Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

The Way We Were - Interview: Spike Lee

Spike, then... for comparison...

From the UK Guardian:

In early 1993 the Spike Lee's Malcolm X bio-pic was released in Britain. Novelist Howard Jacobson warily interviews Spike, but determined to tackle him on accusations of anti-semitism - and the 'd.i.c.k. thang.'

Malcolm X opens so spiritedly you think it's going to be a musical. A mock-up of Boston's Roxbury district in the Forties. Cats in zoot suits. And Spike Lee himself shuckin' and jivin' so hard he's almost horizontal to the sidewalk.

Our interview is more muted. We're in a bedroom of the St James's Club, Mayfair. Neutral territory. Neutered territory. And the only one shuckin' and jivin' is me. How do you talk to a black man? How do you talk to a politicised black man? How do you talk to a politicised black man if you're a politicised Jew? Actually, I'm not a politicised Jew, but I am when I'm talking to a politicised black man. The method I hit on is to swear. Street-talk. I say 'shit' three times before he's had the chance to sit down. Soon I'll be dropping in 'motherfucker'. Spike'll like that.

Spike Lee comes with a bad reputation. He loses his temper with journalists. Advises them on what they ought to read. Gives monosyllabic answers. Or no answers. When he's bored with you, they say, he yawns in your face. What will I do if he yawns in my face? Will I take it racially? A black/Jewish thing? Over and above the universal feud that all blacks are having with all Jews at the moment, he's been caught up in one of his own. After he was accused of peddling anti-semitism in Mo' Better Blues he announced his intention of beginning his next film, Jungle Fever, with a personal address to the camera: 'All you enlightened beings who feel I'm anti-semitic can kiss my black ass.' I take that to have been a joke, whatever the hat says. The scene never appeared in the Jungle Fever I saw, however. Spike must have thought better of it.

We have a soft spot for blacks, we Jews. It may not always show, but we have it. Don't be fooled by all the schwarze talk. Forget about who owns the stores and what we say we'll do to our sisters if we ever catch them crossing the colour line. In our souls we thirst for something like approval, something at least like recognition, from black people. We're in the exile business together.

The rest here: Interview: Spike Lee


  1. UK Black Chick aka Wendy said...

    Um... could an interviewer BE more condescending!?

    I usually click immediately over on 'read more here' links, but I'll let my blood cool a little first this time - you know, being the overly sensitive, somewhat politicised negress that I am.


    Hopefully, once I do click-through to the full article, I'll realise that this was just his lighthearted, attempt at humour, opening gambit.

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