BFI Southbank has a current season of films which places Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing in context. Lee has come over to speak during the season and he popped up in the crowd at Arsenal’s home game against Wigan on Saturday. I know he is a big sports fan. He’s been to Arsenal before and I’m sure he enjoyed the game.
We’ve also had interviews in the Independent and on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row in which he was interviewed by the urbane, liberal and generally calm and organised Mark Lawson. But Spike lived up to his billing and Lawson seemed quite nervous. It was a joy to hear someone who wasn’t interested in giving us platitudes and just spoke his mind and laughed a lot. I enjoyed the interview but was very disappointed by one of his comments. Asked about the films that were being shown alongside Do The Right Thing, Lee told us quite clearly that he hadn’t chosen the films – and he didn’t agree with showing all of them. Lawson suggested that the Paul Haggis film Crash might have been influenced by DTRT. Lee said that he didn’t want to be associated with Crash. I can understand that but I confess that I was dismayed when Lee came out with a tirade against Mathieu Kassovitz’s La haine. Kassovitz should have acknowledged his debt to DTRT he said. And then it transpired that Lee hadn’t seen the film. His friends had told him all about it and so he didn’t want to see it.
I guess this is vintage Spike Lee and we have to take the rough with the smooth. You should watch the film, Spike. It’s one of the best films of the 1990s and Kassovitz has spoken about his influences, including your own role model and fellow NYU graduate Jim Jarmusch as well as Martin Scorsese. He has spoken about the independent US features, including the ‘hood’ films that he admired – I think that Juice is perhaps closest to La haine. In many ways the young Kassovitz worked in similar ways to the young Spike Lee and although his subsequent career has been a disappointment, I think La haine still stands up. So, go on Spike, give it a go.