Number One With a Bullet!

Director Spike Lee makes the headlines by taking the tabloid approach to his disco-era thriller Summer of Sam

In Lee's stark addition to the "newspaper movie" genre, it's fitting that the director should make his requisite cameo appearance as a TV journalist who gets the "darker perspective" on Son of Sam from black folks in Bed-Stuy, while the white-haired former Post columnist Jimmy Breslin appears as New York's voice of authority ("there are eight million stories in the naked city, and this is one of 'em"). Reporting is racial in Summer of Sam--an angle that, per usual for Lee's films, has already been borne out in the real world by charges that the director has stereotyped Italian Americans. In the press room at Cannes, I overheard a white journalist filing his fatuous radio review over the phone: "I think this film proves that Spike Lee knows more about black people than he knows about white people."

Is it any wonder that Lee's first movie without black actors in lead roles would come under such attack? At the film-festival press conference, a reporter from Boston posed the question in colorblind terms: Would this film have been as controversial if someone else had made it? "When I choose a story to make a film," Lee replied, "I'm not even thinking about whether it's going to be controversial. I make films that I would like to see." In other words: He makes controversial films.


Extra! Extra! Bebe Neuwirth and John Leguizamo in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam
Extra! Extra! Bebe Neuwirth and John Leguizamo in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam

Summer of Sam starts Friday at area theaters.

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