03 April, 2010

Swingin 'Til The Girls Come Home

I watched my first director's commentary. I don't know why it took me so long when I've always been curious. Something about uncertainty and the idea of 'dead time.' Something about re-watching a film, but not watching it fully, watching it only for possible added insight.

There was really only ever one candidate for this honour, if I'm honest:

This coming just after my chronological Spike marathon, so I was completely ready to get into the mind of Spike Lee. She Hate Me was a film I just totally didn't get in 2004/5, I wasn't convinced I hadn't dreamt it. It was the first film of his I saw, too. Now maybe it does make sense. Slightly. There are so many threads to this film, if only because it's so unraveled. I think I enjoy this film, I'm definitely fascinated by it.

Anyway, an interesting bit. She Hate Me is a real glorious mess, and I don't really like that this seized my attention. But equally, it's the (perceived?) confused and controversial sexual politics portrayed in the film that most of its fierce criticism is rooted in. So. Here, Lee starts off talking about the technical consultant who helped him run a 'lesbian boot-camp' for the female cast:

"...Now, by law I cannot ask anybody their sexual preference so therefore I had to assume that all the women that were auditioning for the film were heterosexual, so therefore I needed someone to inform these actresses and so, Tristan running the boot camp really immersed these actresses into the world of lesbianism, and had field trips and stuff like that so I was not even part of that. And one of the most important things that Tristan told me, early on was she says 'Spike, there's no way that you're going to be able to make a film that's going to appease all the lesbians in the world' and so that was a very, for me, a liberating thing for her to say, because right away I understood that [that] meant that lesbians, like african-americans or any other group, are not one monolithic group, so I was not going to be able to make a film that all lesbians were going to like, and I'm glad she said that.

Before the film came out we had various screenings, advance screenings for lesbians in different areas and different centres around the USA, and it was really split down the line, 50-50. There were lesbians that loved the film, there were lesbians that hated it. But it was interesting that the lesbians of colour liked the film more than the caucasian lesbians. Tristan and I were trying to figure out why this was. I just think that, for a lot of the caucasian lesbians, they couldn't get around the element of penis. I guess that was a stumbling block... There's that school of people that think that any lesbian that's caught within 1000 feet of an erect penis is not a lesbian. And there's this other school that says "Look, y'know, you can't be as hard-line as that." So really it was divided along the penis. The penis was the dividing stick. Amongst the lesbians, that's where it was divided upon. On the almighty penis!"

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