Six vignettes make up “A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy” and as is always the case with omnibus storytelling, some of writer/director Dennis Dortch‘s LA-based stories of men, women and their sexual battles are better than others. What’s undeniably consistent about “Black & Sexy,” premiering in the Dramatic Spectrum at the Sundance Film Festival, is its narrative verve, honest approach to bad adult behavior, visual pizzazz, easygoing performances and lively funk soundtrack.
A woman (Kathryn Taylor) lies in bed with her boyfriend (Brandon Valley Jones), working hard to make sure her sexual needs are met first and in a laugh-out-loud turnabout, rolls over to sleep with no interest in reciprocation. A woman (Chonte Harris) makes things tough for her married boyfriend (Marcuis W. Harris) thanks to a left-behind mobile phone. A teenage girl (Mylika David) flirts with an older man (Jerome Hawkins) as a test of her womanly sexuality. In the film’s funniest segment, a teenage Asian girl (Emily Liu) hides her African American boyfriend (Alphonso Johnson) in her room. She thinks her parents would disapprove but the truth will surprise her.
Many of “Black & Sexy’s” characters are cliches but that’s part of the film’s running joke as well as its mixed laughs. Its ensemble claims a natural approach well suited for the film. While there are no break-out performances, “Black & Sexy” benefits from an easygoing group effort. Cinematographer Brian Harding aims for Blaxploitation-inspired, somewhat grainy imagery and succeeds. “Black & Sexy” often claims a boudoir appearance, with handheld camerawork and varying shades of red emphasizing its Grind House spirit. Harding’s one misstep is a use of natural lighting that sometimes makes the film too dark. Colorful “Soul Train”-inspired title credits add to “Black & Sexy’s” retro feel. Style crashes into Soul Train Music, also supervised by Dortch, plays an active role, bringing a soulful background to the film. Some of the stories bump into each other due to hiccup editing by Dortch and co-editor Tangier A. Clarke. Still, it’s an expected mistake for an emerging filmmaking, someone reaching after his 1999 Slamdance short “Honey.”
“Black & Sexy” is all about sex but Dortch, making his debut as a feature filmmaker, emphasizes humor and dialogue over the explicitness of recent independent sex dramas like Michael Winterbottom‘s “9 Songs” or any film from French filmmaker Catherine Breillat. Dortch shows no intentions of being serious, or even very romantic for that matter. “Black & Sexy” is about bed sheet dialogue and backseat flirtations and the how back-and-forth battles between men and women can be funny. Dortch shows the face of Black America in his debut feature, especially the face of male Black America as lewd, rude and frequently lascivious. “Black & Sexy” is more Fred Williamson than Barack Obama, which is exactly how it should be.
indieWIRE’s coverage of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival is available in iW’s special Park City section.