Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sweetback: the ‘hood opera’ version

For a limited (?) time, the French TV network Arte is running a complete web video of Melvin Van Peebles’s musical theater/‘hood opera’ version of his classic 1971 film “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” as done earlier this year at the Sons d’Hiver Festival in Paris.

Back in January I interviewed the endlessly fascinating Mr. Van Peebles as he prepared a few workshop performances of the piece at BRIC Studio in Brooklyn. Fans of the film will find the plot alterations and additions interesting; everybody else will just dig the baadasssssness of it.

Arte has helpfully tagged a few highlights in the video, like Beatle’s “public relations business” spiel (47:00), a new speech and song about that unattainable “sweet old utopian American apple pie” (37:30), and, for the pervs out there, the bordello sex party (27:50) and the fucking contest (68:00). At the end, maestro Melvin grooves onstage and addresses his crowd en français.

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