Friday, April 15, 2016

Holiday Re-Post: Goodbye Uncle Tom (aka Addio Zio Tom)

***I feel the need to preface the entire review by saying that I pretty much agree with nothing that this movie says. When you read what this movie has to say, you will understand my discretion.***

In the wake of Mondo Cane, the Mondo sub-genre was born. You had a ton of imitators (including the makers of Mondo Bizarro) and a slew of follow-up films by the men who started it. Their latter films- including Africa Addio and Women of the World- were met with controversy related to their impartiality and just how real the events were. The bottom line-they faked stuff.  They didn't always fake the Animal stuff, unfortunately, but their Films were full of staged crap.  The other critique- their Films were Racist.  I can't deny the facts that people cited for their case (which you can read for yourself), but I also can't speak to the state of mind of two people I never met- both of whom are also dead.  Sufficed to say, the accusations affected them deeply.  With that in mind, they naturally, they followed this up by making a fake Documentary (presented as if it was shot at the time it took place) about very real events- the Age of Slavery in America. It was called...
There is pretty much no getting past that title, is there? I don't blame you. It is what kept me from renting this film for months. Am I glad that I did? Well, I would answer with an emphatic 'Yes...and no.' It's as emphatic as I am going to get.

To note- this Reviews is based on the Italian Cut (shown below), but the majority of content is shared between this and the U.S. Release.  There is not much point in covering them both separately.  Got it?
The begins darkly enough in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death- thanks, Movie. It gives you the dark side of the Black Power movement and its statements. Are you ready for the other side? Tough shit- you ain't getting them here! Therein lies the biggest problem of the movie: representation. More on that later.
A little bit later (though longer than it should be), the film finally introduces the most controversial element of it: Time-Travel. Yes, you read that right. It also gives us the title screen a good 20 minutes in.  What is this- a Christopher Nolan Film? 
The bulk of the film is done in a Faux-Documentary style. The idea is that when we are in the Antebellum times, the camera(s) are the eyes of Italian documentarians who are visiting (ha ha, real clever).  Of course, they also fly in via Helicopter, so...logic?

Unfortunately, the Movie can't agree on a format. We get numerous shots from behind cells or from really awkward angles that would not be a place where a person would go. We also get time jumps back to the present (of 1971). This is like Lost, only a lot more racist and annoying.
The movie is very long (the cut I watched was 136 minutes), so I will give you a bullet point representation of the film's narrative...
-Black people are put on a boat, mutilated and sent to a camp to be 'cleaned.'
-Black people are used as slaves/sex objects/breeding machines/cattle.
-White people are all self-righteous assholes who think that black people are animals.
-All white Preachers in the South think that slavery was ordered by God.
-All white men want to have sex with black women and not their wives.
-All white women don't give a shit about their slaves and/or abuse them.
-Oh yeah, black slaves never talk. Ever!
Just picture that for two hours, throw in some random nudity (male/female and adults/children) and horrible, horrible dialog and you have the movie. They throw in horrible imagery (the little girl leading the naked black boy being one of the worst) and expect you to go 'whoa, it's so profound.' 
Here is the other big problem: they just make shit up- all the time. 
- Did Andrew Jackson hunt runaway slaves? No. 
- Did French nuns keep slaves? No. 
- Was there a black whorehouse run by a half-black midget called 'The General?' I seriously doubt it. 

So why put it in the movie and taint any good narrative/sense of reality that you had? Because you're a bunch of idiots. At least the later realized how bad the Movie is (according to a 2003 documentary about the pair of directors).  Better late than never, I guess.
After all that, the Film ends with the Black Power people starting a violent revolt and killing the 'White Devils' (at least in the Italian Cut).  See what I meant about representation now?
A bad Film for a number of reasons.  One we'd like to forget, but really shouldn't- no matter how hard it may be.

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