Being ill and not really wanting to write essays until I absolutely have to, I watched Spike Lee’s first film, She’s Gotta Have It. I’ve got to say, it was incredible. Spike Lee can be such a doof that I sometimes forget that he’s a fantastic filmmaker. The movie is experimental and artsy without being in any way inaccessible. It’s about a woman balancing three guys, none of whom can stand not being her only man. It’s a complex look at relationships, sex and gender relations. Class and race critiques sneak in their too. The whole movie with one scene excepted is shot in black and white. While Lee claims he’s not a homphobe (“When I say Gamma, you say fags!”), the one lesbian character in t the film is pretty one-dimensional. Other than that, it’s a complex film.
Low-budget films tend to be objects of derision. Sure, indie film nerds can be irritating, but small budgets mean filmmakers can’t rely on special effects, constructed sets or big action sequences. This means the films are usually character-driven which requires that the directors have complicated characters. I liked Inside Man as much as the next guy and I thought 25th Hour is still seriously underrated, but I wish we still got to see some of these excellent filmmakers like Lee under budgetary restrictions. I think a challenge between some of the former-indie filmmakers in which they agree to a small budget and each had to make films with that restriction would yield some movies like She’s Gotta Have It that they don’t have to make nowadays. There are still some incredible indie filmmakers, but it seems like the gap between the low-budget and high-budget periods in a director’s life is getting smaller. Rian Johnson’s new movie looks good, but Brick was so good in part because of the limitations.