She's Gotta Have It Spike Lee

She's Gotta Have It Spike Lee
Finally, Spike Lee’s charming 1986 debut goes digital, but it arrives in a bare-bones release without extras. What gives? Lesser Spike films (anyone remember School Daze?) receive better DVD treatment. There’s nothing on this disc to explain that this was Lee’s first feature, that it was shot for $20,000 cash, that it conquered Cannes, that it grossed eight million dollars and that it went on to inspire a generation of filmmakers of all races. (To read the Cinderella story behind this truly independent film, the viewer will have to pick up the companion book by Lee, or John Pierson’s excellent Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes.) While Lee’s career has had its ups and downs since then, She’s Gotta Have It remains a landmark in American cinema. Lee succeeded in a time when filmmakers of colour didn’t exist in the white Hollywood machine. Lee was bold enough to put unknown black faces on screen and unlike the Blaxploitation flicks of the ’70s, didn’t make a commercial movie about drugs or gangs. Instead, Lee made a comedy about a young woman and her three lovers. Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) romances the earthy and sweet Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks), the handsome but narcissistic Greer (John Canada Terrell) and wise-ass kid Mars Blackmon (Lee). The storyline is loose but the binding thread is Darling deciding on a lover. The film is a hilarious character study of its four leads told in a smart drama-and-documentary style. Though the movie is technically rough around the edges, the black-and-white cinematography and the jazz score by Lee’s father lend style and elegance. She’s Gotta Have It offers a rare glimpse of female black sexuality, albeit told by a man. And that’s where the problem lies: Nola and Jamie’s "resolution” at the end has been called misogynist, not to mention unbelievable. However, the freshness of Lee’s voice and the exuberance of his film make up for its shortcomings. Until the deluxe edition comes out, She’s Gotta Have It is essential viewing. (MGM)