Black Snake Moan DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

An interesting film that calls attention to itself for all the right reasons.
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
An interesting film that calls attention to itself for all the right reasons.
Sadly, I don't know that I 100% got the point that this movie was trying to make.
At first glance Black Snake Moan seems like it's some sort of B-level exploitation movie. A throwback to films from the 1970s. However, once you get past the trailer and the fact that Christina Ricci is barely clothed (not that anybody really minds), what you have is an interesting movie about relationships and redemption.

When Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) sees his wife leave him for his brother it is apparent that he has some problems. Unbending in his mindset and in his religious beliefs, he seems to be very good at pushing people away. Meanwhile, Rae (Christina Ricci) is married to Ronnie (Justin Timberlake). He is in the army and he's going off to Iraq. His hope is that he can provide them with a better life. Rae is a very promiscuous girl and one night she messes with the wrong guy (who just happens to be Ronnie's best friend), and he beats her up and leaves her on the side of the road. Lazarus takes her in and chains her to a heater inside his house. By doing this he feels he can get what's inside of her out and in the process make her change her ways.

What follows is an interesting story about how Lazarus and Rae help one another. There is a lot of good blues music, a lot of good food and even talk of a thing called The Black Snake Moan.
"Conflicted: The Making ofBlack Snake Moan"

Featuring Director Craig Brewer, Producer John Singleton and the main cast, we get an interesting expose on the making of this film. Brewer aptly describes it as a fable and that it's not supposed to be played as "real." He also discusses how the major theme of the film is challenging what's right and wrong, and why we put those sorts of names on what the movie is looking at. Also, this film doesn't judge its characters. It merely presents them and that idea seems to be agreed on by everyone. The only problem I had with this section is that it seemed to be be choppy and filled with DVD hits.

Commentary with Writer/Director Craig Brewer

"TheBlack Snake Moan" and Rooted In the Blues

Since these two sections deal with the music from the film I decided to put them together. They look at blues player Blind Lemon Jefferson and how he wrote about things he couldn't see; they also discuss the blues and the core of his songs. Jason Freeman, who put together the steel guitar music, is seen recording and overall I found the process of song creation to he fascinating.

Deleted Scenes

Offering up optional commentary tracks over these 5 deleted scenes, I was struck with both how brief these scenes were and how well transferred to DVD they'd become. With titles like "Laz in Pool Hall" and "Laz Breaks Rae's Fever," I got the impression that the majority of these scenes were cut for time reasons (I didn't listen to the commentary tracks). I would say check these out if you're a big fan of the movie, but nothing about this release is really going to answer all your questions which is why I stayed away from all the commentary tracks.
Widescreen Version. Enhanced for 16:9 TVs. This film was very vibrant in its color schemes. In the exterior shots, there's a lot of greens and blues whereas on some of the interior shots, especially the club scene towards the end, it seems like Brewer and his team have sort of desaturated the look of this film. In addition to this, they have slowed things down a tad for that section as well. Overall, the harshness of all the individual colors gives this movie, of all things, a fairy tale-like look.
Dolby Digital: English 5.1 Surround - English 2.0 Surround - French 2.0 Surround. Subtitles: English and Spanish. I loved the soundtrack to this film. While I can't say that anything about the audio on the disc really grabbed me, what stuck out the most to me was the music. It is incredible how they have made it work in this movie. It plays into the story and the themes and in a lot of ways seems inseparable from them.
Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci stand back to back on this front cover with a mountain of chains underneath them. They have made this front image look like a comic book of sorts. The back features a few shots from the movie but they have made them blend into one another. There is also a tiny description of this film, a Special Features listing, a cast list and technical specs.
I liked this movie even though I can't say that I 100% understood it. What I will also say is that I don't think that that is necessarily a bad thing. At its core, Black Snake Moan is a deep film about people and the problems they face. It doesn't really throw a nice light on relationships. In fact, it seems to really show a difference in relationships from a generational perspective. For example, Lazarus is older and it seems like he would be the one burnt out on love. Yet, this stubborn man seems to still be holding out for it. He seems to believe, despite all the signs, that it can still happen. Then you have Rae's relationship to Ronnie. While she obviously loves him, she seems burnt out. It is amazing that she is so young yet so old at the same time. Ronnie also seems to accept her for who she is, knowing that she isn't going to change her ways.

In the end, certain things about this film are resolved, but for the most part, Black Snake Moan seems to show people whose lives only marginally get better. That said, that margin for these characters goes a long way.

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