Denzel Washington plays Malcolm X, the black leader white folks DIDN’T feel comfortableabout. Beginning in the 1940s, when Malcolm is a zoot-suited cool cat with best friend Shorty(Spike Lee), the film then flashes back to just before his birth, and proceeds in properly epicfashion to trace the life of the charismatic, and extremely controversial, leader.
Questions can, and have, been asked about some aspects of the film. Time Out, for instance,raises the issue of t…e film’s whitewashing (har!) of the Nation of Islam’s attitude towardswomen (and this is a recurring question with Lee’s work). What is undeniable, however, is theferocious cinematic energy that powers the film. So the opening use of the Rodney King footagehas dated now through that clip’s overuse, even shots that we have seen before seem to haveacquired a new force (such as the scene where the Klan rides into a gigantic mooon). Whateverone’s feelings, this is a major work.
From the opening seconds, the audio plunges us aggressively into the midst of the action. Weare among the crowd that cheers the opening speech. The surround continues to be very strong,and very enveloping. There is no buzz on the dialogue (which has those fabulous rhythms Leeis known for). A fine job, then, on a film now 13 years old. (Can it be?)
The picture is just as good. There was a moment, in the early goings, where the pictureinitially struck me as soft, but this soon reveals itself to be an artistic choice for that particularperiod in Malcolm X’s life. The colours are strong, and the blacks are excitingly deep. there isno grain, nor are there any edge enhancement halos.
The film sprawls over two discs, and is accompanied by a commentary every step of the way,provided by Lee, DP Ernest Dickerson, editor Barry Alexander Brown and costume designerRuth Carter. All the male voices are hard to distinguish from each other, but track is admirablein its seriousness and interest. On Disc 1, Lee also introduces each of nine deleted scenes, andthere’s a 30-minute “By Any Means Necessary: The Making of Malcolm X,” which featurescomments by some pretty big names (such as Martin Scorsese). The theatrical trailer is here too.On Disc 2, the extra is another Malcolm X. This is a feature-length documentary from1972, and helps out with the historical context of the movie. The menu’s main screen isanimated and scored.
Not a lot of filler on this disc. This is for Serious People. But I kid. The matching of thedocumentary with the feature is an inspired one, and there is plenty of food for thought here.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Malcom X 1972 Feature Documentary
- “By Any Means Necessary: The Making of Malcolm X”
- Deleted Scenes with Director’s Introduction
- Theatrical Trailer