In the Heat of the Night (USA, 1967)

in_the_heat_of_the_night_xlgDirected by: Norman Jewison. Chalk this one up to another “classic” movie I’ve always heard about but never got around to seeing. This year’s looking like a good run for those type of things so far. Finally, I get to bask in the glory of the greatness of the legendary Sidney Poitier. “They call me Mister Tibbs!” I finally get what all the fuss was about, and I really do actually. This movie has some great stuff going on. Rod Steiger puts in a great performance as the racist southern cop. And for that matter, this whole thing, as rife as it is with the potential to be ham-fisted and over-the-top, to beat us over the head with its points, is actually pretty damn subtle and sophisticated (especially considering it was the 60’s!). Between this and Cape Fear, my view of the “naïve, pre-MTV, gullible, mid-Vietnam, pre-Watergate” 60’s, where those idiots actually believed the world was a good place, is starting to wane. My arrogant 21st century angle of the past is starting to broaden. Don’t get me wrong—I totally wasn’t there 1967—but from the looks of it, this movie is dealing with subject matter 10x more mature and relevant than anything going on today. It feels like this story and the execution of the story, from the dialogue to the characterization to the acting, hits to the core, dives headfirst into a really difficult, sensitive spot on the American social consciousness of the late 60’s in a way that I haven’t seen any movie do lately. I think maybe Do the Right Thing did something like this, maybe American History X (though as I recall, that was a bit ham-fisted), but neither of them hit upon such complex subject matter in such an elegantly simple and straightforward way, with such an incredible economy of story, so that you know, with a few looks and with a few lines of dialogue, everything you need to know. In this year 2015, in the wake of Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, and New York, I’m holding my breath a bit to see if modern Hollywood can deliver something as poignant as this, something that sticks its inquisitive finger right into the wound and twists around a little. Maybe I’m making too much of this movie, but damn it was satisfying. You should all go check it out.

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One response to “In the Heat of the Night (USA, 1967)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2015 | Offhand Reviews·

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