June 21st: It don’t matter if you’re…


131. Black & White (James Toback, 1999)

Rare is the occasion when I come to write a review and I can’t think of anything positive to say. This is one of those delightful occasions where you can be calculatedly mean because there really isn’t much else to do. Black & White loosely follows a variety of characters through their lives in New York City attempting to focus on conflicts that arise primarily through ethnicity. A group of white teens, followed by an aspiring documentary maker focusing on ‘hip-hop’ culture, ingratiate themselves into the company of a local rapper and his entourage. The cast is packed with names and with the sole exception of Robert Downey Jr. they should get this scratched off the CV. The dialogue is largely improvised which only further stalls things when there are non-actors involved such as Mike Tyson and Claudia Schiffer involved. But actors like Elijah Wood, Brooke Shields and the supremely irritating Bijou Phillips have no excuse. The story has one interesting element and it centres on the fate of one character that is eventually killed, the lack of emotional response of resonance seals this film as the piece of unimportant fluff that it is.

Director James Toback stated that he wanted to explore the ways in which ethnicity can be adopted and worn as if it were a fashion accessory. Ironically that doesn’t wash. Exploring the impact of ghetto tourism and fascination with a set of cultural ideals is fine, even admirable. Dicking around with your rich and famous mates, filming some puff-piece exposé of inner city culture clash and failing to engage with the issues in anything other than a superficial way? That is just wasting my fucking time.

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