Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.
A successful and married black man contemplates having an affair with a white girl from work. He's quite rightly worried that the racial difference would make an already taboo relationship even worse.Written by
Murray Chapman <email@example.com>
Really interesting and epic tale that deals with a sensitive subject but maintains other aesthetical qualities.
Lots of hate and not much love is the feeling I get when looking this film up; ironic then that the idea of interracial relationships in 1990s America has much the same stance on the idea stick to what you know or else people who have long since died will be angry at you, oh and the current parent who hasn't died (the father in both cases) will either threaten to or indeed literally beat you senseless.
I don't think Jungle Fever, directed by Spike Lee, is all that bad in fact I found it interesting, engaging and somewhat tragic which means I liked it; I liked it a lot. I think one of the primary reasons this film works is that it achieves something extremely difficult and that's being able to get across a narrative of love, loss and temptation all the time being able to put across and offer opinions on race and ethnicity whilst also being able to merge in a healthy and satisfying amount of humour which, oddly enough, only really comes along when the film is dealing with its 'tragedy' sub-plot involving Gator (Jackson). The idea behind the character is tragic but it is Jackson's presence and approach to the material that makes it humorous: a crack addict that turns up at the most inconvenient of times asking for money, often doing a little dance in order to get it; but he does not learn the wrong of his ways and that's the tragic thing.
So you see, the fact that Spike Lee has created this universe for all these issues to be digested and be put across all the time keeping you interest with some individual acting performances, good music and a fair amount memorable dialogue moments is extremely impressive my favourite of which is Spike Lee himself portraying a character who goes up in extremities when he learns of an affair, the fact the wife doesn't know and then that the girl is actually white. Jungle Fever starts out in pretty humorous yet tragic circumstances, echoing the atmosphere to come for the rest of the film; the pre-film titles have road signs displaying things like 'drugs, left; crack, right' which is a damned if you do, damned if you don't idea that works amongst the upbeat music. It's this sort of juxtaposition in visuals that works and challenges the viewer as well as possibly being Lee getting across what life is like in these sorts of places 'No matter where you turn, you cannot escape certain failure'.
So, to have the rather oddly named Flipper Purify (Snipes) as an architect who is living a good life with a great job with great prospects with a wonderful wife and kid gives us the sense he is an achiever but he cannot live in a district that is pleasant, so that 'tag' that you never escape the ghetto is present. Likewise, Flipper is a big cheese in his company but he must answer to two white yuppies ahead of him and when things get a little heated, it seems the two white men have defeated the hard working black character. But it is Flipper's own stupidity that sees him go on his journey of hell and self-discovery and all in the name of curiosity which is the film's only real flaw but I cannot hold it too much against it. This is a film in which everybody gets a bite of the cherry; the African-American characters in the film are people who are striving to survive (the credits suggesting the ghetto is a no win place suggests this) doing whatever means necessary no matter how high up you are (crack head or rich architect); Italians are people who perhaps come across as quite needlessly aggressive and yet are the sorts who hold onto values and friendships despite whatever situations arise they are also people who look out for their sisters.
Then there are the women; in what is one of Jungle Fever's more remarkable scenes, a half dozen women sit around and consolidate Drew (McKee) as she comes to terms with the affair. It is remarkable because it shows women have a voice and they are voicing their opinions in a true-to life manner remarkable that Lee scripts this scene and shoots it not in a voyeuristic manner but one that lets us know how they feel; I wonder how many other films revolving around an male instigated affair would stop to include this scene? Jungle Fever is a film that has heart but it has brains to boot; there is another great scene when Frankie Botz (Badalucco) is being wound up over his girl and he slams people who are Aryan, blaming Hollywood (another Spike Lee scripted dig?) for it but this is right after heart of gold Italian Paulie Carbone (Turturro) points out that Italian's several decades ago who paid the blacks equal wages were hung for doing so; this echoes the overall theme of the film in a single scene, that being that "it is the 1990s, things like this happen" says Debi Mazar's character and that the disapproving parents should not be too affected by something that supposedly insults tradition.
Jungle Fever is not about 'x' is black and shouldn't date 'y' because they're white; if anything it's about the reason to stick with your partner: if Flipper was curious as to what 'white' would've been like, surely that echoes compliment to Drew because he doesn't consider he so; even though she has been bullied over the light tone of her skin. Spike Lee has made something here that is epic and intriguing; tragic and yet funny at times. This is a modern piece trying to push out what's wrong and what's right: 'stay with partner' is better than 'stay with race' but that doesn't mean you have to choose the latter if you cannot keep the former.
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