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Directed by Tim Story
Starring Ice Cube

A Film Review by
Alex Grant

Movies that sincerely celebrate community and esprit de corps , as opposed to despair and alienation, are rarer than hen’s teeth or ducks’ paws. Particularly when U.S.filmmakers concern themselves with Black ghetto lives.

In the distant past such esteemed international film auteurs as Jean Renoir [The Crime of Monsieur Lange,1936] John Ford [ Tobacco Road, 1941] and James Cagney [Johnny Come Lately] adapted novels of Erskine Caldwell, William Saroyan; and John Steinbeck in the pursuit of capturing on celluloid for posterity self-sufficient groups of men and women surviving against all the odds in the face of unsupportive if not actively hostile officialdom.

In the late 1940s Cagney, his actress sister Jeanne, and his brother William – via their Cagney Productions,est.1942 –struggled even before star Burt Lancaster’s Hecht-Hill-Lancaster ‘indie’ company to make and release films [The Time of Your Life, 1948] that celebrated team spirit and a strong sense of active community.

Ice-Cube, born O’Shea Jackson in 1968, is a unique powerhouse within contemporary U.S. Black Cinema. Since he co-wrote and produced Friday in 1995 and The Players’ Club in 1997 , followed by the second pothead comedy Next Friday and soon its third installment Friday After Next, Ice-Cube has blazed a trail across today’s Hollywood.

The latest film from his Cube Vision Productions director Tim Story’s Barbershop starring Ice-Cube and a feisty coterie of young players, is a frothy, amiable comfort-food paen to the intricate often tortuously knotted ties-that-bind a community together through good times and bad.

A day in the life of Calvin’s Barbershop, open since 1958 in the Chicago ghetto is fluently and poignantly unreeled during a bitter North-East winter. Folks of all stripes converge upon this home away from home to bicker and boast and preen. Calvin Palmer [ Ice-Cube ] presides and plays referee within this sanctuary for dead-beats, wiseacres and retirees. His task can be a daunting one.
Seldom – for instance in the glum, hectoring inner-city sagas of Spike Lee, whose first film of note was set in a barbershop – do you encounter Afro-American people who are neither hostile, oppressed or vengeful. Barbershop is the antithesis of Lee’s one acknowledge masterwork 'Do The Right Thing'.

Ice-Cube’s latest venture does not buy into the typical White Man’s misperception of today’s black ghetto culture. That insistent sociological trap is skirted by his Cube Vision partners with agility and grace. This filmmaking team have chosen to let us in on the secret that even in the lower depths of the underclass lifes goes on, glued firmly together by camaraderie and b.s.

© Alex Grant September 14 2002

24 Hour Party People

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