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The Last Black Man in San Francisco Review

2 Jul

Lovingly and beautifully shot and scored, as if in a haze yet also with crystal clear focus. The filmmakers’ passion is evident in every single frame, and there’s clearly a lot of heart behind this story. At the same time, the slickness of the visuals sometimes feels like a placeholder for character and story, with the script only just scratching the surface of some of the issues at play (both on a macro, community wide scale and on a micro, character arc scale). It meanders a bit too much in the first half, and the climax, while effective because of Majors’ wonderful performance, is also a bit contrived.

I also hesitate to buy into the slightly flimsy, navel gazing connections between gentrification and the personal story of growth – even if it’s arguably not *about* gentrification (it is), it still needs to engage with a certain level of sophistication and understanding about the specific effects on black people. Here, it’s almost disinterested in providing a certain sense of scale, both of the city and the black community, which weakens the framework of the film. The characters, without enough personality, then seem driven and defined by invisible, inevitable forces without an identifiable source. Hence, it must be accepted as the “way things are,” and this is where you run into issues in the portrayal of black struggle. This results in less agency on screen, not more. Not the ideal result in a film about gentrification. All that to say – this is still a good film and it’s worth a watch for the technical elements alone. It’s clearly crafted with a lot of care and affection, and I don’t question Talbot’s commitment to telling the story. But white filmmakers telling this story will absolutely affect the way it’s told, even given the personal connection.

GRADE: B/B-

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One Response to “The Last Black Man in San Francisco Review”

  1. Keith July 3, 2019 at 10:32 am #

    Really anxious to see this IF it ever comes to my area.

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