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Spike Lee’s “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” Out on Blu-Ray… So Buy A Copy!

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Director: Spike Lee | Writer: Spike Lee
Cast: Stephen Tyrone Williams, Zaraah Abrahams, Rami Malek

 
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Spike Lee reimagines Bill Gunn’s Ganja & Hess–a Blaxploitation film from 1973. When Dr. Hess Green (Stephen Tyrone Williams) is introduced to a mysteriously cursed artifact by an art curator, Lafayette Hightower (Elvis Nolasco), he is uncontrollably drawn into a newfound thirst for blood that overwhelms his soul. He however is not a vampire. Lafayette quickly succumbs to the ravenous nature of the infliction but leaves Hess a transformed man. Soon Lafayette’s wife, Ganja Hightower (Zaraah Abrahams), comes looking for her husband and becomes involved in a dangerous romance with Hess that questions the very nature of love, addiction, sex, and status in our seemingly sophisticated society.

 

Spike Lee’s 2014 film, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, has released on Blu-Ray DVD! And hey! I didn’t get mine to review for The Movie Blog until two weeks after the official release date. Bummer. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Unlike a theater release, this release is permanent. It isn’t going out of the store any time soon (and I mean that literally…. no one is buying DVD’s anymore…. except me! And you!)

 

Before we get into the film, the latest feature from Lee, who otherwise has been lost in a sea of sports docs, shorts, and television, let’s look at where he is in his career, and why Da Sweet Blood, despite it’s mixed reviews and rotten Tomatometer score, is worth a watch.

 

It’s been a long time since Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, Clockers, and even Inside Man. But that doesn’t mean Spike Lee has stopped working. In fact, even though 2006 is the year Inside Man released (Lee’s last widely critically acclaimed and crowd pleasing film), it is also the year he released his mini documentary series, When the Levees Broke (which is up there with the best he’s has ever done). It hasn’t been ten years since then, but looking back at Lee’s output from that point on, it’s hard to imagine a stranger path taken.

 

Lee’s done four features (not including Da Sweet Blood) since 2006, and three of them (2008’s Miracle at St. Anna, 2009’s Passing Strange, and 2012’s Red Hook Summer) are so obscure I might have just made them up right now.

 

In 2013, Lee came out with a remake of Chan-wook Park’s cult classic, Oldboy. Even though it starred Josh Brolin, the remake pissed people off. This is probably why Lee said that Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, his most recent film, isn’t a “remake” of Bill Gunn’s 1976 indie horror darling, Ganja & Hess—it’s a “reimagining.”

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But boy did Lee do a poor job reimagining it. Shot in sixteen days and funded with the aid of a Kickstarter campaign, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus relies on style and soundtrack to get us through what feels like an otherwise anxious production. The performances are so-so–melodramatic in an amateur theater kind of way–the drama strains, and some parts are just goofy without being funny. It’s like a financially broke version of Baz Lurhmann’s Great Gatsby (a hypnotically terrible film). Yet Da Sweet Blood of Jesus isn’t close to as big a production. And its source material isn’t one of the greatest novels ever written, or even a novel to begin with (and therefore not as difficult to adapt). Instead it is a small production about vampires, love, and Martha’s Vineyard. And it brings back to life an all but forgotten gem from the Blaxploitation era. It’s Lee getting in touch with his inner Tarantino (which would kill him to hear), looking back at his favorite films and giving them a modern makeover.

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Once a filmmaker has reached a certain plateau—barring financial ruin—they are free to feed their cinephilic desires. Spike Lee has made some tremendous films that are important for many reasons—yes, because of their iconic status, yes, because they have spoken to the black American experience in ways popular cinema rarely gets a chance to, and, yes, because Spike Lee, one of the few black filmmakers to “make it” in American cinema, speaks for Brooklyn, almost like he has dedicated a sizable portion of his career to capturing on film the borough he loves. And that is something worth celebrating in a way few other filmmakers deserve. So as he enters a new phase in his career, let’s see what the biggest Knicks fan in the world has been up to since he graduated from his school daze.

I Give Da Sweet Blood of Jesus 4 out of 10 (and it’s Blu-Ray Release a 10 out of 10!)

 

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