on 25 April 2007
Spike Lee made "Jungle Fever" in the era when he also made masterpieces like "Do the Right Thing" and "Malcolm X". I will admit that the subject matter here is nothing that we haven't seen many times (an interracial love story), but Lee knows how to do without getting idiotic or manipulating emotions. In this case, African-American Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes) has an affair with Italian-American co-worker Angela Tucci (Annabella Sciorra), thereby setting off a racially charged chain reaction.
A previous reviewer said that Lee throws in so many subplots that the movie gets too confusing. I agree that the various subplots do this to an extent, but I think that Lee mainly wanted to show how people's lives were getting affected by the series of events portrayed. There were some clichés, namely the bigoted Bensonhurst residents, but this is certainly a well done movie. Watch for a young Halle Berry as a crack addict, and I believe that Queen Latifah appears as a waitress.
on 24 December 2015
In this 1991 social drama, Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes), is a successful afro-american architect and is angered when he discovers his new temporary secretary is an Italian-American white woman, Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra). Despite the inauspicious start, they soon find common ground and have an affair. But what happens when the news gets out?
The film illustrates quite easily how a secret can soon spiral out of control and although being ’another’ inter –racial love story, this shows how it affects many people from many differing angles, from the family, in the workplace, in restaurants, public places, but most tellingly of all, within friendship circles. It’s not just about black/white or any colour combination, but explores many social stereotypes such as ethnic communities, cultural expectations, drug abuse, religion and even post code snobbery as he’s from Harlem and she’s from Bensonhurst .
The single disc opens to a language selection screen offering 7 [mainly Scandinavian ] languages. Main menu offers play, scenes, bonus [featurette and 3 trailers], audio [English/German] and subtitles [as for language screen]. The music is mainly Stevie Wonder but all the music fits well with the story, including Frank Sinatra.
With nudity, sex and swearing from the start this is an 18 rating even before the adult themes kick in. The main issue with this film is that it’s now politically outdated, not in it’s social message, but in it’s language, a prime example is the conversation that kicks off their initial friendship, now they would both be hauled in by Human Resources and be sent on an ‘Orientation’ or ‘Racial Awareness’ course or something similar, if not fired. Much of the everyday dialogue is similar and it’s difficult to imagine this being made now. Yet this remains a worthwhile ***** watch although the message does tend to drone on in a very pessimistic way.
on 21 February 2015
This might not be Spike Lee's most critically-acclaimed film, but it's definitely my favourite. The visuals are just great. Some of the devices Lee used on this looked a bit strange at the time (e.g. Flipper and Cyrus floating instead of walking, the balletic crack-pipes in the Taj Mahal) but they now look nothing other than genius. It would have been very easy for the director to have taken the easy route into social 'realism' i.e. a bleeding heart patronising look at externals, but these devices are a strong reminder that this - when all is said and done - is a work of the imagination. Showing inner lives, hopes, beliefs, mistakes.
The politics of the film are what they are - but there's no didactic vibe: questions are asked, things are explored, but it's up to you to draw your own conclusions.
Much of the acting in this film is memorable:
John Turturro's character Paulie psychologically kicking his father out of a prolonged denial stage of grieving: "I'm not your ____ing wife!".
Samuel L. Jackson's character Gator, "Mama, I smoked the TV". Also his zombie dance move before (spoiler warning) his dad shoots him in the stomach.
Wesley Snipes' character Flipper is played with subtlety - watch his readiness to laugh in the earlier parts of the film compared with who he becomes at the end.
Watching this for the first time since its original VHS release, the thing that strikes you most is that it's a love story - simple as that. Flipper and Drew, Paulie and Orin. Spike Lee's biggest piece of magic here is that the characters are big enough to withstand the exigencies of the film's plot. I wish I could say the same about Love Actually, but I can't.
This 1991 (further) take on racial and sexual politics in urban USA, written and directed by the subjects' most prolific interpreter, Spike Lee, is another stylish, vibrant and insightful piece of work. Whilst, for me, Jungle Fever does not quite match up to the earlier (and Lee's career highlight) Do The Right Thing, it (and Lee's work more generally) still represents (along with the work of film-makers such as John Singleton and Mario Van Peebles) a body of work at the more radical end of Hollywood's production spectrum. The very fact that Lee was able to secure his production with Universal is something not to be sniffed at.
Of course, as with all of Lee's early films, Jungle Fever is visually a stunning watch, superbly edited and with lush, pastel-hewn photography courtesy of cinematographer Ernest Dickerson (and featuring another innovative opening credits sequence). Its sensual ambience is further enhanced by its eclectic musical soundtrack, with Terence Blanchard providing a typically evocative and atmospheric mix of jazz piano and dreamy orchestration, as well as featuring a number of songs by Stevie Wonder and Frank Sinatra.
As with Do The Right Thing, at the centre of Jungle Fever is another tale of racial (and this time, as explicitly, sexual) tension (again) between the Afro-American and Italian-American New York communities. Unlike Lee's earlier film though, his central black family comprises an upwardly mobile (albeit Harlem-based) architect Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes) and his retail buyer wife, Drew (Lonette McKee), and their young daughter. As Flipper is refused his 'due' work promotion ('I'm just a natural black man trying to survive in a cruel and harsh white corporate America') he falls for new, white, Italian-American secretary Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra, in a breakthrough performance of remarkable complexity and subtlety). There follows a narrative in which the couple's relationship is (admittedly predictably) the subject of initially private, and then public, shame (and rejection) of the respective communities.
For me, it is (particularly) during the first hour or so of Jungle Fever where Lee again excels. The Scorsese influence is obvious in his brilliant depiction of Angie's 'close-knit' Italian family, with father Mike (Frank Vincent, a Scorsese-regular) and brothers Charlie and James (the latter played by Michael Imperioli), and during the later highlight scene (straight out of Raging Bull) as the father violently assaults Angie to the background of a Stevie Wonder love song. Similarly, the scene where Angie's (ex-)school sweetheart and boyfriend, Paulie, an excellent (and much underused) John Turturro, is taunted by his local cohorts (including a great turn by Turturro's brother, and star of NYPD Blue, Nicholas) is also brilliantly done, this time to the evocative sound of Sinatra's It Was A Very Good Year. Yet another engaging narrative strand is provided by the tale of Flipper's puritanical father (played by the great Ossie Davis) and his other, in this case drug-addicted, son Gator played in an excellent turn (with both Richard Pryor-like comedy and great tragedy) by Samuel L Jackson.
As you can see, Lee assembled an outstanding cast for Jungle Fever, and I haven't even got to Tim Robbins and Brad Dourif as Flipper's architect bosses, veteran Anthony Quinn as Paulie's archaic father or Halle Berry's (early) cameo as a crack-addicted whore!
My reasons for four rather than five stars are that, for me, the film's third quarter loses its way slightly, the Jeremy Kyle-like women discussion sessions are slightly overdone and the central Snipes / Sciorra relationship does not quite convince (at least not as effectively as the Turturro / Sciorra pairing, which is simply brilliant). Still, a very fine film though, and, for me, second only to Do The Right Thing amongst Lee's work.
Coming two years after the classic "Do The Right Thing", "Jungle Fever" again deals with tensions between African American's and Italian-American's. This time it is based around an interracial love story.
Wesley Snipes is happily married with a lovely daughter and then ruins everything by beginning an affair with an Italian-American. Most of the film deals with attitudes towards this and similar relationships.
Samuel L. Jackson is Snipes' crack addicted brother and drug issues are also dealt with.
I can't help feeling in some ways that this film is a poor man's "Do The Right Thing". Spike Lee's movies for me are either brilliant or average and this leans towards the latter.
on 23 June 2007
Ever since "Romeo and Juliet" people have been fascinated by love that crosses cultural barriers. Romeo and Juliet a la Spike Lee is the story of Flipper, a middle-class black architect from Harlem and Angie, a working-class Italian-American from Brooklyn. In Jungle Fever, Lee returns to the theme of racial tensions that marked his breakthrough film, "Do the Right Thing." The result is big, bold, vibrant and more than a little sprawling. By the end of it you feel run over by a truck. Everyone in the film has been somehow touched by Flip and Angie's affair. Drew throws Flip out of the house (and some people may wonder why Lee finds the affair's interracial nature more of a sin than its being a marital infidelity). Fathers on both sides disown their children. And a lot of people become self-conscious about their own ethnicity - dark-skinned Italians just as much as light-skinned blacks.
Lee's forte is scenes of confrontation, and Jungle Fever is a series of them, scorchingly written, extremely well acted and utterly riveting. (Sensitive souls should note that, along with "Goodfellas," this film held the Hollywood record for profanity, though it's long since been surpassed.) What he isn't able to do - at this stage of his career at least - is to organize them into a shapely narrative. The film doesn't really build, but stays pretty much on one pitch throughout. And, towards the end, Lee loses the love story in favor of a subplot featuring Flip's crack-addict older brother Gator (Samuel L. Jackson). The scene where Flip has to go to a crack den called the Taj Mahal to find Gator, scored to Stevie Wonder's "Livin' for the City", is terrific, and one of the best-sustained sequences Lee has ever filmed. But it's in the wrong film. Gator's story has no relevance to the central story of interracial love, apart from his addiction being a parallel sin of the flesh to Flip's adultery in the eyes of their father, played with painful dignity and restraint by Ossie Davis. Samuel L. Jackson broke out from a series of minor roles as hoodlums with this performance, which won him a specially-created Supporting Actor Award at Cannes. But by this time in the film, Flip and Angie's story has almost been forgotten. That's Halle Berry, by the way, as Gator's equally addicted girlfriend.
You could say that Lee is less interested in the love story than in examining its effects. He's also far less interested in Angie (though Sciorra does her best with the part) than he is in Flip: the film ends with him with her all but written out. Lee had faced accusations of sexism from his first feature (She's Gotta Have It) onwards. He certainly tries to answer them here: there's a long sequence where Drew and her friends pour out their grievances about the men in their lives. It's a brave attempt, though it fails Joanna Russ's test for fully-dimensional female characters: do two women have a conversation at any time in the story that isn't about men? Not here they don't: the conversation is entirely about men, their ways, and their......parts.
Other pluses are Ernest Dickerson's camerawork, the visual stylization toned down somewhat since Do the Right Thing - though Lee has developed a signature shot, where characters seem to glide rather than walk. The film also benefits from several newly-written songs from Stevie Wonder, though the best-used example is a pre-existing one, "Livin' in the City" cited above.
on 1 January 2015
There's no getting away from the fact that actor/director Spike Lee, isn't afraid to highlight some of the issues affecting our society today.
In this 1991 "melting pot of a movie", it comes in the form of an illicit interracial affair by a married architect (Wesley Snipes) and a temporary secretary (Annabella Sciorra), revelations of the affair comes to the surface, only for members of the community and friends of both families are affected.
Not to mention a fiancé of the secretary (John Turturro), who already has a fragile relationship with his elderly father (Anthony Quinn) whilst running a small shop, which is frequently visited by a number of so-called bigoted friends (led by Nicholas Turturro).
Other characters are good in their own way (played by Frank Vincent, Lonette McKee, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Halle Berry, Spike Lee and Samuel L Jackson), this is clearly is a repeat of Lee's 1989 entry "Do the Right Thing" : only on a low-key scale.
on 3 May 2015
Difficult to enjoy. You do, with a liberal mindset, see the point that prejudice and poverty will inevitably produce evil, or at least, badness. We can understand that. However, it is so unremittingly pessimistic about the way people live. You wonder if it's (surely) possible that we might hope for something better with love, and the rejection of exploitation and sensuosity - if we tried a little harder as individuals, we might negate the lack of hope. It's not bad to consider the 'human condition' or even depict social inequality, far from it, but to suggest it's impossible to love across boundaries is untrue. Perhaps the idea is that these characters are not up to the challenge as many of us might be. Sad, therefore.
on 21 November 2001
Jungle Fever is now 10 years old. However, the film still provides some of the finest onscreen moments not only for its "stars", Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra, but supporting cast, especially Samuel L. Jackson (in his breakthrough role)and John Turturro and obviously, the director/screenwriter Spike Lee. Anyone who's a fan of the aforementioned will find this video indispensable. Regarding, the film's controversial Love v. Colour theme, it is still relevant not just in terms of negro/italian but in terms of romances between any different colours or creeds. With regard to the performances, situations and music, many moments from this film have been immitated but never bettered. Whether or not Spike or Annabella disagreed on dialogue/motives reamins to be seen, but nevertheless "Jungle Fever" remains one of the most powerful, yet entertaining films of the 1990's.
on 19 July 2015
I have given this film 3 stars mainly because the ending was not what I was expecting it to be; however, the acting was brilliant. I would recommend. Thank you.