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Film Report on She's Gotta Have It Directed by Spike Lee

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The heroine of ''She's Gotta Have It,'' a movie by the young black film maker Spike Lee, has too many men in her life. She doesn't think so, but each of her three lovers does

The situation is not entirely comic; while the film satirizes selfishness, sexual stereotypes, role-playing among black men and other follies, its presentation of Nola turns serious, even poignant. In fact, the story is so good that I regret the film is sometimes technically messy and some of Mr. Lee's directing experiments ill-conceived. Mr. Lee has said he wrote the film (he also directed and edited it and takes a leading role) with Tracy Camila Johns in mind as Nola. No wonder. She is a luxury to look at, and in time she might become a real dramatic presence.

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Branching off from from the opening shot of Nola speaking directly to the camera, the film’s storytelling structure is somewhere between Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (investigating failed relationships through fragmented and non-linear memories) and a biopic documentary, with multiple talking heads giving their subjective experience of a central figure. In She’s Gotta Have It, most of the talking heads are Nola’s three jilted lovers, presenting jealous and possibly unreliable accounts of her sex life. The film’s structural brilliance, however, comes from the way the film is bookended by Nola’s own voice, proud and unapologetic

In the third act of the film, a progressively-minded contemporary viewer might start to cringe a bit at the way the narrative seems to punish Nola in the film’s climax and try to resolutely “fix” her sexual deviancy, but Nola’s figurative snatching-of-the-mic at the last minute to speak truth feels like an absolute revelation, preternaturally nonjudgmental and celebratory of the sexual spectrum. There are still more elements that deserve essay-length writing in She’s Gotta Have It, including the film’s brief and unexpected foray into full high-contrast color for an interpretive dance sequence, how Nola’s encounters debunk myths and double-standards about bisexuality and lesbianism, as well as multiple detours taken by Lee into still-image slideshows that highlight both the idyllic and harsh aspects of black life in Brooklyn. To do so here might be taking on too many subjects at once, so I’ll close by saying that She’s Gotta Have It represents so much of what good independent cinema can (or should?) be. It’s tightly and carefully written, with every line and sequence contributing to character development and overall thematic purpose. It’s unconventionally told, despite being a simple story at the core. It’s beautifully photographed on a low budget, and made all the more charming for its less-is-more approach to visuals and editing. It’s also wonderfully counter-cultural, tackling the touchier aspects of modern life that are pushed to the sidelines of mainstream life. Lee’s steadfast dedication to bold singularity in the film has paid off; She’s Gotta Have It still feels like a fresh and inventive approach to cinematic storytelling thirty years later, and it stands out as one of Spike Lee’s absolute best.

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Thus, this is the first time Spike has created a series for television

It was Executive Producer Tonya Lewis Lee’s idea to base a series on She’s Gotta Have It. Spike’s work spans many genres, so it makes sense that he would foray into the ever- popular world of binge-watching. In terms of the differences between the mediums, episodic storylines can branch off further from the centerline. More themes can be developed and a wider cast of characters can be explored. Spike took advantage of having more time; his films are almost never shorter than two hours, so having five hours to tell this story was still not enough. Give that man a canvas and he will fill it and paint on the back, too.

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