Babylon ★★★★

Electrifying slice of chaos set in working class Brixton, where we meet a late-twenties reggae DJ and car mechanic known as Blue (Brinsley Forde) and his group of young, male and mostly black friends; the film follows the numerous obstacles that he and they encounter over the course of a week, from garnering up the right tunes and equipment for a soundsystem party to coping with irritating bosses, dictatorial parents and racist aggressors. Unreleased in the U.S. until 2019, this is one vibrant film whose vividly lived-in and detailed world comes completely alive and is refreshingly blunt in its realism. The score by Dennis Bovell pulsates, simmers and explodes, matching up with Thomas Schwalm's brilliant editing and director Franco Rosso's uncompromised sense of texture and feel for authentic moments among people; everything coalesces into total immersion. Now streaming on Criterion and to my mind a must-watch.

I couldn't get past how much I would have adored this (especially the final moments; that's the kind of ending that always exhilarated me -- see also Fail-Safe) had I encountered it in my teens; I still do now, of course, but it would've really hit the sweet spot for me in its total absence of bullshit, embrace of realism and grainy excursion into a culture without a sense of condescension or otherness -- the film stock itself somehow seems like part of the story, in the weeds with the cast, who are pretty much all fantastic. Even the most elaborate scenes feel like they're drawn from unsentimental life. Plus I loved the kind of hard, severely uncommercial reggae that runs all the way through this. It feels sufficiently believable that the people they cast as local Enoch Powell fans are genuinely terrifying and seriously uncomfortable to watch and hear. But they were just actors. Right!?!?

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