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February 27, 2021
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Black Snake Moan
(2007-03-19)
(wgvu) - Black Snake Moan is a hoot and a holler! Director Craig Brewer has taken the same understated artistry that made Hustle and Flow such a beguiling portrait of small-time pimps and had applied it to Southern Gothic with an additional jolt of exploitation. Christina Ricci is Rae, the town floozy of rural, poverty stricken Tennessee town. Rae has been brutalized her entire life, and is over-come with a feverish grief when her soldier boyfriend, played by Justin Timberlake, leaves for Iraq. (clip) Within hours after the soldier's left town, Rae is gobbling drugs, slamming alcohol, and gone wild with sexual promiscuity. She's beaten and dumped along the side of a dirt road that just happens to run past a secluded farm owned by Lazarus, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Lazarus takes Rae in and after he believes her to be possessed and decides to cure her. She wakes up chained to his radiator. (clip) Lazarus is hurting himself, after his wife leaves him for his younger brother. He sees in Rae a way to exorcise his own demons, but he's got an even better path to healing than that: because Lazarus is a real-deal, down-home Tennessee bluesman. (clip) Black Snake Moan is a fantastic flick that straddles the line of exploitation and Old Testament redemption. It harkens visually to B movies of the 60s and 70s, but also presents its material free of camp. Ricci spends most of the film in panties and a torn shirt, and much of the time in chains, and so film theorists will have a heyday with the male/female politics. The movie is bookended with conversation from classic bluesman Son House, who breaks the blues down into a simple formula between men and women. The overt racial politics between blacks, whites, and within the rural black community are also integral to the story, and Samuel L. Jackson wears the mantle of the wise old man as good as he did as the slick snake killer in Snakes on a Plane. Well, probably even better, since this is a serious slice of cinema, as opposed to bone-stupid-fun, like SoP. Black Snake Moan is everything I've mentioned, but it's also probably the best damn fictional movie about the blues, too. Righteous! © Copyright 2021, wgvu