miracle

Do I need to apologize for always coming late to the table with my discoveries of great meltingpot movies? I think I've already explained that I allowed my Netflix subscription to run out and that the public library is my video store, which explains why I'm always a couple of months...okay, years behind the eight ball.

But I choose to believe that some of you out there have lives like mine and you don't make it to the cineplex as often as you'd like, which is why I continue to post my movie recommendations. So, without further ado (drum roll please)...

You must rent, borrow or buy, Spike Lee'sMiracle at St. Anna. The movie, based on the book by James McBride, is about four Black soldiers who get separated from their regiment in WWII Italy. They end up in a small Tuscan village, surrounded by Nazis soldiers, where they hole up with an Italian family until they can plan their next move.

That's actually only part of the story. The movie is really a thriller/mystery infused with much grander themes, like racism and the human cost of war, and religion and love and revenge. It feels like a real departure for a Spike Lee film, and yet I feel only Spike Lee could have successfully woven the complexities of the Black experience into a "war movie." And yet this is not a movie about Black soldiers. It really is a war movie, where the soldiers happen to be Black. My husband and I stayed up to watch it on Saturday night, woke up still talking about it Sunday morning, and re-watched a few pivotal scenes on Sunday night. And I may watch it again.

Of course, it seems Spike Lee can't go to the bathroom without courting controversy, so just so you feel like I'm being honest here, here is an article
from The Guardian, which details the response some Italians had regarding the "truthiness" of the film. Of course, the film was based on a novel, which doesn't claim to be a true story, so...I'm just saying maybe they were really mad about something else?

And speaking of that novel, I am a big James McBride fan and purchased The Miracle at St. Anna at a book store blow out sale a few weeks ago. I actually forgot I bought it until watching the movie. Can you guess what's on my nightstand now? This is probably the first time I've ever watched a film and then turned to the book.

So has anybody already seen this movie? Did you enjoy it? As a Black woman married to a European man, who has an obsession with noting the Black experience in Europe, I guess I really appreciated seeing another piece of that history. Does anybody have any other books or movies that examine this part of the Black American experience in Europe to recommend? I'm listening.



Dee said...

Finding movies that are in the same vein of Miracle At St. Anna is tough. But...if you don't mind, I can recommend some other movies that chrocicle the black American experience in Europe. Here's some suggestions that you and your hubby might enjoy.

The 1994 movie Foreign Student with Robin Givens and Marco Hofschneider. Based on the memoirs of French author Philippe Labro. He attends a southern college in the 1950s, learns about racism and falls for a young black teacher/cleaning lady.

The 1998 movie Besieged with Thandie Newton and David Thewlis. A British expatriate living in Rome falls in love with his cleaning lady, an African medical student who flees her home amidst political turmoil.

The 2006 movie Irish Jam with Eddie Griffin and Anna Friel. A black rapper goes to Ireland upon winning a poetry contest and saving a small Irish town. Complications ensue when an Irish woman falls for him and his black bride-to-be (whom he ditched at the altar) shows up.

The 1991 movie The Josephine Baker Story. If you're familiar with La Bakaire, as the French call her, then you'll like this movie--if you haven't seen it already. Relates all of her struggles from St. Louis poverty to becoming an overnight sensation in France where she has a string of husbands and lovers, becomes a spy for the French during the Second World War, even being awarded the Legion d'Honneur--the highest medal a citizen can have.

As for the movie...I haven't seen it yet. I'll see if I can find a copy at my local library.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I haven't seen this movie yet. I heard the book was incredible but had read horrible reviews of the movie (it bombed in the U.S.). I was disappointed because I was so looking forward to the movie.

Next time I'm at the video store I will check it out.

I co sign on Besieged. It's Bertolucci so it's very art house but I think it's one of Thandie's best performance.

Most movies in Europe that deal with race do not have black americans characters but Africans and blacks from the Caribbean as they make up the majority of the black population here.

Don't know it this movie was released in the States on DVD. You might find it in the foreign film section of Netflix. It's called Biano & Nero (Black and White).

It's about a rich black french african woman who falls for her husband's Italian co-worker's husband. It was interesting. As Americans we have been dealing with these issues for a while but all of this is still "new" in countries were there wasn't any immigration. What I did like about the movie was the Italian wife was soooooo liberal, working on African issues but when the affair went down she had to check her attitude.

If you see it, I'll be curious to hear what you think.

LT said...


Thanks so much for the reccs! I actually saw Foreign student when I was in college. I don't think I loved it, but now I want to see it again. And Irish Jam? never heard of it. Can't believe it slipped under my radar.

Yeah, I read horrible reviews of the film too, although the Times review I posted wasn't so bad. I honestly think people just feel the need to slam Spike Lee's movies because he's Spike Lee. I thought the movie was exceptional. Not just for themes and plot, but the execution was phenomenal as well. I 'd love to hear your opinion. And thanks for your reccs too. I hope I can find Biano & Nero...I may just have to go outside the library:)

Dee said...

Here are some suggestions for books that might interest you as well.

1. Black Africans in Renaissance Europe by T.F. Earle

2. The Identity Question: Blacks and Jews in Europe and America by Robert Philipson

3. Hitler's Black Victims by Clarence Lusane

4. Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light by Tyler Stovall

5. The 784th Tank Battalion in World War II: History of An African American Armored Unity in Europe by Bill Smith

Biano & Nero sounds like my kind of movie! I'll have to snag a copy of it somewhere.

Anonymous said...

check out when you get the opportunity...Lala Ema gives an account of her life in Granada.