Title:  Summer of Sam  (“S.O.S.”)

Release Date:  1999

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: 135 min

MPAA Rating: R

Distributor and Production Company: Touchstone

Director; Writer: Spike Lee

Producer: Spike Lee

Cast:   Jimmy Breslin, John Leguizamo, Adrian Brody, Michael Badalucco (as David Berkowitz)


Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:

Movie Review: Summer of Sam ("S.O.S") (1999); Produced, Directed, and Written by Spike Lee ("A Spike Lee Joint"); Touchstone Picutres (Buena Vista, Disney); 135 Minutes; Digital Stereo; "R" but probably should be "NC-17" (that is, "X": "persons under 17 will not be admitted"; "bad for you"; "shouldn't see it")

Yet I give it a "B" 8.5/10

            First, why does Spike Lee call his artwork gems "joints"? Sure, mary-jane should be legal, but….

            As this film started, I settled into a soporific, peripheral nausea. The boys repulsed me. Then I caught on. Puerto Rican and otherwise white (largely Italian) "lower class trash" in the Bronx, they fit all the fag-bashing macho stereotypes (surrounding a heterosexual hairdresser, Vinnie, of all things) but then (as the film depicts) engage (in heterosexual situations) in the same sexual behaviors as gay men. The film is quite graphic and explicit, showing almost everything.

            The intermittent violence, the hiding-in-plain-sight Son of Sam shooting his lovers lane victims in the heads at point blank, with a lot of gore and splatter, punctuates the film and adds to the "impact." But what makes things interesting starts in about 45 minutes, as Spike Lee shows his version of New York City history, circa 1977, during Jimmy Carter's forced austerity and democratic discipline. Jimmy Breslin, playing himself, frames the narrative. And the working class life in the outer boroughs was quite a different dominion from the effete (if nevertheless tawdry) gay life in the Two Villages, as I describe in my own DADT book. He depicts the great Power Failure of 1977 with all the looting, for example. I lived there in the Cast Iron Building myself at the time, and recall hiking the six floors to my apartment that night, and then climbing 17 floors to my job in the Wall Street area the next morning. I did not see any looting in t he Greenwich Village area.

            Lee also provides a cinematic encore for Studio 54, following the Miramax film. As in the earlier film, "Vinnie" (John Leguizamo) gets to butt in line and get in because he is sexually attractive to the homosexual owner (and we needed Mike Myars in this film!) There is also a lesbian scene (quite explicit) and later, cocaine snorting (Vinnie really stuffs it up his nostrils, to the point they'd bleed all over his customers). Plato's Retreat gets depicted, as does some great 50's-baseball videos (Willie Mays catching the line drive from Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series swept by the Giants).

            Finally, when Sam gets caught (the "talking dog" that urges his killing and provides an unsuccessful insanity defense is quite funny, however grainy the filming). The attempt by Vinnie to frame one of his "friends" (Adrian Brody) doesn't stop, as the film comes to a bloody end.

            Coarse filming with a low-budget look. Great soundtrack (a thunderstorm overhead sounded like it was in the SDDS soundtrack!), especially the Aaron Copland-like orchestral music in the closing credits.



Related reviews: Latter days etc.  25th Hour; When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts


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