The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
June 16, 2019 10:59 AM - Subscribe

A young man searches for home in the changing city that seems to have left him behind. "An unhurried tone poem with no guns and next to no blood, Last Man is a tale of race and the city, not Race and the City. First-time director Joe Talbot is white; his collaborator, Jimmie Fails, is black; they grew up together in Fillmore. This is Jimmie's story, and he plays himself." [NPR review - trailer]

A list of local filming locations [SF Chronicle]
The house [Google Street View]
posted by cosmologinaut (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I thought this was incredibly & unusually beautiful. For a local it's also lots of fun seeing the local spots and wonderful local cameos like Jello Biafra and Tim 'Opera' Blevins.. The performances were just universally flawless. Everyone was superb and special standouts to my mind were supporting cast members Rob Morgan as the father and Tichina Arnold as the aunt. I'm interested to see more from Jonathan Majors who created a beautiful charcter here. There were also a surprising and striking number of laughs.

The Black Bay Area is really having a 'moment' in film (Sorry to Bother You, Black Panther, Blindspotting). I think unfortunately it's because we have had so much Black displacement, and there's something troubling about these voices finally being elevated as there are so few people left here, especially San Francisco.

I don't think this movie was very political, oddly. While I don't exactly agree with this Aaron Bady review, I was also struck by the fact that there wasn't an anaysis of gentrification, nor a solution posed. I respect that not all art should do that. But, as he says, "That Talbot is white sits awkwardly atop this movie", and I have a lingering discomfort that this movie written and directed by white men AND ALSO has no particular analysis about racism, economic inequality, or displacement.

It's also quite annoying that in the year of our lord 2019, 'woke' male filmmakers still don't seem to think women exist or talk to each other. (The few moments with women on screen were some of the best - like the beautiful scene with Jimmy and his mother on the bus, or the woman selling candy out of her house: "I don't know your life!")

Still, despite some reservations, it was just so beautiful, I did love it. It was artistically brave and visionary. Watching it at a packed Grand Lake Theater in Oakland was icing on the cake, especially the scene where he yells, "Fuck San Francisco" and the whole theater applauded!
posted by latkes at 4:25 PM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Spoiler alert ------

Does the ending imply a suicide?
posted by benzenedream at 9:37 PM on June 24, 2019

Interesting. I didn't read it that way but maybe I'm missing something. I just thought it was about displacement and the isolation of that. I liked how the end flipped who the last black man San Francisco was.
posted by latkes at 5:57 AM on June 25, 2019

At the end Jimmy is rowing out to the open ocean past the Golden Gate Bridge, which is inadvisable. As a metaphor for being adrift and unmoored I get it.
posted by benzenedream at 1:55 PM on June 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

I loved this beautiful film. I found my self sitting in the theater watching the credits (something I haven't done in years) because the film did something I haven't seen a film do in years. It made me care so deeply about two people who couldn't (outwardly) be more different from myself. This is, I think, the true magic of film, and it's something that has all but disappeared from mainstream American filmmaking. Not that this film was mainstream of course, but it did manage, somehow, to get a screen at my local 24 Plex when almost every other spot was showing Spiderman or Toy Story.
Anyway, whether it ought to have taken a stronger position on issues like race and income inequality, or even gentrification, I don't know. I just know that those issues were definitely on my mind as I watched the film and I won't forget this one, ever.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:59 AM on July 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Just watched it at the Castro Theater in San Francisco last night (it's screening there again tonight.) I thought it was beautiful. I'd say it's magical realism. The original musical score was great, with its voices and organ and nods to minimalism. "(If you're going to) San Francisco" is sung by Michael Marshall who also throws in a line of "I've Got Five On It" which he originally sang on and which has had a recent revival due to its appearance in Us.

A few notes: Director Joe Talbot is the son of writer David Talbot, who wrote the book Season of the Witch about San Francisco in the 60s and 70s and founded

The real estate agent's last name is Newsom (as seen on the sign), a reference to slick former San Francisco mayor and now California governor Gavin Newsom. Like Newsom's father, the real estate agent went to St. Ignatius High School, the more upper-crust Catholic school, as opposed to Archbishop Riordan, where Jimmy's character went, a more working-class Catholic school. The actor who plays him, Jimmy Fails, also went to Riordan and got his start in acting there.

Here's a visit with the owner of the actual house in the film, which does include an organ as shown in the film.

There's more inside scoops in this SF Examiner article such as references to Ghost World and the bank scenes shot at the Beach Chalet with WPA murals.
posted by larrybob at 11:01 AM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

This was an amazing film and I'm assuming it has had a very small "footprint", like most non-superhero movies now... I wish more people could see it. It had the confidence to be "slow", but never wasted anything.

because the film did something I haven't seen a film do in years. It made me care so deeply about two people

Yeah, exactly.
posted by sylvanshine at 11:31 PM on June 13, 2020

Was just reminded of this movie by the FPP on the soundtrack (which is gorgeous). Saw this in the theatre and it was so good. I admired that the filmmaker was committed to telling the story at his own pace. It was slow and meditative, but never boring, and the actors were superlative. I hope more people see it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:34 PM on January 8, 2021

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