The Modern Day Love Jones?

In art there is silence. It doesn’t speak out to you immediately. It is not loud nor boisterous. In fact, what it says to you may not be what it is whispering to your neighbor, standing right beside you in the museum, drinking the same merlot under dimmed lights. Art may speak to you moments later, showing you something that it didn’t show you before. It gives you the chance to see it over and over again in different light.

Art via the stroke of a brush is Jean-Michel Basquiat. Art in music form is Stevie Wonder. And art in script is Spike Lee.

I did not learn of this until I studied film at Clark Atlanta University. I was surrounded by great minds and writers, even my peers reeked of talent and skill. We challenged ourselves to be better than our last script or treatment. Our skin had to be toughened because the truth was brutal. We did not want to be basic. We wanted to be artists.

Let’s rewind….

I was eight when Love Jones came out and I have to be clear here, at that age my only “connection” was the crush I had for Larenz Tate. As for Nia Long and the look she always gave, as if someone had just blown smoke in her face, was pretty decent to look at as well. My friend and I would include Love Jones in our “Midnight Movie Marathon” line up along with a plethora of other Black cinematic films. It was the type of movie that made us stay up late to watch when the parents were asleep, drinking coffee all the while acting like we were grown.

As an adult watching the film now, that is the impression that I get from this “cult” classic; two attractive, young Black characters “acting like they’re grown”. A film glittered in art but the art itself not being of these characters. Now I know what you’re probably thinking: “Not every film has to be this deep, dynamic cluster of analytics”. I get it. Simplicity is needed which is why we had the Fridays of its time and the Girls Trips of today. Good movies to sit back and watch, not portrayed as anything other.

But when you have Dionne Farris and Lauryn Hill on the soundtrack and photography as its background focal point, (and yes, I said background focal point…..think about it) you’re expected that the art of the film is what intertwines these characters. But it’s not. I’m sure that there are some who would argue that the poetry and the dreadlocks, and the music and the style does in fact connect these characters. But they do not. The fact of the matter is, Tate was casted simply for his popularity at the time as well as Long. The characters were attractive and if you want to see two people get together on screen, then by all means, make them attractive. However, the characters lacked the depth that was needed to carry out the artistic world that was going on around them. It was simply guy gets girl, guy loses girl and guy gets girl in the end. You saw the sex between the characters. That’s what they wanted and that’s what you saw.

But The Photograph……

Larenz Tate as Darius Lovehall yelling out “You’re the one who went off and fucked ol’ boy!” was Y’lan Noel’s character Isaac Jefferson’s silent stare as he saw the love of his life with her young daughter (who we later found the truth about) for the first time in years. It was during that silence between the characters that allowed the viewers to feel the tension, the love, the frustration….all inter-mingled in the midst of these characters. It gave the viewers a chance to speak when the characters themselves could not find the words. It wasn’t blatant. It was our own interpretation.

Throughout the movie, the photographs allowed the “then” to make sense for the “now”. The photographs, with one in particular, brought the characters together, solving their issues and forcing them to live in their truths. Not to mention the depth in Lakeith Stanfield’s eyes alone was enough to make your heart palpitate and thighs throb (as Darius Lovehall wanted to do in Love Jones). Now am I knocking this film nor anyone who chooses it as a favorite, absolutely not. I love all things Black! But what I do feel Love Jones tried to do 23 years ago is what Will Packer was able to achieve with The Photograph.

In art there is silence. My professor taught us this. When there is so much to be said, but nothing can be said at all, not one thing; that is when the art has been defined as such. And you find yourself, holding a glass of merlot, examining the art in front of you and trying to interpret just how dynamic it truly is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s