Spike Lee is undoubtedly a provocateur of the highest caliber. That his most recent efforts have missed the mark — “Oldboy,” “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus” — will never tarnish the legacy of the best joints in his biting and bruising oeuvre. Unfortunately, his most recent outing, the politicized musical satire about gun violence in Chicago, “Chi-Raq,” which sounded promising on paper, did nothing to break the slump, largely striking out with critics and audiences alike.
But while “Chi-Raq” didn’t quite connect, Lee is clearly still boldly swinging toward something profound and salient the the flick. To help run down the importance of “Chi-Raq” is chicago native Nelson Carvajal and his new video essay “Wake Up: Spike Lee’s Vital ‘Chi-Raq.’” The 10-minute video essay, which comes courtesy of Free Cinema Now, highlights the truly grand nature of Lee’s movie — the greek mythology at its core, the lyricism of the dialogue, the energy of the direction — all while noting that it is by no means the director’s finest hour. More than anything else though, Carvajal argues, the film is simply an important one; gun violence in Chicago has long been a crippling problem for thousands upon thousands of people, and only recently has it has come to national attention. And work born of thought and compassion, such as Lee’s, are vital forms of reflective and obligatory reaction.
So, whether or not you were on board with the strange and tonally uneven “Chi-Raq,” there is no denying that it’s a sparky joint that’s aiming to do some real good in the world. Check out Carvajal’s video essay below and weigh in with your thoughts on the film in the comments.