Saturday, February 14, 2015

“Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a screening at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center of “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus” directed by Spike Lee. 


When a man discovers he’s just been turned into a vampire, his newfound bloodlust becomes an obsession – but will his conscience allow him to continue living this way?


As a scholar of African history and art, Dr. Hess Greene is nothing short of thrilled when he comes into possession of a dagger from an ancient African civilization.  The dagger, legend has it, has quite a notorious background:   possessed with magical powers, it was used in various religious ceremonies and medical procedures.  Mystified by its reputation, Dr. Greene brings the item back to his home in Martha’s Vineyard where he proudly displays it as his newest objet d'art – unfortunately for him, he has to deal with his unruly houseguest,  Lafayette Hightower, an emotionally disturbed man whom Greene finds difficult to control.

Overnight, Hightower sneaks into Greene’s room with the magical dagger and stabs him through the heart, leaving Dr. Greene for dead.  The next morning, however, Greene awakens following a convulsive episode and pulls the dagger from his chest.  Proceeding to Hightower’s room, he’s shocked to find the man dead, apparently from a successful suicide attempt.  With Hightower bleeding out on the floor, Greene begins to slurp up the man’s blood.  Shocked by his new behavior, Greene nevertheless adapts to it quickly, doing whatever he must in order to satisfy his appetite for the sanguine bodily fluid. 

Soon, Ganja, Hightower’s estranged wife, becomes suspicious about her husband’s sudden and unexpected disappearance.  Suspecting an attempt to deceive her, she unexpectedly shows up at Greene’s house where she demands to see Lafayette – but her efforts are derailed when Dr. Greene unabashedly flirts with his former-friend’s wife.  Horrified when she eventually learns of her husband’s demise, Greene attacks her, turning Ganja into an undead creature with a thirst for blood very similar to his own.  Now that they are bonded in their common quest for the ruddy liquid, will it destroy their relationship or only serve to bring the two closer?  


In what appears to be director Spike Lee’s foray into Grand Guignol, “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus” defies logic or, for that matter, any logical explanation.  No sense can be made from this convoluted confusion of poor choices, which may be why studio funding became impossible, inevitably causing the filmmaker to go the Kickstarter route for crowdsourcing.  Whatever Lee was going for here, it didn’t work and it didn’t work in a really big way.  With a screenplay overwhelmed with unnecessary lines of dialog used as filler – some of which delivered by actors who seemed as though they had just been given the script moments before “Action” was shouted – and the result is a finished product that can only leave viewers scratching their head. 

Admittedly, Lee is not one of my favorite filmmakers; he tries too hard to evoke a style that just isn’t believable, much less artful.  The story behind this film is perhaps more interesting than the movie itself.  “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus” is something of a reimagining of an older motion picture on which it is based, “Ganja And Hess”; in fact, the original film’s screenwriter, Bill Gunn, co-wrote the screenplay for the updated version with Lee.  “Ganja And Hess” had a favorable reaction from some critics when it first appeared, so watching that one might be a better option. 

Particularly painful to watch are Lee’s attempts at commenting on drug addiction and the pretentious, unctuous behavior of the intellectual community; Lee only succeeds in hitting all of the wrong notes and being none too subtle about the points he’s struggling to make. While the film lacks any redeemable features worthy of recommendation, it should be noted that the one thing Lee got right was casting some beautiful women; with as many nude scenes that they have – not to mention one particularly hot lesbian scene – Mr. Skin should have plenty of content to fill his Web Site for some time to come.   

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014) on IMDb

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