LUMPENPROLETARIAT—DRAFT: If, like most of us, you’re the kind of person, who almost never goes out to see a play, but you do get out sometimes (or often) to see a movie, please read on. Award-winning American actor, director, and producer Denzel Washington has directed a moving rendition of American playwright August Wilson‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1983 play entitled Fences. Too many of us often overlook the theatre, and to our own detriment. There are many poignant, moving, and insightful plays, which we’ll never know of, nor learn from, because they’ll never make it to the silver screen. That truly is a shame.
Fortunately, Denzel Washington has brought the theatre to the silver screen. And the result is brilliant—admittedly, coming from someone who hasn’t seen a performance of the play. But the film is incredibly powerful and well-crafted. It’s so refreshing to see a film, which consists of long shots without any frenetic editing, camera angles, or special effects, just long shots of a single frame, much like you would see with a play performed on a stage. Creative cinematography is nice, too, especially when it enhances, not replaces, substance. But a more theatrical cinematography allows the audience to sit with the characters longer, more meditatively, in a deeper, fuller fashion. We get to see much more of the humanity of each character. But, of course, this demands a higher caliber of acting (and screenwriting) than your run-of-the-mill Hollywood movie. But that is not a problem for world class actors Viola Davis and Denzel Washington, who are reprising their roles from the 2010 Broadway revival of the 1983 play.
Fences premiered on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre on March 26, 1987, and closed on June 26, 1988, after 525 performances and 11 previews. Directed by Lloyd Richards, the cast featured James Earl Jones (Troy Maxson), Mary Alice (Rose), Ray Aranha (Jim Bono), Frankie Faison (Gabriel), and Courtney B. Vance (Cory).
Armed with August Wilson‘s screenplay, which Wilson completed before his death in 2005, Denzel Washington and company have given us, perhaps, one of the finest films of the year. Unfortunately, it hasn’t broken even yet to cover its cost of production. If you’re heading out to the movie theatre any time soon, consider seeing Fences, so there may be more such meaningful films produced in the future. Sometimes, it seems like the only things Hollywood puts out are comic book movies and military propaganda spectacle. (My spouse and I made it date night and left the kids at home for this one, as they saw the trailer and, perhaps, figured it’d be a bit too heady for their impatient pubescent sensibilities.)
There is a lot going on in this film, as far as the plot goes, too much to delve into in the brief moments available for this quick sketch. But there are many valuable insights to be learned from this film and, certainly, this play. Some describe this film/play as being about “race relations“, but this obfuscates far too much. To your author, as a non-white person (married to a white person), this film is not about “race relations”, but about white supremacy. It seems important to frame the discussion in the appropriate context. The black experience, and literary, theatrical, political, and musical expressions of that experience have given all non-white people a lexicon and a language by which to speak about the dominating and tyrannical power, which white people have inflicted upon every other ethnicity. Perhaps, race is a secondary order issue to the primary order problem of capital. But race is a social construct, which oppresses nonetheless. And race is a social construct, which goes to the roots of capitalist modes of production, beginning with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
But Fences also goes beyond the dimensions of white supremacy to delve into questions of matrimony, parenthood, and family solidarity. Fences is framed from the point of view of the male patriarch of the family, but it nevertheless endeavors to give us a three-dimensional view of his loyal wife. This is a fine film. You and yours deserve to see this wonderful work. Fences (2016) opened nationwide on December 25, 2016. (Check your local listings for showtimes.)
Fences (2016, trailer #1)
Fences (2016, trailer #2)
[29 DEC 2016]
[Last modified at 07:56 PST on 29 DEC 2016]