BlackKKKlansman (2018)
August 12, 2018 5:24 AM - Subscribe

The latest Spike Lee Joint - based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado who successfully managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.(Or, as the opening titles say: "Dis joint is based on some fo' real, fo' real sh*t".)

John David Washington (son of Denzel) stars as Stallworth, who teams up with fellow officer Phillip "Flip" Zimmerman (Adam Driver) on an undercover investigation of the Ku Klux Klan; Stallworth starts the investigation with a series of phone calls, and enlists Zimmerman to be his double for the in-person contact. Their ruse is successful enough that Stallworth is able to make personal phone calls to David Duke himself (Topher Grace), and Duke comes to preside over "Stallworth"'s induction into the Klan.

The film premiered at Cannes in May, and received a six-minute standing ovation. Currently certified 97% fresh on RottenTomatoes.com.
posted by EmpressCallipygos (42 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I got curious about the "what actually happened and what was dramatic license", and...not that much was fabricated at all. It's wild.

One of the actually-happened details: apparently, after the ceremony to induct new members into the Klan, they screened D. W. Griffith's Birth Of A Nation as a celebratory thing with the new members' friends and family. Pretty dang icky.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 AM on August 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


Previously discussed on the blue, when the trailer came out and after the standing ovation at Cannes.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:57 AM on August 12, 2018


Gonna take a guess without looking that the racist cop facing consequences was the fabrication.
posted by Artw at 9:25 AM on August 12, 2018 [6 favorites]


Joke is on me, that specific person and the person he assaulted did not exist.

Fantastic movie, got a very boisterous crowd reaction throughout, which made the dead silence at the end even stronger.

I must admit, I might not have been quite ready for that last bit.
posted by Artw at 9:53 AM on August 12, 2018 [5 favorites]


Also: did we previously know there was a back-up Buscemi?
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on August 12, 2018 [19 favorites]


Artw, no, and it's a relief to know there's one for emergencies!

This blew me away as no film has since The Death of Stalin. It piles up all these layers of realism and surrealism -- the weirdness of the true story creates a feeling that anything can happen, and Lee and his collaborators lever open that feeling to let in heightened optimism, heightened anxiety and horror, an overwhelming feeling that shit's out of control in 1979 and 2018, which of course is true.

It's not interested in subtlety when it comes to its social and political argument, but the characters are subtle, and that's very good. We see that Ron and Flip are exhilarated by trolling these people who want to murder them, that they're afraid for their lives, that they're intellectually fascinated, that they're acting out a degree of internalized self-hatred which is also leading them towards greater self-actualization and pride, but they only lightly touch on it in conversation. A lesser movie would've underplayed the politics and overplayed the people, but this one made all the right choices.

Adam Driver is ridiculously good in this. He's kind of stuck with his Kylo Ren hair and physique right now, and these aren't prepossessing tools for a character like Flip, but he turns them to his purpose like the craftsman he is. I've never seen a man look so embarrassed by his own shoulders.
posted by thesmallmachine at 11:49 AM on August 12, 2018 [15 favorites]


Gonna take a guess without looking that the racist cop facing consequences was the fabrication.
--
Joke is on me, that specific person and the person he assaulted did not exist.


Well, the consequences and that specific assault didn't exist. But Stallworth has said that there was hearsay about a particular cop having shot a black man with....er, questionable motivation, but no one was looking into it.

Also - and I'm going to try being spoiler-free - there were a couple of big things that the KKK did in the movie that in reality they only talked about doing (although Stallworth using his intel to send extra squad cars out to particular locations where he knew cross-burnings were planned, to scare them out of it, was real). And while the first undercover gig he got sent on did happen, he didn't meet any love interest in the process. But other than that the only things I read that were changed were all mostly cosmetic and dramaturgical changes (the KKK didn't list a phone number in an ad, it listed a P.O. Box; he wasn't that new to the force when he started this intel; stuff like that).

The real Stallworth has been in a couple interviews, and I kind of dig it when people ask him if he really was able to fully sign up for the KKK. He gets a bit of a twinkle in his eye, reaches into his wallet - and pulls out the membership card to show off.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on August 12, 2018 [12 favorites]


Oh, and Stallworth has said another change was "they made my hair about an inch taller in the movie."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:58 PM on August 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


This movie was really remarkable--I saw it on the same night that I saw Eighth Grade, and I haven't really recovered from either. The casting is so inspired. Not only Washington and Driver but also and especially Topher Grace as David Duke. There were times when I felt like the movie was too feel good, like a typical biopic, and too on the nose politically, but then you're drawn into watching the Charlottesville footage, held captive by it, held accountable for it, and realize how intentional and well-integrated the whole thing is. Flip's account of passing for Christian and then being forced to confront his identity by the hateful rhetoric around him really rang true for me. Last year, I remember feeling similarly terrified and marginalized though I've often passed.

Fascinating movie. Really good art.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:49 AM on August 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


I increasingly think that, except in very rare cases, and often negatively, art has less power to change the world than comment on it. I doubt this film will have the sort of impact that Birth of a Nation did -- it won't unmake the Klan the way the older film made the Klan. But the commentary is biting and painful and necessary, and the closing few minutes are devestating.

I wish art did have the power for good that we sometimes think it does, because this film was a shot directly at the rotted core of the Trump administration.
posted by maxsparber at 8:17 AM on August 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


Flip's account of passing for Christian and then being forced to confront his identity by the hateful rhetoric around him really rang true for me. Last year, I remember feeling similarly terrified and marginalized though I've often passed.

I've dipped my toe into discussions of the film on Reddit, and there were a couple comments about the cross burning scene they have at the very end- there's a shot that singles out a specific Klansman, and starts to peek under his hood (his head is upturned, and you can juuuuust sort of see his chin).

For some reason a couple of commenters were afraid that that particular Klansman was Flip, and I have been like, "were you listening to the stuff he was saying in the squad room?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:28 AM on August 13, 2018


For some reason a couple of commenters were afraid that that particular Klansman was Flip, and I have been like, "were you listening to the stuff he was saying in the squad room?"

Not only that, but his cover was already blown at this point.
posted by nikitabot at 9:49 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's a very r/movies theory.
posted by Artw at 10:34 AM on August 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


The movie doesn't mention that Denver's (70 miles away from CO Springs) mayor Stapleton was a kkk member, nor that the shopping center built on the site of the former airport still carries his name.
posted by brujita at 3:36 PM on August 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Okay, so I was telling my husband of the absurd theory on the internet that Flip is the Klansman at the end and he was all, "Yeah. Duh."

According to him, it is totally Flip because he's not finished with the investigation and is actively continuing the investigation even though the captain called them off. None of the actual Klansmen who live saw him at the scene of the explosion, so technically he could still be undercover.
posted by teleri025 at 10:37 AM on August 14, 2018


The terrible Klan wife tho.
posted by maxsparber at 11:26 AM on August 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


The Flip theory doesn't make sense. The phone call scene prior pretty much destroys any possibility of continued undercover work by Flip. I felt at the time he was trying to convey the emotional power of the burning cross to the members.
Regarding the footage of Charlottesville, I realized that the way the event is spoken of in the press is utterly misleading. I try to avoid watching things I can't un-see, so I hadn't seen the video of the attack. It is nauseating that our popular media resist referring to it as a murder.
Pretty much a perfect movie for the times. It will be a challenge for the Academy for sure, because how can this not be Best Picture? (Shocked. Shocked! etc. etc.)
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 12:25 PM on August 14, 2018 [9 favorites]


The scene where Ron has Flip take a Polaroid of him with Duke and Felix (?) and Ron throws his arms around them at the moment the shutter clicks. So, so fantastic. I was afraid, though, that the movie was going to take a sharp turn into seriousness right there and Ron would get beaten (or worse).
posted by scratch at 4:46 PM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


That final scene with the knock and the corridor, after things had been going a bit too well for a while...
posted by Artw at 4:48 PM on August 14, 2018


I was afraid, though, that the movie was going to take a sharp turn into seriousness right there and Ron would get beaten (or worse).

Yeah, that was a scene where the mask of Duke's nerdy suit-wearing faux gentility drops and you're confronted with his underlying menace.
posted by nikitabot at 6:52 PM on August 14, 2018


I just watched this - went in completely blind, purposefully barely knowing anything about it. It was the most emotionally impactful movie I have probably ever seen. I had not watched the end footage before, and it was devastating. That this movie is in wide release is basically the only hopeful thing I am able to take away from it...
posted by gemmy at 7:35 PM on August 14, 2018 [10 favorites]


It's interesting how Lee combined like, other material and collage and visual footnotes to augment the standard film narrative - like it felt more like a film studies lecture in a good way, where you juxtapose material from different eras and conditions.

as for the ending - well I saw a very packed mostly old white liberal showing on the UWS and I'm pretty sure from the reaction that was the first time they had seen that footage.

It's easy to forgot not everyone is mainlining news and getting on the ground updates of our fascist nightmare world every day.
posted by The Whelk at 11:49 PM on August 14, 2018 [8 favorites]


Did anyone think that Duke knew something was up when he shook hands with Felix who then started tapping out a message to Duke on the wrist?
posted by jadepearl at 2:07 AM on August 15, 2018


That’s just the KKK secret handshake.
posted by maxsparber at 3:51 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Having now had some time to read up on the various reviews and things, I have to say that I didn't think it was Flip at the end. It doesn't make sense, and I don't feel like Flip would get flipped like that, as it were. I may be wrong, but it didn't fit IMHO.

It makes sense to me that we are supposed to feel like we know that person under the hood, because it could be anyone under there - people we know and love. Until the hood comes off, you don't know who it is - that felt to me like the point of the shot.

By the way, both Adam Driver (who I don't normally much like) and Topher Grace (same) were excellent. And John David Washington, wow! Some really good acting going on in this movie. I particularly liked seeing Jasper Pääkkönen, who was also very very good here.
posted by gemmy at 9:06 AM on August 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


There's been, like, one Jew ever in the KKK and he was wildly delusional. If this movie were to end with a Jewish guy actually joining the KKK for real, that's a different film.

I think Spike Lee's point was probably that all white guys with goatees sort of look alike.
posted by maxsparber at 9:09 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


It makes sense to me that we are supposed to feel like we know that person under the hood, because it could be anyone under there - people we know and love. Until the hood comes off, you don't know who it is - that felt to me like the point of the shot.

Some Redditeers are still insisting it could be Flip because "that's the whole point, you're supposed to get that even despite being strongly opposed to the Klan someone can still be convinced to support them" and "it's a comment on how white people don't understand their own racism".

I'm starting to regret even venturing into Reddit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:24 AM on August 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


Like Artw said, it's a very /r/ movies theory.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:33 AM on August 15, 2018


The dumb nonsense about Deckard being a replicant is their very favorite part of any movie ever and they desperately want to see it applied everywhere.
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on August 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


Just saw a really interesting counter-theory that it wouldn't surprise me if it was actually the point -

That it may be the racist cop that they did the sting on at the end.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:14 AM on August 15, 2018




That Klansman with the chin... was society.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:17 AM on August 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


It was WhiteKKKlansman, being set up for the sequel.
posted by Artw at 11:07 AM on August 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I also hadn't seen the footage from Charlottesville prior to watching this, and it pretty much destroyed me.

I wasn't a huge fan of some of the dialogue because of its lack of subtlety ("someone like David Duke in power? That could never happen!") but the performances were good and I appreciated the movie overall.

However, having just read Boots Riley's points ... ugh. I'm sure that the truth is somewhere in the middle (and Stallworth still has his membership card), but meh.
posted by minsies at 8:02 AM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Whoever is responsible for casting Topher Grace is a straight up genius.

I did NOT realize that was not Steve Buscemi.

The shot in the last scene on Ron and Patrice going down the corridor with guns drawn seemed very Tarantino influenced. I noticed SO MANY shots of audiences in this movies, from the Kwame Ture talk to the viewing of Birth of a Nation to the lynching story told by Harry Belafonte, I couldn't help but see that as an indictment of the glorification of violence and a reference to the burning movie theater in Inglourious Basterds. I couldn't get 'Black Death Spectacle' out of my head during the Belafonte scene.
posted by bq at 9:12 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


Tarantino’s all about lifting from blaxploitation so the similarity makes so sense there.
posted by Artw at 9:16 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


The shot in the last scene on Ron and Patrice going down the corridor with guns drawn seemed very Tarantino influenced.

It's a signature shot from Lee.
posted by maxsparber at 10:01 AM on August 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


That’s it all right
posted by bq at 11:33 AM on August 27, 2018


A bit of levity -

Something I saw on Youtube, in passing; a lengthy interview with a journalist in conversation with John David Washington, Laura Harrier, and Topher Grace. It went on a good 20 minutes or so, and got kind of heavy in places, due to the subject matter (Topher Grace talked a lot about how repugnant he found it researching Duke's views).

The journalist no doubt figured that things were going to get heavy, because she prepared one last "light and fluffy" question to end on a fun note; she talked about the 70s setting of the film, commenting on the natural hairstyles sported by both Washington and Harrier in the film and the use of period music. "So with that in mind," she asked, "is there anything else from the 70s that you think we should bring back?....Topher, you first."

There was a very long pause before Topher Grace finally said, ".....honestly, I think I've kind of had my fill of the 70s by now..."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:40 AM on August 27, 2018 [12 favorites]


Finally viewed this, my own interpretation (with no evidence) is that the mystery Klansman at the end was the same higher up who had the KKK undercover operation halted at the police apartment;likely a congressman, mayor, or state official.
posted by benzenedream at 11:42 PM on November 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


Also finally got to see this at the cinema, and wow. I found it surprisingly fun and heartwarming, given the subject matter. It seemed to get more and more relaxed and light-hearted towards the end, after the tension of bomb plot had dissipated - especially the neatly tied-up ending, the wildly implausible busting of the racist cop, the pranking of David Duke... and then you get to the real end, which is like being punched in the gut. First time I've teared up at a film in a long time.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 6:54 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


The part where they bust the racist cop is kind of eye-rollingly unrealistic. You've got me thinking though, chappell, ambrose, that maybe it's intentionally so. You have a lighthearted moment, and then it reminds you "what you've just seen was fiction, this is what real life is like."
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:21 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


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