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Cold shoulder

This article is over 21 years, 11 months old
Issue 1681

Cold shoulder

By Alexis Wearmouth

THE FILM Summer of Sam has won black director Spike Lee praise from the critics and has played to packed audiences in London. It is set in a working class Italian-American community in New York’s South Bronx. It views the sweltering summer of 1977 through the lens of the hysteria generated by a series of gruesome murders. There are some well-observed scenes of disco and punk’s early days, a cracking soundtrack, thrown in with police incompetence and mafia-led vigilantism. It should be a winning recipe. Lee retreads familiar ground, exploring issues of scapegoating, racial tension, homophobia and sexism.

Unfortunately this film adds up to less than the sum of its parts. It is so incoherent that its different themes are never brought into any dynamic whole. Summer of Sam ends up reinforcing the stereotypes it tries to send up. Italian men come across as cardboard cutout bigots, while the women are either “whores or saints”. Better to pop down to your local video store and rent Lee’s Do The Right Thing.

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