BLACK AND WHITE (US)
Documentary filmmaker Sam Donager (Brooke Shields) is following around a group of
privileged white kids who immerse themselves in black hip hop culture. Among their icons
is Rich Bower (Oli "Power" Grant), who is trying to leave behind a criminal past
and establish himself as a successful hip hop performer. Meanwhile, Bower’s childhood
friend Dean, a talented college basketball player, is approached by a stranger named Mark
Clear (Ben Stiller) to throw a game. When Dean tells his girlfriend (Claudia Schiffer) of
his intentions, he sets off a chain of events that will have dramatic consequences.
"With Sydney’s topical Olympic 2000 experiences, it’s timely to reflect
on Jesse Owens’ achievements at the 1936 Berlin games. Owens has nothing to do with
this film’s story, and everything to do with its central theme. The triumph of this
extraordinary black athlete, in front of Hitler and his propaganda machine, didn’t
prevent the racism of World War II, nor obliterate the ongoing bigotry suffered by
African-Americans. But it was a harbinger of a developing social phenomenon. A generation
growing up with posters of Michael Jordan, Will Smith and Lauryn Hill adorning its
collective bedroom walls is bound to view the world through an entirely new spectroscope.
Black and White is an ironic title. Director Toback presents, a raw, edgy, kaleidoscopic
montage of characters and situations that are amalgams of polarities. In the centre are
the privileged white kids intoxicated by black hip hop culture. On the fringes are
characters whose lives are full of seeming contradictions. The large, ensemble cast does
not allow for full portraits, but Ben Stiller’s detective with a shady past is well
fleshed out; his motivations are gradually revealed and Stiller is superbly intense,
vacillating between rejected lover and agent provocateur. Toback is a provoker too: from
the al fresco multi-racial ménage a trios that opens the film, to a comi-dramatic
highlight in which Robert Downey, Jr, extemporising brilliantly with affected sexual
ambiguity, comes on to a brooding Mike Tyson (who is constantly intriguing just being
himself). Piquancy substitutes for a flowing storyline, and energy for character depth.
This is not a film to drag us beneath the surface and immerse us in emotional involvement;
but the surface itself is replete with reflections of cultural and social interaction that
are never less than fascinating to observe."
Email this article
BLACK AND WHITE (MA)
CAST: Brooke Shields, Power, Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jnr, Claudia Schiffer, Bijou
Phillips, Jared Lato and Mike Tyson.
DIRECTOR: James Toback
PRODUCER: Daniel Bigel, Mike Mailer, Ron Rotholz
SCRIPT: James Toback
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David M. Ferrara
EDITOR: Myron I. Kirstein
MUSIC SUPERVISOR: Power
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anne Ross
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 28, 2000 in Melbourne & Adelaide; November 16, 2000
in Sydney & Brisbane.