Spike Lee is often called a revolutionary film maker. A voice of the 90s, who shook cinema out of its easy life. This is actually both short sighted and boldly incorrect. Lee is one of the greatest social commentary film makers of all time. His films challenged certainly, they also reflected the state of those and our times. DO THE RIGHT THING is an early example of this. It explores an America that was a hang over from the post 60s issues that had semingly festered in the public sphere. Racism, prejudice, lack of opportunity, unemployment, police brutality and much more, had caused deep social division and imbalance. Black community and ethic origin people suffered exponentially in all of this. Their prospects were far lower than their white cousins. 90 times less likely to progress, either financially or in opportunities of education and employment. Health and living standards were also lower. This lead to the conversation about how and why it manifested like this…
Salvatore “Sal” Fragione (Danny Aiello) owns a pizzeria in Brooklyn. He employs delivery man Mookie (Spike Lee) as a voice of the neighbourhood and because he knew his mother. When local entertainer Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito), becomes upset over the pizzeria’s Wall of Fame, because it has only Italian actors on it. Sal disagrees. He believes an Italian pizzeria in a should showcase only Italian actors. Even if it is in a black neighborhood. The wall becomes a symbol of racism and communal disharmony. The tensions rise. They become a part of the protest and then a stand against the agressive anti black movement that is core in the pizzaria.
Often you hear of the films mise en scenes (colour palettes in particular are potent here). However thanks to the election of Donald Trump, the very important and need I say salient point is this. Race in America has been and will always be, a combustable mix of politics and positioning. Spike Lees DO THE RIGHT THING masterfully develops both themes in his stunning work. He directly asks the questions of race, culture, identity, cohension and American legacy in his melting pot of a neighbourhood. Who you are and where you came from, fractures the identity and opinions of each community. Race is a dynamic and unending series of division and unity. Its hard to watch sometimes. Its also refreshing in the times we live in. A film that stands up to agendas and lets them run.
I have reviewed the DVD release of DO THE RIGHT THING, to compair it. The 4K adds a lot of very important things. It cleans the colour pallette. Making it bolder and melds the thematic ideas. The other thing is the light loss on the night time scenes. This was a bled on screen, one which adds a clarity and a tone. So its good. Also no ellow hue over the film.
For me, you have 3 ery good extras to focus on. Firstly Twenty Years Later, an interview programme from 2009 featuring Lee and members of the cast and crew. Importantly this has been run over before but I love Lee talking here. He seems to know what the film meant to him and also what was lost. New interviews with costume designer Ruth E. Carter, camera assistant Darnell Martin, New York City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., and writer Nelson George. A series of very interesting points are raised here. Very much the exploration of the film via the eyes of those who watched it. An essay by critic Vinson Cunningham. Cunningham is a clever, clear and coherent political film essayist. This is a great piece.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- New 4K digital restoration, approved by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
- Introductions by Lee
- Making “Do the Right Thing,” a documentary from 1988 by St. Clair Bourne
- New interviews with costume designer Ruth E. Carter, camera assistant Darnell Martin, New York City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., and writer Nelson George
- Interview with editor Barry Alexander Brown from 2000
- Programs from 2000 and 2009 featuring Lee and members of the cast and crew
- Twenty Years Later, an interview programme from 2009 featuring Lee and members of the cast and crew
- Music video for Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” directed by Lee, with remarks from rapper Chuck D
- Behind-the-scenes footage
- Cannes Film Festival press conference from 1989
- Deleted and extended scenes
- Original storyboards, trailer, and TV spots
- PLUS: An essay by critic Vinson Cunningham, and extensive excerpts from the journal Lee kept during the preparation for and production of the film
is his masterwork.