Passing movie review: The realities and fallacies of race (#Netflix)

Eeverything on Who passed, the amazing and simplysatisfactory Actor Rebecca Hall’s debut as a writer and director feels like a revelation. It’s a film that is both incredibly modern, as if it couldn’t have been made today, but could also be a little rediscovered treasure from before Code Hollywood. Not just because it’s based on a novel, by Nella Larsen, from 1929. And not just because of Hall’s choices to shoot in black and white and in an old-fashioned square format. But because I feel Who passed could have been one of the movies that inspired that absolute bastard Will H. Hays to enact his censorship code.

A film about the inner life of black women? (Are black women human? There are signs that they are!) About a happy – and materially successful – black family life able to find joy even in a society that wants to crush it? Of the pernicious racism that leads some blacks, when they are able, to pass themselves off as whites? Does this suggest that while racism is of course incredibly real and dangerous, race itself is a complete invention that wouldn’t last if it didn’t serve an insidious purpose?

Oh yes, Who passed is deeply subversive. Even today. It shouldn’t be, but thank God it is.

He can be lonely, not fit in anywhere…

There’s such a calming banality, in a way that we see almost disappearing on screen, in Who passedPortrait of Irene (Tessa Thompson: Men in Black: International, Avengers: Endgame). We meet her as she wanders around on a sweltering summer day in Manhattan, doing little shopping chores – looking for a birthday present for one of her young sons – then stopping for a refreshment of tea in a hotel cafe. Although we also feel her tension, her concern, in every interaction, from the saleswoman to the hotel doorman, as she peeks under the brim of her elegant summer hat: is she, a black woman, treated politely for meeting white people? people willing to let her be…or does she pass for white, and therefore fly under the racial radar? It might be something that we as viewers didn’t time if we didn’t know in advance what the movie was about, but as Hall introduces Irene, as Thompson plays his anxious shyness , and as our prescience permits, Who passed drips with silent terror from its first moments.

But that’s nothing compared to what happens when, in this hotel cafe, Irene meets an old school friend she hasn’t seen in years: Clare (Ruth Negga: Warcraft, World War II), who passes so well for White as her obnoxiously racist husband, wealthy banker John (Alexander Skarsgård: Godzilla vs. Kong, Long Shot), does not even realize that his wife is a nigger. (The film uses appropriate historical language, so Negro and colored are used as synonyms for Noir. In fact, I don’t think the word Noir is used at all, at least not the way we use it today. And a warning: the n-word also makes a very occasional appearance.)

Passing Andre Holland Tessa Thompson
Irene’s relationship with Clare causes conflict at home…

The women reconnect and a new friendship slowly develops between them, which we see nicely from Irene’s delicately half-baffled, half-amazed perspective. The risk Clare lives with seems to piss Irene off…and it pisses us off, too. There’s a fragile hiss from beyond the graveyard in Negga’s performance, as if Clare, bursting with zest for life, is perhaps desperate to enjoy the precarious charm of her life while she can, for she could be ripped off at any time. .

Obviously I have no idea what it means to move in this world with black skin, but I wonder if it’s something that still rings true for black people today, in a way that has nothing to do with “pass”. That no matter how happy you are with living your life, at any moment something or someone could remind you that you are, in the eyes of some, different, less than. Other.

Passing Ruth Negga Alexander Skarsgard
Portrait of an incredibly unhealthy marriage…

Hall’s family history – one of his grandfathers was of African-American and white European descent who passes for white – is part of the extraordinary tapestry of identity woven into Who passed. Just like Edu Grau (Suffragette, the gift) gorgeous cinematography eliminates subtle differences in complexion among the cast, Hall’s approach to his story shares Irene’s puzzled bemusement. What Is it that “race” means, anyway, when skin color occurs along a spectrum, and when the perceptions of others can be so malleable?

Devonté Hynes’ beautiful Jazz Age-inspired score (Fifty Shades of Grey, Palo Alto) among other aspects of the film — Prohibition! – roots Who passed in 1920s New York, but it’s also universal. It’s a film not only about race, but also about class, motherhood and marriage. (Irene is also married to Brian [André Holland: Moonlight, Selma], a doctor.) It’s about how all the many things the world expects of us become things we embrace, or push away, or struggle to reconcile within ourselves. same. As Irene notes, “We’re all passing for something or other.” This, like the film as a whole, is beautiful and beautifully demure.

more movies like this:
BlacKkKlansman [Prime US | Prime UK | Apple TV]
Magnet [Prime US | Prime UK | Apple TV | Netflix US]

Previous Blog: Reasons Why You Can't Get Promoted and Pay Raise at Your Job (1/18/22)
Next News blog, 20 January: Fires in Toolamba, Nagambie; Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announces federal funding for Foodshare