Spike Lee – Auteur
An auteur is a director whose personal creative vision and style are expressed through films. The term auteur is originated in France and is French for the author. There are different ways in which a director can express their vision in films and show who they are. There are many directors that are considered to be an auteur such as: Quentin Tarintino, Tim Burton, Kathryn Bigelow, Stanley Kubrick, and Woody Allen. The director I have chosen as an auteur is Spike Lee.
Lee’s Life: Spike Lee is an American film director who has directed, produced, written, and acted in Spike Lee films such as Malcolm X, Jungle Fever, Inside Man and Love; Basketball. Spike Lee was born in Atlanta, Georgia where he attended Morehouse College and made his first student film Last Hustle in Brooklyn, he then graduated from New York University in 1982. Lee grew up in a well-off, respective African American family and by the time he was 20, he started to make amateur films. He won a student academy award for his thesis film Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads. Spike originally became interested in the arts because of his parents’ background but after attending college e realized he had a stronger passion for film making and decided to become a filmmaker. Film Career: Lee created his first feature film She’s Gotta Have It in 1986 which grossed over $7,000,000 and was one of the most profitable films made in 1986. It was a comedy Lee on set directing a film which makes fun of the stereotyped vision on black men cheating on their partners but instead the roles were reversed and focuses on a woman having 3 different partners.
The film did have some mixed views in Hollywood but it became a hit with his African American fans. After making his first feature film Lee began to create many other great films and was not only being known as a director but also a comic actor. His ultimate goal was to “make films that will capture the Black experience by any means necessary’ and that is exactly what he did. Here’s a trailer for Do the Right Thing: His other work: Other than being a successful director, producer, actor, and writer. Spike is also a successful music director and documentarian. He has directed music videos for celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Naughty by Nature, Anita Baker, and Public Enemy. He has also directed the documentaries, Jim Brown: All-American and 4 Little Girls which was nominated “Best Documentary’. He is also known for making some great commercials for Nike, Converse, Jaguar, Taco Bell, and Ben; Jerrys.
His Personal Style: Themes: Spike is no stranger to controversy due to the elements he uses in his films. Most of Lee’s films consist of an African American theme and inspect the issues of race relations, political issues, urban crime and violence. The 2nd film he made Do the Right Thing explored all of these issues. He also explored the issues of family/ father & relationships in his films Crooklyn, Get on the Bus ( and He Got Game (1998). In his films School Daze (1988), Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever (1991), Get on the Bus (1996), Summer of Sam (1999), and Bamboozled (2000) he included the issues circulating around racism. Another issue he explores is black female sexuality which is in the films She’s Gotta Have It (1986), Girl 6 (1996) and She Hates Me (2004).
Genre: Whenever it comes to genre Spike always picks the right one. He switches them around so sometimes his films will be a comedy, sometimes it will be a romantic comedy (a hybrid genre) or a drama. Spike never seems to fail when it comes to the genre because he always brings something different to the film and it’s so enjoyable to watch.
Use of actors: Spike frequently casts himself, John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, Delroy Lindo, Roger Spike as Mars Blackmon a character from his film Guenveur Smith, Michael Imperioli and Denzel Washington in his films. I think it’s because he knows exactly what he wants in a film and if he sees a person who could portray the character they are given in a certain way then that is who he will choose, plus these actors are professional actors and know what they are doing. Lee often cast real-life families in his films. In Do The Right Thing (1989) he casts Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee (who are real-life husband and wife), Joie Lee (Spike’s real-life sister), Danny Aiello, and Rick Aiello (who are real-life father and son). He has done this in other films such as School Daze (1998), Jungle Fever (1991), Mo’ Better Blues (1990) and Malcolm X (1992) His Signature shot: Spike has a signature shot which he likes to use in his films. It is named “The Double- Dolly Shot”. The camera is placed on a dolly and moves along a track, the movement of the camera is smooth and makes the subject in the scene look like its floating or gliding. Here is an example of Spike’s Double Dolly Shot being used in his films: Another thing which is common in Lee’s films is the way the characters address the camera.
Spike prefers the characters to address the camera directly when filming. Narrative Structure in films: Lee calls his films “A Spike Lee Joint”. At the ending of his films, he would usually use the phrases, “By Any Means Necessary’, mia Dig” and “Sho Nuff’. Ending the film like this will make the audience remember it, you won’t be able to forget a film with an ending phrase like that. The films that use a narration (She’s Gotta Have It 1986) are often associated with the subject of baseball teams and players. Spike Lee talks about the issues that are going on in the world today and he is not afraid, to tell the truth in his movie. He casts characters that portray their characters in a positive light just like in Malcolm X (1992 biographical film). Yes, people may see him as controversial, but that Just makes him who he is. Spike is a good director and he is good at what he does. Spike one wish was “to put the vast richness of black culture on the film” when he became a team maker. films in his own vision. He is an auteur who continues to make great.