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Spike Lee: Interviews.

edited by Cynthia Fuchs University Press of Mississippi, May 2002 $18.00, ISBN 1-578-06470-8

There's nothing new in the idea of documenting an artist and the creative forces that define a certain time. Still, when new generations come of age, and leave their own mark on the cultural landscape, the idea seems all the more inventive. It's a safe bet that the publisher of the Conversations With Filmmakers series had that in mind. Among the collections of interviews is one with filmmaker Spike Lee.

Spike Lee: Interviews will likely have the same effect on readers as the mention of his name; you either like him or you don't. To Spike lovers, he is a brilliant auteur and keen observer of social ills. Among his haters, he's an overrated director, who self-servingly invokes the "race card" and flaunts his Knicks season tickets. To film buffs, his genius is evident in his body of work, and at the very least in its tone and visual style. However, truly objective opinions about Spike and his films are hard to find. If any exist, they are probably in this collection.

Editor Cynthia Fuchs has gathered an exhaustive collection of Spike Lee's published interviews, from his first in 1986 to a more recent conversation last year. Along with his interviews, the book includes Lee's filmography, from his first student film in 1977 to A Huey P. Newton Story two years ago. There are also films that Spike produced and one in which he only acted.

The extensive coverage of Spike Lee's career speaks volumes about his impact on the film business. The many people in front of and behind the camera who have worked with Lee's 40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks grows more impressive each year, including Oscar history-makers Denzel Washington and Halle Berry, who gave Spike his due in the book.

The interviews chronicle each commercial release and include a wide variety of journalists and publications. In each interview, Mr. Lee is consistent--stubbornly determined in discussing his work, and not shy about addressing controversy in his work or how it is perceived by critics.

He talks candidly about the challenges of making Malcolm X and how neither Denzel Washington nor the film garnered any Oscars. He rightly points out that the film has stood the test of time, but the lack of recognition has clearly affected him.

The book also provides a chronology of Mr. Lee's life, to the credit of the editor, who understands how inspiring her subject is to other artists. Finally, there is plenty of shop talk in his conversations to keep film students and film buffs interested.

Spike Lee: Interviews is a good read for anyone with the slightest interest in the man or his movies.

--Tracy Grant is an author, journalist and adjunct English professor.
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Author:Grant, Tracy
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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