Black Snake Moan
edited: Friday, December 21, 2007
By Edward L Pittman
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Posted: Friday, December 21, 2007
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Review of Black Snake Moan
It was one of those lazy Saturday afternoons---gray and cold. I plucked a borrowed DVD into the player and there she was---a white woman being pulled on a chain by Samuel Jackson. Black Snake Moan(2006) is a provocative movie to put it mildly. I was drawn into the plot by a blues-singing Jackson and, yes, the taboo theme of white women and black male sexuality. It is the ultimate taboo in America. The movie, structured around the plot of Lazarus(Samuel Jackson) taking it upon himself to save Rae(Christina Ricci)from the woes of nymphomania and wickedness---to put it lightly. The sexualized images on screen tease the tenuous taboo line by showing Rae's heightened sexuality in the presence of black men. It is indeed racy. Watching the plot unfold, one wonders whether Lazarus will succumb to the temptation. But he is guided by an almost religious zeal to save Rae from sins of the flesh. Lazarus has his own sin too. His wife leaves him for his younger brother and this propels him into a biblical obsession--mixed with drinking and blues singing--to find answers to his sudden fall.
Saving Rae, thus, becomes his path to redemption. After finding her on a back road one morning in a skimpy blouse and white panties, Lazarus takes Rae into his home to nurse her wounds. When he discovers that she has a tortured soul to go with her bruised face, he chains her to the radiator. He does so with all good intentions---he wants to save her from sexual demons and an abusive childhood. Perhaps it is this image of a disrobed white woman in chains that keeps the viewer on edge. Admittedly, I watched the screenplay meander through this plot, wondering when sheriff deputies in this deep southern Tennessee town would drag Lazarus out of his house. Rae's boyfriend Ronnie(Justin Timberlake) who has returned from a failed entry into the army, does finally come to rescue her and points a gun at Lazarus, thinking that he has taken his woman. But Lazarus prevails. He saves Ronnie from his anxiety-filled life and arranges for the couple to be married by his preacher friend.
I liked Black Snake Moan despite it's unrealistic plot. The power of redemption boils over and the white and black together narrative sees light with a twist. It is one that places a black character in the center and as the healer who saves the day.