Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Revisting Spike's "She's Gott'a Have It"

Spike Lee is a filmmaker who is a strong filmmaker. I've always thought his films are inventive, a bit experimental, and of course provocative. He's done so many films since "She's Gott'a Have it. In each film you can see how far Lee has come, and how good a filmmaker he's become. When I feel uninspired I go back to films that impress me, and have inspired me. She's Gott'a have it was Spike's first film, and when it premiered it made waves. A small little film about a women (Noela) and her relationship with three men. Lee even plays one of the men in the film.

The film was shot on a shoe-string, and the budget is said to be about $250,000 dollars. For a first feature it has some interesting performances in it, but you can see that the film is a bit crude due to it's lack of resources, but what resources Lee has he uses and he uses them effectively. Lee says in interviews that it was only during "Do the right thing" that he became comfortable with dealing with actors. In "She's Gott'a have it" Lee doesn't seem to be lacking in that area. Maybe it's the quality of the actors, but for such a small film he makes good use of the actors performances. A lot of times the actors talk right to the camera breaking that "fourth wall" and letting the audience in. In some films this would slow down a film, but here it doesn't. Instead it makes us more and more interested in the characters. Some would say that this was a cost cutting technique, but here in this film it works. After all filming interviews isn't too difficult, but it is the way Lee, or should I say Ernest Dickerson, the films director of photography, who makes those shots stand out.

The film was shot over the course of 12 days, and it was Dickerson's 3rd film as a DP, and Dickerson contributes a lot to the film. Lee knew Dickerson's talent, and was very confident of his DP, and it shows. Lee & Dickerson point to the film "Raging Bull" as big influence on how they shot "She's Gott'a have It". From the speed changes and sound design "Raging Bull" influenced a lot of Lee's need for experimentation. In the book "Spike Lee: that's my story and I'm sticking to it" Lee is quoted as saying that Scorsese was always playing with the medium of film and using it to heighten the experience the film was giving the audience. It was Dickerson's suggestion to shoot the film in black & white. Both were fans of such films as "Stranger than Paradise", "Breathless", and "Rashomon".

Like any good filmmaker Lee knew who to contact when he had trouble such as fast-action sex scene. It is there that he turned to Barry Brown for help. Brown also assisted in the sound design.

After watching "She's Gott'a have it" and reading Spikes books about the making of the film, and his latest on his career and his films you have to come to one conclusion, and that is Lee surrounds himself with good people who can contribute to the film. From the actors to the crew I sincerely believe Lee learns how to make a good film, and that's what a good director is suppose to do. All through the making of his first film Lee's production was on the verge of shutting down, but he managed the momentum, and in the end made a really good film.

I still think the film works, and it is pretty unique. Of course having come out when it did the film seemed to be just waiting to explode in the national scene. But as Lee continues to make films he gets better always pushing the medium further and further. Back when "She's Gott'a Have It" was playing Lee even knew how to market himself and the film by selling merchandise to the crowds waiting on line to see his film.

Spike Lee remains and will always be one of America's most prolific film directors, and you can see all this in his first feature "She's Gott'a Have it". It's all there, and Lee has only gotten better as the years go by.

No comments: