Jon?’s review published on Letterboxd:
sometimes you’ve gotta watch a movie you know will be trash, made by a filmmaker who may be the new gold standard for nepotism granting the truly untalented a bevy of undeserved opportunities. and starring people I couldn’t care less about, as the false glamour of Hollywood does nothing for moi. it’s somehow even worse than his last film (of which I’ve previously stated my thoughts), as this time Levinson’s new fun plaything he can latch onto isn’t the 2010s youth culture like his last film, but is actually: Black skin. or, how he warps Black skin to spout off on incredibly empty tangents about his (supposed) artistry, railing against the “establishment” he wants us to believe he himself wasn’t just born into, but also works to uphold its core tenets. it feels as if he’s using bourgeois Black aesthetics like a shield against any sort of criticism. and in the case of this filmmaker, all criticism is justified. and you’ve gotta be pure trash in all facets of your expression to get me to say something nice about critics. whether it’s this one, or his last one, he latches onto the imagined lives and experiences of people who he will never truly understand, nor does he try to. they all become totems to express...whatever it is he thinks his art is saying.
every last detail of this rings of pretentiousness. the self-serious MacBook ad quality of the B&W, the jazz (because, you see, this is ART! it’s monochrome, there’s jazz, there’s only TWO people?! in ONE setting?! for the whole time?! wow!). perhaps nothing says this more than a star-studded, laundry list of producers and resources available to only the most privileged and finally-loaded filmmakers that is the film’s opening credits (which are, you know, different cuz they’re done without flair and are just right there cuz it’s ART!!) and unlike other reactions I’ve read for this film, I’m not leaning towards giving the actors a pass here either. the son of denzel washington (picks up all his worst habits but has yet to have great roles to make up for it) and the euphoria lead (still with no personality) are well off enough financially to not have to do this. but they did it, and it’s unsurprising, given their respective past roles.
not sure what’s been more eye-rolling: the filmmaker’s entire approach here, or his obnoxious press tour. he paints himself as a visionary, speaking to some truth that no one else has ever thought of or dare to. as someone who, through his ART, is establishing a new future of American cinema, one that doesn’t need (in his words) “white establishment critics” which, I guess, supposes all that all establishment critics think on the exact same lines (there’s a difference between a travers and a jonathan rosenbaum) and that their picks are not to be trusted. that he, himself, is a true resource of cinematic artistry. he’s actively diluting the already-weak current state of American film. he’s either knowingly doing this, or is ignorant enough to actually think there’s something here.
you know, I always try to be even a little bit considerate when it comes to a film I don’t like. it’s a difficult, expensive profession. particularly, if you aren’t born into favourable situations. so when you get something like this, where someone has all the resources in the world, and they make some cheap, emotionally-vacant, misguided knockoff of films that THEY JUST DON’T MAKE ANYMORE UNTIL THIS CUZ THIS IS “ART”...well, I have no consideration at that point.
I sincerely hope for the following:
* those who genuinely love this watch more films from more countries and from decades that happened before they were born (it’s okay to expand your cinematic knowledge!)
* the filmmaker either makes something with valid purpose or meaning, or makes nothing else at all
well, he can continue making films. they just don’t need to be in this viewer’s life.