Spike Lee's 'Da 5 Bloods' Streaming On Netflix
Speaker 1: 00:00 Netflix has been nearing veteran directors, such as Martin Scorsese and spike Lee to make films for its streaming service. Lee just debuted the five bloods, KPBS arts reporter, Beth commando talks about the film with movie one of the podcast or Yazdi Pataskala yeah, SSDI spike. Lee has a new film out on Netflix and it's called the five bloods and it uses the Vietnam war as a backdrop of these four veterans getting together, going back to Vietnam. Speaker 2: 00:34 So it's good to see you. I'm telling you this don't cold trip back here in country, baby. We got off that plane, got a heat. Hit me upside the head, just like in 68 brother, man. You're back. The blood is back. We just soon to be fine. Speaker 1: 00:55 And the plan is to find the soldier, their friend, who was left behind, but there's also another angle to it where there's some gold that had been buried. Also. What was your first reaction to this film and how did you feel about it? Speaker 3: 01:11 So, um, this is a two hour and 30 minute movie, and a lot of reviewers have mentioned this before that it's many movies in one it's, it's definitely a Vietnam war movie. It's also a heist movie and it's also a message movie. And it's sort of a combination of the treasure of Sierra Madre and apocalypse now Jewish there, two direct references. So this is a very ambitious project and we can discuss more about this, but my first reaction was one of it being very, very entertaining. It, it gets pulpy at times, there's a very strident waste to the whole thing, which is very critical of how things have been in terms of the Vietnam war, continuing through racial relations right now. So definitely very timely, um, and also very entertaining all along. Speaker 1: 02:05 Yeah. When I watched it, I think my first thought was it's kind of a glorious mess because he does try to cram so much into one movie. I mean, this is like his apocalypse now, and this is his treasure of Sierra Madre. And it is a revisiting of civil rights from all the way back in the sixties to the present day. And as with most of spike Lee's films, it's his passion and his energy and this kind of ferocious sense of trying to get a message across that is absolutely riveting. Even when, you know, there are moments when it also feels like, you know, reign this in, or maybe do this as a multi-part five part series or something, because it did seem like he was trying to fit an awful lot in here. Speaker 3: 02:50 Definitely. And that, that was also one of my thoughts was that this might have been better served as a two or three part mini series, especially if he knew all along that this was going to be released on Netflix. Um, there's five main characters in the movie and they all have backstories. Um, and the movie plays out and [inaudible] in the present day in Vietnam as well as, uh, very frequently goes back, uh, several decades, decades into the Vietnam war. And then in addition to the five characters, there are many, many peripheral characters, those in, what do you mean city right now, as well as a group of, uh, uh, humanitarian workers. And there's so much blockchain and so much material here that sometimes, you know, the movie has a hard time pulling all the strands in together. And you you've coupled that with this very strident message that, uh, spike Lee wants to make it on a variety of topics and it does become sort of an unwieldy mess, but Mmm. I sort of forgive a lot of those things because you know, he's so impassioned and so, Mmm. It's subjective and it's in his thinking and then putting that forward naked and unworn nourished, and I'm worried about how it will be received that this kind of brave say it like it is filmmaking is rare right now when everybody's so careful and, uh, cautious about, uh, you know, what they're saying and how they're saying, Speaker 1: 04:20 Well, one of the strengths of the film I think is Delroy. Linda's character of Paul and Delroy Lindo has worked with spike Lee a number of times before. And this character was fascinating on so many levels because for one he's presented to us as a Trump supporter, which is interesting. He's also kind of the most haunted of the four men who go back to Vietnam. Speaker 4: 04:44 I see. Yeah. As safe goes, what happens was all of us, man, are you seeing them til they had come to you or night storm and norm to meet them every night? And that he talked to y'all like, he talked to me, come on, come on. Speaker 1: 05:06 But he was really a powerful centerpiece to this film. Speaker 3: 05:10 Yeah. I mean, he's asked to carry the weight of the movie, the entire, the entire moral outrage that, that, that the movie carries carries, you know, is carried at the back of the Delroy Lindo character. And I too was surprised that, you know, he is presented, uh, first to somebody who has a very right-leaning, uh, political beliefs and as a Trump supporter. But I think, you know, he's, he's the backbone on which the entire story is built, even even the final revelation at the end, it's surrounding his character. And it's such a great showcase for, you know, this actor, like who he is being into the right thing. And so many of other, uh, Crooklyn and so many of other spike Lee movies. And it's great that Lee kind of entrusted, uh, this veteran actor with, with carrying a lot of emotional burden through the entire course of the movie. This is a character who plays the entire gamut. I mean, he's a very haunted, very troubled individual who we slowly get to understand in more, in more detail as the movie progresses. Speaker 1: 06:16 And I want to talk a little bit about spike Lee's approach to the story and kind of his stylistic flourishes, because there are flashbacks, as you mentioned, and the screen tends to shrink down to a different aspect ratio to kind of signal to us that we're in a different timeframe, but he also chooses to keep the actors from the present day kind of at their own age, even when we're flashing back to Vietnam. And I was curious how you felt that played. Speaker 3: 06:46 That was definitely something I noticed upfront. And maybe at one point he had considered using D aging technology for the, for the many, many scenes, which are said during the Vietnam war. And maybe, maybe he decided, um, not to do that eventually knowing that it may not be completely successful. I'm personally curious why he didn't use, uh, just younger actors to play their counterparts because, uh, the fourth individual who gets left behind during the Vietnam war is played by Chadwick Boseman who it's considerably younger than, than the other four actors in this. So it does come off Mmm. A little odd, but as the movie progressed, as you kind of get used to it, uh, maybe, uh, Lee realized that bringing in another set of factors, a D aging them would add another layer of complexity to an already, um, you know, full plate that the movie was delivering to the audience. So maybe chose to you use the same actors, but it does play odd. Speaker 1: 07:48 Well, for me, the one thing that struck me, I, so when it first started, it was a moment where it kind of pulls you out of the film because you're going, Whoa, wait a minute. But as it progressed, I kind of felt like the point he was making is how much of an impact that Vietnam war had on them and that it has, you know, affected their entire lives and seeing them at their current age back then, was this kind of odd bridge to that emotional experience. Speaker 3: 08:19 Yeah. I didn't think about it until you mentioned it that, but yeah. I mean, that's a good point that maybe, maybe he wants to convey that in a sense they're already burdened and age off the bat, you know, facing this tremendous, uh, post traumatic stress coming out of the Vietnam war that even decades ago, they were already beaten and showed signs of having aged. Um, and it's curious that he doesn't use makeup either either to show the current a version of the actors older or the previous one's younger. Um, the other thing which is very interesting is, um, that, uh, spike Lee uses Mmm, real life newsreels photographs, coats, uh, you know, intercalated through the entire movie to kind of keep the story grounded with actual events that were happening at that time. Um, and the movie itself is bookended by, you know, Martin Luther King coats. Speaker 3: 09:21 So he definitely wants to make sure that at no point do we get too caught up with the entertainment. So as to lose, you know, the very forbid messaging that is going on almost minute by minute through the whole movie. And at times that did feel a little too strident to me, I know he used a very similar device in his last movie, black Klansman as well, and there as well, that that device seemed almost redundant to me. I think that if the story spoke on its own grounds, that the message was carried forward and you didn't need that additional context, but, um, that's, you know, that's the style he chooses. And I also, Speaker 1: 09:59 It's interesting that Netflix has given spike Lee and Martin Scorsese, both established veteran filmmakers, this opportunity to work on a fairly large canvas, uh, for a Netflix original film. Speaker 3: 10:14 Yeah, I agree. And I think that's what I think know Martin Scorsese has been very vocal about this as well. I mean, no filmmaker wants to necessarily have their movie. I play on a small screen in people's homes, but I think it's that, that freedom, as well as the financial support, you know, to have complete God plans to make the movie that they absolutely want to make, which no studio right now is willing to provide these back and filmmakers. And it speaks more to the state of Hollywood right now than anything else. But, um, I think it definitely, um, allows, allows them to kind of be unrestrictive in terms of, you know, how they want to create their piece of they're a piece of art Speaker 1: 10:58 For better or worse. I don't think Netflix puts the pressure on them to keep it like under two hours the way a studio does, knowing that, you know, a cinema needs to screen a film so many times in one day. So they do have this certain sense of kind of a large scope that they can tell their stories. Speaker 3: 11:14 Yeah, definitely. And it seems that, you know, Netflix was not too wrong to do that. I mean, last year they got so much street credit, you know, out of, out of there, out of their collaboration with Martin Scorsese in terms of how well the Irishman played during the Oscars. And likewise, this movie was not actively advertised. I think on Netflix. I mean, I, I, we all watch a lot of Netflix and any new releases that they have. They typically we'll have it show up every time you log into Netflix or so they did not to the best of my knowledge, do a lot of that for, uh, the five, the five bloods, but it was number two. Netflix is most watched, watched shows or movies as of last week. So I think they recognize that they are named brands like Martin Scorsese and spiky are name brands. And just the fact that their movies released on Netflix is enough for people to seek it out. And it seems to be working. Speaker 1: 12:11 Yazdi let me ask you what your top three, uh, spike Lee films are, which three can you not live without? Speaker 3: 12:17 Uh, one, the one which always jumps to mind right away is do the right thing. That's a movie that, you know, it's timeless, it refuses to age it, even though it may age in terms of its cultural references, it's messaging and it's authenticity. Just, I mean, I saw it fairly recently, I think about six months ago and it's just as angry and just as strong a call to arms in terms of how we treat race in this country's life. For me, it, you know, it's very hard to find anything in his, in his, uh, uh, you know, and, and, and his, in his work, um, that, that matches that. Mmm. Uh, other two that I would like to pick, um, would be, uh, jungle fever, because I think that's one of his movies, which was more playful. It wasn't as, uh, politically strident and not necessarily a message movie, although, although it did have, you know, a commentary about race relations, but, but I, you know, that's, that's kind of a fun, hot blooded, good, the kind of movie which was made made in the eighties, which we don't seem to be making anymore. Speaker 3: 13:30 Um, and then finally, uh, I think one of his more underrated movies is, uh, is the one that came out, um, a couple of years ago, maybe five years ago, which has Shiraz that movie too, is a bit of a mess because stylistically spike Lee trying so much, he's throwing, throwing so much at the screen, but even if it all doesn't come together, um, not too unlike, uh, the five bloods it's, it's, it's so much that you, as a viewer are asked to digest and, and, and ruminate on. And considering that there are so few filmmakers like spike Lee, um, even when he overindulges that [inaudible], it's about com uh, it it's, it's welcome to his, uh, to those who love his problems. Speaker 1: 14:17 Well, I have to agree with you on do the right thing. I do think that that is a film that will stand the Testament of time and be something that it has such a powerful, angry voice to it that I think it really merits, uh, watching again and again, but I will also add to that list that you had. I love his first film. She's gotta have it. It just, it has such a raw energy, and it feels so much like this completely independent first film where he's playful with the medium, and he's having a great time kind of revealing a new voice to us. And I do love that film, and I think it sometimes gets a little overshadowed by his much bigger projects. And I'd also like to highlight the fact that he's done documentaries as well. And four little girls is an amazing work too. And I think again, sometimes people forget that, but he is a great filmmaker and I'm glad he is continuing to make films that are pushing the envelope in certain ways. I really do think that the five bloods stylistically, I think really has some innovation and a lot of ambition to it and is exciting for that reason. Speaker 3: 15:41 Yeah. Agreed. I mean, looking at his filmography, it's incredible that he's played in so many different spaces and being very successful at all of them. I mean, he, he did a very straightforward commercial movie such as, uh, the inside man, any 50 hours a movie, which when it came out. Okay. It wasn't thought of as much, but it's really gained a lot of esteem in retrospect. Mmm bye. Bye bye. A lot of movie lovers, you know, I would love for somebody to just do a retrospective of spike Lee movies. Not that they haven't been done already, but, um, just, just the breadth of his, uh, um, office work is the entirety of his work is remarkable. Be it very commercial stuff and stuff like you said, starting with, she's gotta have it, which was filmed entirely in black and white. And it really plays like a smaller, ambitious Mmm uh, independent movie. But, but it definitely has a very unique perspective in terms of how the story is told. Speaker 1: 16:40 Well, and even some of his films that are kind of failed, like bamboozled are still fascinating to watch and still display such remarkable filmmaking, even if all the parts don't necessarily come together well in the end. Yeah, Speaker 3: 16:58 Definitely. Speaker 1: 16:59 Well, I want to thank you very much for speaking with me about spike. Lee's new film to five bloods, which is available on Netflix currently, and also pointing out some of his other work that people may be interested in seeking out if they haven't yet seen them. And I hope that this film does have an opportunity to play in cinemas when they reopened, because I do feel that this is a film that will play even better on a big screen. Speaker 3: 17:24 Agreed. And thank you, Beth Speaker 1: 17:27 Black GI in Memphis, Tennessee, Speaker 5: 17:31 A man assassinate, dr. Martin Luther King, dr. King also oppose the U S war in Vietnam, lack GI your government send 600,000 troops to crush the rebellion, your soul sister and soul brothers. I enraged in over 122 cities. They killed them. Why you fight against us so far away from where you are need. Speaker 6: 18:06 That was Beth Armando. And Yazdi Padilla talking about spike Lee's to five bloods, which is streaming on Netflix. Listen to the midday movies podcast for their recommendation of otherly films to watch.