cover image Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies

Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies

bell hooks. Routledge, $31.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-415-91824-4

Hooks's essays on film are not film criticism: they are criticism of culture as viewed through the prism of film. This mix of theory, reality, popular art and popular criticism (reviews and public reaction play a large part in her discussions) is effective in forcing a rethinking of the films in question. A reading of reviews of Exotica shows that only the strip-joint portions of the movie were considered worthy of commentary. Quentin Tarantino--a filmmaker ""not afraid to publicly pimp his wares""--is taken to task for ingesting superficial aspects of black culture and spitting out the rest. The ""mock feminism"" of Waiting to Exhale (""an utterly boring show"") is exposed as hooks examines differences between the book and the movie. The essays that do not focus on a single film are equally successful: a discussion of the black female gaze recalls that slaves could be punished for looking, and another on representations of black masculinity notes that in movies with two male leads, one black and one white, such as Rising Sun, the white man plays the ""father"" role. The essays could have benefited from more thoughtful organization. Hooks refers to her first-ever film-related essay, on Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It, in her introduction and elsewhere, but the essay does not appear until the final pages of the book. A piece on the accountability of filmmakers that involves Wayne Wang would have matched up nicely with a dialogue with Wang, which instead is sandwiched in a group of interviews with Arthur Jaffa, Camille Billops and the like. (Nov.)