In the film's view, a god has been recognized, then lost.
Mr. Lee means for "Malcolm X" to be an epic, and it is in its concerns and its physical scope. In Denzel Washington it also has a fine actor who does for "Malcolm X" what Ben Kingsley did for "Gandhi." Mr. Washington not only looks the part, but he also has the psychological heft, the intelligence and the reserve to give the film the dramatic excitement that isn't always apparent in the screenplay.
This isn't a grave fault, nor is it singular. Biographical films, except those about romantic figures long since dead like "Lawrence of Arabia," carry with them responsibilities that tend to inhibit. Mr. Lee has not been inhibited so much as simultaneously awe struck and hard pressed.
"Malcolm X" is frank about what it sees as the murder conspiracy, which involves a combination of people representing the Nation of Islam and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Yet in trying to cover Malcolm's life from his boyhood to his death, it sometimes seems more breathlessly desperate than cogently revealing.
The movie picks up Malcolm's story in the 1940's on his arrival in wartime Boston as a bright but square teen-ager from rural Michigan. Malcolm eagerly falls in with the wrong crowd, initially represented by Shorty (Mr. Lee), a street hustler who shows him how to dress (a pearl gray zoot suit) and introduces him to the fast set at the Roseland Ballroom. Malcolm learns how to Lindy and how to wheel and deal. He discovers women and drugs. In addition to his attachment to Laura (Theresa Randle), a sweet young black woman, he develops a far steamier liaison with a thrill-seeking young white woman, Sophia, played by Kate Vernon, who looks a lot like Carroll Baker in her "Baby Doll" days.
As the film moves forward from the 40's, it suffers spasms of flashbacks to Malcolm's childhood in Nebraska and Michigan. These are so fragmented that they may mean nothing to anyone who hasn't read the autobiography. They also don't do justice to the early experiences themselves, especially to Malcolm's time in a white foster home where he excelled in school and was encouraged by well-meaning adults who did not hesitate to refer to him as a "nigger."
Mr. Lee is very good in his handling of individual sequences, but until very near the end, "Malcolm X" fails to acquire the momentum that makes everything that happens seem inevitable. The film goes on and on in a kind of reverential narrative monotone.
The story of Malcolm X is fraught with pitfalls for any movie maker. Mr. Lee is creating a film about a man he admires for an audience that includes those who have a direct interest in the story, those who may not have an interest but know the details intimately and those who know nothing or only parts of the story. It's a tricky situation for anyone committed to both art and historical truth.
Mr. Lee's method is almost self-effacing. He never appears to stand between the material and the audience. He himself does not preach. There are no carefully inserted speeches designed to tell the audience what it should think. He lets Malcolm speak and act for himself. The moments of confrontational melodrama, something for which Mr. Lee has a particular gift, are quite consciously underplayed.
In this era of aggressive anti-intellectualism, the film's most controversial subtext might not even be recognized: Malcolm's increasing awareness of the importance of language in his struggle to raise black consciousness. Vaguely articulated feelings aren't enough. Ideas can be expressed only through a command of words.
Before Mr. Lee came to the "Malcolm X" project, other people had worked on it. In addition to Perl's screenplay, there were adaptations by James Baldwin, David Mamet, Calder Willingham, David Bradley and Charles Fuller. In retrospect, it's easy to see what their difficulties might have been.
Though the autobiography is full of characters and incidents, they are only peripheral to the larger story of Malcolm's awkward journey toward intellectual and spiritual enlightenment. Then too, Malcolm's life ended before the journey could be said to have been completed. This is not the sort of thing movies accommodate with ease.
"Malcolm X" never bursts with the free-flowing energy of the director's own fiction, but that's a reflection of the genre, the subject and Mr. Lee's sense of mission. Though the film is being promoted with all sorts of merchandise on the order of T-shirts and baseball caps, the one item that promotes it best is the new book, "By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of 'Malcolm X,' " by Mr. Lee with Ralph Wiley, published by Hyperion.
In addition to the screenplay, the book has an extensive report on the research Mr. Lee did before starting the production. Among the people he interviewed was the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, who succeeded Elijah Muhammad as the head of the Nation of Islam. It was apparently a polite encounter, but Mr. Lee remains sharp, skeptical and uninhibited. He's not a reporter to let anyone else have the last word. It's this sort liveliness that is most missed in the film.
The real triumph of "Malcolm X" is that Mr. Lee was able to make it at all. As photographed by Ernest Dickerson and designed by Wynn Thomas, the movie looks as authentic as any David Lean epic. The large cast of featured players, including Al Freeman Jr., who plays Elijah Muhammad, and Angela Barrett, who plays Malcolm's wife, Betty Shabazz, is supplemented by, among others, Al Sharpton, Christopher Plummer, Bobby Seale, William Kunstler and Peter Boyle in cameo roles.
Nelson Mandela, photographed in Soweto, appears at the end to speak a kind of benediction.
"Malcolm X" is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It has vulgar language and some violence. Malcolm X Directed by Spike Lee; screenplay by Arnold Perl and Mr. Lee, based on the book "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" as told to Alex Haley; director of photography, Ernest Dickerson; edited by Barry Alexander Brown; music by Terence Blanchard; production designer, Wynn Thomas; produced by Marvin Worth, Mr. Lee, Monty Ross, Jon Kilik and Preston Holmes; released by Warner Brothers. Running time: 199 minutes. This film is rated PG-13. Malcolm X . . . Denzel Washington Betty Shabazz . . . Angela Bassett Elijah Muhammad . . . Al Freeman Jr. West Indian Archie . . . Delroy Lindo Baines . . . Albert Hall Shorty . . . Spike Lee Laura . . . Theresa Randle Sophia . . . Kate Vernon Louise Little . . . Lonette McKee Earl Little . . . Tommy Hollis Brother Earl . . . James McDaniel Sidney . . . Ernest Thompson Benjamin 2X . . . Jean LaMarre Speaker No. 1 . . . Bobby Seale Speaker No. 2 . . . Al Sharpton Chaplain Gill . . . Christopher Plummer Miss Dunne . . . Karen Allen Captain Green . . . Peter Boyle Judge . . . William KunstlerContinue reading the main story
Malcolm X, the Movie Essay
1118 Words5 Pages
Spike Lee's version of Malcolm X's life is similar to the historical Malcolm X. By watching the movie and knowing who he was and his beliefs, one can easily tell how alike they are.
When the movie starts Malcolm Little is getting his hair cut. The appearance is that he wants to look more like a white person. Malcolm X's father is a preacher, but the KKK came to the house to burn it down. Later, Malcolm's father is killed by being tied to the rail road tracks when a train comes. His father died when Malcolm was just a child.. After Malcolm's dad died A white woman came to tell Malcolm that they were going to take her kids away because she was an "unsuitable mother". They then sent Malcolm to a detention home which drove his…show more content…
On the way to the Hospital a large crowd forms following Malcolm. They waited outside the hospital to make sure that Banes got proper medical treatment. Malcolm signals the crowd to leave and everyone marches away. It shows how powerful Malcolm is at this time.
Other Muslims thought Malcolm was getting to powerful. One example of the conflicts Malcolm's power caused involved the leader of the Muslim Nation, Elijah Muhammed. Elijah Muhammed was said to have fathered two young women's children. Malcolm went to talk to the women. The women told Malcolm that Elijah always talked behind Malcolm's back, saying bad things. Malcolm's faith was shattered. He was with the Black Muslim religion for twelve years. He decided to try to take, and make his own Islam religion. Muhammed found out about this, and said that Malcolm could not preach for 90 days.
Malcolm's family was getting a lot of prank phone calls. One of the old gang members was suppose to wire Malcolm's phone so it would blow up.
Later in his life he went to Mecca and became a pilgrim, while he was in Mecca he drank from the same cup and plate as white men. Malcolm went back to America all of Malcolm's friends are of all colors. Later Malcolm's house was burned down. After that he decided that he wanted to preach again.
Malcolm was one of the most opinionated people of this century. Malcolm's dad was a Baptist preacher he was