Friday, September 24

The resurgent terror of gentrification and the Black Lives Matter: how the new ‘Candyman’ turns trauma into a collective weapon

Bernard Rose changed a lot about Clive Barker’s original tale when it came to bringing it to the big screen, but nothing was as important as its setting. The forbidden was set in Liverpool, while the film finally titled Candyman I did it in Chicago, in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood. The history of this housing project it was the most convulsive: promoted between the 40s and 60s, its inhabitants had gradually experienced the withdrawal of public services, suffering vandalism, plagues and organized gangs.

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In the 1990s, speculators had already begun to buy adjacent properties with the prospect that the neighborhood would eventually be demolished, accentuating the huge difference in quality of life within a few meters while Cabrini-Green – predominantly African American – He did not stop making headlines on account of the crimes committed in his bosom. Rose had been especially struck by one: the murder of Ruth Mae McCoy in 1987, committed by an intruder who had sneaked into her apartment through the bathroom mirror. The legend of Candyman began to be forged with this episode, so that a few years after the film was released the demolition of Cabrini-Green began officially.

Today all that remains of this area of ​​Chicago are a few ghostly townhouses surrounded by stylish apartments that epitomize the final stages of gentrification. It is to one of these apartments where the leading couple of Candyman, a new installment of the saga as well as a direct sequel to Rose’s film.

“I am the writing on the wall, the whisper in the classroom”

Directly inspired by McCoy’s murder, Rose devised a way to invoke Candyman: it was enough to say his name five times in front of the mirror for it to appear and gut you with its hook. The additions to Barker’s creation did not end there, since once he signed Tony Todd to play him – and the character became black, bathing himself with new meanings – he gave him the power to investigate his background. As a result of this collaboration, Candyman became the son of a slave who, due to his affair with the daughter of a white landowner, he had been lynched by an enraged mob.

Later extensions of the saga identified Candyman with the name of Daniel Robitaille and the profession of painter, but the lines drawn by Rose’s film were already enough to give the creature an eminently tragic aura. Candyman was who he was because of racism, America’s original sin, and his acts as a specter were guided as much by romance — seeking the reincarnation of his beloved Caroline — as by the need to be believed in him. The first ingredient, typical of Dracula that Coppola would premiere that same 1992, it was not too stimulating, but the second served to delve into the importance of urban legends and how they served to prop up the identity of an entire group, such as the impoverished population of Cabrini-Green.

It was precisely urban legends that Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) wanted to investigate, an upper-middle-class white young woman who lived a short distance from Cabrini-Green and who, attracted by the story of Candyman, saw her destiny linked to that of Robitaille . What happened to this character – quite faithful to Barker’s designs – ended up exemplifying the inevitable problems of endorsing such a noisy racial subtext to a story that originally lacked it.

Analysis more or less recent of the film, thus, have come to suggest that Helen, first as a ‘white savior’ who comes to help the people of Cabrini-Green and later as the unlikely heiress of Candyman, would come to represent a kind of cultural appropriation. It is an unlikely idea but one that certainly does not deactivate the power of Rose’s comment on modern segregations – Cabrini-Green’s visualization is emphatic and terrifying in its own right – and neither does the idea that urban legends desperately need it. faith of those who transmit them.

As problematic as Helen’s role in Candyman, the immediate aftermath maintained the custom of placing a white, blonde and wealthy young woman facing the ghost of Robitaille, moving away from Cabrini-Green to insist on the presence of urban centers marked by a specific cultural heritage, where the character of Tony Todd could retain your power.

Candyman 2, directed by Bill Condon and benefiting from the return of Phillip Glass – responsible for an unforgettable music that finished consolidating Candyman’s establishment in pop culture – was set in the middle of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and offered a stimulating revision of the original film . By going into much more detail about the horrific circumstances of Robitaille’s death – whom Todd always considered a mix of Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera -, Candyman 2 it warned against forgetting the past and defended the preservation of a historical / family memory, which did not turn its back on the sins of our ancestors.

Annie Tarrant’s (Kelly Rowan) misadventures and her deepening of the family legacy were an organic addition to the saga, while the new Louisiana setting served as a quaint (but far less spectacular) Cabrini-Green replica. The easements of Candyman 2 to the slasher —Reflected by the need to include assassinations at a certain rate, already partially hinted at in Rose’s film — prevented this excellent sequel from garnering a modicum of critical acclaim from the original, and precipitated the saga into discredit that would explode into Candyman 3: Day of the Dead.

A decidedly mediocre third installment, but not at all lacking in interest: this time the plot was set in Boyle Heights, the Mexican neighborhood of Los Angeles, and the celebration of the famous Day of the Dead was combined with a more direct effort than ever to tackling racism: the policeman played by Wade Williams was sometimes more scary than Candyman, due to his brutality and the protection offered by the law towards his abuse of suspects with a certain skin color.

Everything was ready, therefore, for Jordan Peele to do his thing.

The time for revenge has arrived

Yes Candyman It would have been released in the summer of 2020, as originally planned, it would have coincided with the most intense moment of the protests that rocked the US last year in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. As much as its approach seems to adjust / pursue the social climate that we are still trying to read today, this second film by Nia DaCosta had already completed its filming long before – the director has had time since then to be signed to direct the sequel to Captain Marvel-. To get a glimpse of its keys, we have to think about both its co-writer and producer Jordan Peele and the fact that, well, racism is not exactly a new problem.

Since Peele premiered Let me out In 2017, his signature has remained inseparable from an audiovisual that addresses gender from a strongly racial perspective, studying the roots of discrimination in the United States and the various ways in which it has been expressed or tried to camouflage itself. Hunters and Lovecraft Territory had his signature as a producer, but obviously the ones that have transcended the most are those that have him as director: the aforementioned Let me out and U.S.

There are some divergences between the two that are essential to understand the proposal of Candyman, starting from how U.S seemed to revolt against the obviousness of Let me out when looking for a more abstract approach. In it, inequalities became ghosts without a face or a defined color and occasionally ran into a cynical drive, which forced us to constantly reevaluate what we were seeing, or what we thought Peele wanted to achieve. The new one Candyman it exhibits bits of this cynicism: a corner gaze that holds a more complex set than it might appear at first glance.

Which does not take away, of course, that with the subordination of the character to creative temperaments closer to contemporary activism, they did not want to solve the problems of the first Candyman. Rose’s film, well-intentioned as it was, did not prevent Helen’s gaze from being that of the viewer and plunging the population of Cabrini-Green into an exotic otherness, ready to be pitied and wished that someone would free her from her suffering .

The point of view of the Candyman of 2021 is conveniently in the hands of African-American characters, but – in the first of the many good ideas that the script handles – this otherness is not therefore eliminated: both Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his girlfriend Bri (Teyonah Parris) They belong to the art world, they are sophisticated people with expensive tastes and exquisite education, who view the suffering of the surviving Cabrini-Green community with a curiosity that – like Helen’s in her time – is very condescending and selfish.

Not for nothing, Anthony begins to document the history of injuries of his neighbors in order to revive his career as a painter. Around this attitude the script co-written by DaCosta, Peele and Win Rosenfeld weaves a mockery towards supposedly committed art with echoes of recent Velvet buzzsaw, questioning the various modes of capitalization of social justice to, ultimately, face a painful reality that transcends them.

And what is this reality? Well, the story of Candyman, which has not lost its validity in Cabrini-Green, and which in this film has become a collective memory that goes far beyond the tragedy of Daniel Robitaille, going on to encompass many other Afro-American tragedies along the same lines of what the memorable animated short film that served as a prequel showed us.

There are many virtues of this new Candyman —DaCosta’s staging is extremely elegant and makes an extraordinary profit from mirrors to provoke concern—, but among them stands out its devastating X-ray of hatred as something eternal and contagious and, very especially, the way in which it certifies who had to do it. always belong to him the ghost of Daniel Robitaille. And who, from now on, can use it as a weapon.

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