Jan 1, 2014
In terms of black auteur filmmakers, I cannot think of one more so seemingly deracinated, racially unconscious, and ‘Europeanized’ than black Grenadian Brit Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame), so naturally I was quite intrigued, if not hesitatingly so, when I discovered he decided to tackle the subject of American slavery with the film 12 Years a Slave (2013). Indeed, during his days as an unknown video artist, McQueen briefly touched on the subject of post-colonialism with his short Western Deep (2002)—an experimental Herzog-esque work depicting the virtually slave-like conditions of mostly black coalminers in a South African goldmine—but the director, who has emphasized that race has never been a priority of his work, always manages to take a detached yet paradoxically visceral approach to the subject, as if he is a chameleon that is able to cinematically walk in anyone’s shoes, including hunger-striking IRA men in Hunger (2008) and a successful advertising executive who moonlights as an unsavory sex addict in Shame (2011). Unlike black filmmakers like, say, tiny spade agitator Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Summer of Sam), McQueen, who is married to a white woman and has a mulatto daughter, seems to be reasonably color blind, at least relatively speaking, especially considering we live in an absurdly xenophilic age plagued by political correctness where the smartest thing a nonwhite artist can do to further their career is to create something to make Caucasian racial cuckolds cum with ethno-masochistic delight. Indeed, while I believe 12 Years a Slave will prove to be a nice masturbation aid for some university cultural anthropology professor and features enough evil white slave masters to keep both sub-literate race hustler Jesse Jackson and pseudo-white anti-white agitator Tim Wise happy, it certainly does not feature the sort of virile anti-white hatred typical of a work like Amistad (1997) directed by Steven Spielberg, which professes to be historical yet shamelessly wallows in Hebraic fiction. While 12 Years a Slave is also largely a work of fiction pretending to be stylized nonfiction in motion, it at least has some, if not rather dubious, artistic merit. Indeed, a sort of ‘Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom of American slavery movies,’ 12 Years a Slave is like Euro-artsploitation meets mainstream Hollywood as a work dripping with ultra-violence, but also with aesthetically solacing scenes of Southern fields and deleterious caterpillars crawling on rotten cotton. Produced by dubious individuals ranging from Shabbos goy boy toy Brad Pitt to arrogant Israeli spy Arnon Milchan, 12 Years a Slave is indeed an epic piece of agitprop but unlike most works of its kosher produced kind it manages to slightly rise above the level of slavery-fetishizing leftist swill and offers a more ambient S&M-driven side to slavery.
It is the year 1841 and Solomon Northup (Chiwitel Ejiofor) is a cultivated bourgeois-like free negro man who makes a decent living as a carpenter and violinist and lives reasonably comfortably with his wife and two children in Saratoga Springs, New York. On a rather unfortunate day, Northup is approached by two effortlessly effete Wilde-like white men, Mr. Brown (Scoot McNairy) and Mr. Hamilton (Taran Killam), to perform in their traveling circus as a fiddler for a rather lucrative sum, which ultimately takes him to Washington D.C. for a brief period. After a hedonistic night drinking with his two new seemingly gay white friends, Northup awakes to find himself a chained and enslaved man and before he knows it he is on a slave ship to New Orleans. Rather ridiculously, Northup witnesses a slave played by Michael K. Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire) being stabbed to death by a lowly white sailor while attempting to intervene during the suspected rape of a black female slave, as if poor whites had the god given right to kill expensive property (i.e. black slaves) owned by wealthy whites whenever they felt like it. Ultimately, Northup is forced by a Svengali-like slave trader named Theophilus Freeman (Paul Giamatti) to take the name “Platt,” which is the name of a runaway slave from Georgia. Indeed, while it rather sucks that he is now a slave who has lost all his freedom and is forced to do manual labor, Northup manages to become the personal property of a uncommonly benign plantation owner named William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose only personal flaw seems to be his cowardice. Unfortunately, Ford has employed a cracker carpenter named John Tibeats (Paul Dano) who does not take kindly to the fact that negro Northup has a larger vocabulary than he does. Eventually, Tibeats and Northup have a softcore showdown and the former nearly lynches the latter with the help of two equally lowly white lumpenprole friends. To save him from the white wrath of Tibeats, master Ford decides to sell Northup to a religiously devout fellow named Edwin Epps (played by McKraut Michael Fassbender, who in real-life has an affinity for dark meat). Unfortunately for Northup, master Epps believes slavery is biblically sanctioned and that there is no sin in treating property (i.e. slaves) like trash. On top of everything else, Epps is in love with one of his pieces of property, a young negress slave named Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), which naturally does not sit well with his vindictive sexually repressed wife (Sarah Paulson). Indeed, when not raped by master Epps, Patsey is physically abused by jealous Mary. At one point, Patsey attempts to persuade Northup to assist her in killing herself but the ex-freeman is devoutly religious and refuses to damn himself to hell. Later, Patsey leaves the plantation to get a bar of soap and Epps, who blames his ‘forced lover’ and the rest of the slaves for his recent misfortunes (an outbreak of cotton worm has destroyed his crops), decides to take his anger and jealous out on her. Egged on by his pathologically jealous and sexually frustrated wife, Epps forces Northup to brutally whip Patsey, who is tied to a pole naked, but ultimately decides to finish the job himself, which almost leads to the brutalized black girl’s death. Luckily, Northup’s life changes forever when a cocky Canadian laborer named Bass (Brad Pitt) comes to the Epps plantation to work on a pavilion. After going on a feel-good anti-slavery spiel that pisses off Epps, Bass eventually convinces Northup to tell his personal story. Ultimately, Northup begs Bass to write his friend in the north about procuring his freeman documents and the Canadian abides. In the end, Northup gets his freedom after a dozen years as a slave and is rather happy to learn he is a grandfather.
As can be expected from such a work, 12 Years a Slave is riddled with horrendous historical inaccuracies that transcend mere artistic license, ridiculous ‘evil redneck’ caricatures that could have only been dreamed up by an individual who is too afraid to leave the city, and even a tad bit of superlatively superficial and vomit-worthy Spielberg-esque sentimentalism, yet compared to Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013) and turd Tarantino’s cheap cuckold epic Django Unchained (2012), McQueen’s movie is a semi-tolerable piece of Hollywood pseudo-arthouse cinema. Of course, compared to McQueen’s two previous features, Hunger and Shame, 12 Years a Slave seems like a ‘for-hire’ sell-out flick where the auteur was only able to shine as a filmmaker as much as his slavemaster producers would allow him to, yet he manages to shine nonetheless. Of course, in its revoltingly flattering depiction of white northerners as saintly negrophiles who would gladly lick the boots of a black man to prove their godlike capacity for racial tolerance, 12 Years a Slave is meant to appeal to the slave-morality-driven sensibilities of moronic white liberal dupes who falsely believe that human history is the story of ‘progress’ against racism and adversity. Apparently, as indicated by his own ghostwritten 1853 memoir, the real-life Northup was nowhere near the respectable black bourgeois gentleman that he is portrayed as in 12 Years a Slave, but a perennially unemployed black bum with a knack for fiddling around with his fiddle. Although never mentioned in 12 Years a Slave, when the real Northup disappeared, his family did not even bother to report him missing as they expected him to do something so superlatively shady as to abandon his family. In fact, as revealed in the demystifying book Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave (2013) written by David A. Fiske, it is believed that Northup hooked up with some white criminal cronies and made a scam of selling himself into slavery à la Skin Game (1971)—a comedy where a white man routinely sells his free black friend into slavery at the highest bidding and then springs him loose at night time. As revealed in Fiske’s Solomon Northup, Northup’s hometown newspaper The Saratoga Press concluded that the free black man’s enslavement was the result of a skin game scam gone awry as indicated in the following excerpt: “…it is more than suspected that Northup was an accomplice in the sale, calculating to slip away and share the spoils, but that the purchaser was too sharp for him, and instead of getting the cash, he got something else.” Of course, like any Hollywood spade slave period piece, 12 Years a Slave portrays the protagonist as a morally pristine hero of outstanding stoicism and immaculate character whose only flaw is he had the grand misfortune of encountering devils in melanin-deprived flesh. Of course, as 12 Years a Slave even reveals, no one knows what happened to Northup during his remaining years or where/how he died, but it is assumed he perished disgracefully (in his wife’s obituary, it is stated that Northup became a “worthless vagabond”). Indeed, if seems that if Northup was a slave to anything, it was his own moral degeneracy and lack of work ethic.
Of course, Guido auteur heroes Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi’s Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971) aka Addio zio Tom is and will most likely always be the only truly honest, uncompromising, and eclectically iconoclastic depiction of the pre-Civil War South and why getting involved with the African slave trades was one of the biggest mistakes Whitey ever made. Ultimately, 12 Years a Slave manages to work as a minor artsploitation work on steroids, but only Hollywood-lobotomized philistines, ethno-masochistic white leftists, and black folks could find the film to be anything more than an artistic con meant to prey on man’s more base emotions. A sort of The Passion of the Christ (2004) for culturally cuckolded liberal humanists featuring insipid anti-white caricatures and agitprop-style violence typical of Spielberg’s Schindler's List (1993), 12 Years a Slave was even not surprisingly promoted by postmodern minstrel entertainers like Kanye West and Sean Combs. One can enjoy 12 Years a Slave for its scenic depiction of the Southern sun and rural lands, but take heed that McQueen’s film, which was written by Hollywood Afro-hack and neo-bolshevik agitator John Ridley (Undercover Brother, Red Tails), comes from the Howard Zinn and Jesse Jackson cultural marxist school of filmmaking. Maybe it is about time Steve McQueen uses his talents elsewhere to make the ultimate negro-directed arthouse-splatter flick, but with the commercial and critical success of 12 Years a Slave, it might already be too late as he played Uncle Tom and sold his soul to the Hebraic Hollywood devil.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:47 PM
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