Exclaim!

Baadasssss!

Mario Van Peebles

Baadasssss!
Baadasssss! has been this year's most interesting Afro-American film. It related the circumstances surrounding the making of Melvin Van Peebles' revolutionary Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song in 1970 and framed them within the relationship between father Melvin and son Mario. Furthermore, the larger social and business context in which Sweetback is rooted (and which it challenged) is convincingly portrayed. Baadasssss! both parallels and pays tribute to Sweetback, exploring and expanding on the themes of the original. Sweetback was powerful for its outrage against white power structures, whereas Baadasssss! shows the real life dynamics between multiple races, hippies and straights, and sexual orientations of all description coming to bear on the production of the movie. It's also an incredible tale of guerrilla filmmaking: how to get around union rules, finance a picture on a shoestring budget, shoot on the fly and train a raw crew on the job. Baadasssss! neither dumbed down its message to broad comedy nor succumbed to the temptation to be a "booty call" flick, in Mario's words, and above all it did not sweeten the characters. Melvin's advice to Mario was, "don't make me too fucking nice," and he certainly did not. The DVD has the advantage of exploring the major themes more fully while not being bound by a narrative to string together the extra material. The commentary track provided by Mario and Melvin is very enjoyable, equal parts cinematic analysis, social commentary and locker-room banter, especially during the frequent sex scenes. The real-life Melvin is all over the DVD, whereas he appears only in the final frame of the movie itself. The DVD extras are as much about his story as Mario's, which gives a more complete picture of both movies. The only drawback is that anecdotes tend to get repeated over and over again in different featurettes. Plus: trailers, Q&A with Melvin Van Peebles, more. (Columbia TriStar)
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