Spike Lee , remarkable young director of She’s Gotta Have It, talks about the making Of the film and Leonard Friedman, formerly director of the Scottish Baroque Ensemble, explains why he’s going solo.
The cinema is in the business of manufacturing dreams and inspires its own fair share of Cinderella stories. None of recent vintage have proved as enchanted as that of young black filmmaker Spike Lee and his hit film She's Gotta Have It. A witty and perceptive portrait of an independent woman of the 80s. She's Gotta Have It was made in the ridiculously brief space of ten days for the kind ofbudget that is impoverished even by shoestring standards.
The completed film went on to receive a rapturous reception at the San Francisco Film Festival and made Spike and his cast the toast of the 1986 Cannes Film Festival. Winner ofthe Cannes Prix de Jeunesse. She's Gotta Have It one year on has earned $8 million in America alone and Lee is at work on the $4 million production Schooldaze for Columbia. Fairy tales do come true.
The central character in She's Gotta Have It is Nola Darling. Putting her faith in the old Mae West dictum that it's not the men in you life but the life in your men. Nola tries celibacy and monogamy before concluding that she‘s definitely and defiantly not a one-man woman.
The film came about when Lee‘s previous enterprise .llessenger collapsed through lack of finance. The story of a large Brooklyn family and their son who worked as a motorbike messenger. the project
proved too ambitious and Lee decided. ‘If I was going to get a film made it would have to be cheap. use a minimum number of actors and technicians and make use of whatever locations were around. Rather than seeing these factors as restrictive we tried to use these parameters and turn them into something positive .‘ Thus She‘s Gotta Have It was born and nurtured via an 518.000 grant from the New York State Council of the Arts and a trickle of private investment.
At the New York University‘s Graduate Film School. Lee was a contemporary ofJim Jarmusch and readily admits. ‘l was inspired by Stranger Than Paradise myself because it showed what could be done with the barest means and an approach ofgreat simplicity. To me. She's Gotta Have It is like Rashomon because you have all these people giving their version ofNola Darling: her ex-room mate. her three lovers. her sex therapist. Havingthese people talking into the camera is cheaper but it is a valid approach.’
As the student filmmakerof The Answer, Sarah and Joe 's Bed Stuy Barln’fshop: We Cut Heads. Lee had begun to make his mark as a promising young talent. With She's Gotta Have It. the 29 year-old son of jazz musician Bill Lee is being hailed as a black Woody Allen and carries the aspirations ofmany. ‘I hope it gives people inspiration.‘ he told The List at Cannes. ‘because I‘m really tired of other people depicting our existence. [can‘t put the blame on
‘I hope it gives people inspiration‘
anybody because there is no one to blame but ourselves. Film is the most powerful medium and therefore it is expensive and can be inaccessible. However. a lot ofblack filmmakers think that you cannot make a movie unless you have a budget of $5 million or something.‘
Surveying his future a year ago. Lee modestly hoped to make another film with ‘hopefully a little more time and a lot more money.‘ His wish has come true with Sehooldaze which boasts a positively epic schedule ofeight weeks in Atlanta and a cast ofone hundred speaking parts. Branford Marsalis and Tisha Campbell play the leads and Stevie Wonder has promised to contribute a song. Expectations are high for the next Spike Lee Joint. (Allan Hunter)
She 's Gotta H are It opens at the G ros ven or. Glasgow and Cameo, Edinburgh on I May. See Cinema Listings for details.
It must have come as a shock to many — and probably not least himself— when Leonard Friedman ‘resigned‘ from the Scottish Ensemble in November oflast year. Director of the group he had founded over sixteen years ago as the Scottish Baroque Ensemble — and now affectionately known as the SBE — Leonard Friedman has made arguably the most significant contribution to baroque music in Scotland. And now. in a fairly dramatic about turn. he‘s on his own with a series of20th century classics for violin and piano. three Tuesday evenings in May at Edinburgh‘s Queen‘s Hall.
Shrouded in speculation and a whole spectrum ofcriticism. such divorces between musicians and their artistic directors can and do happen (since Friedman and the SE. John McLeod and the Scottish Singers have parted company). But Friedman holds no resentment. realising ‘it couldn‘t have gone on in perpetuity" and. in fact. welcoming the opportunity of ‘doing things I‘ve wanted to do. which being with the SBE has made impossible. Like playing with a different kind ofstyle with another group of musicians and doing much more solo work.‘ Like all ventures ofinventiveness. however. it‘s not all that easy going. He knows he‘s ‘risking the fact that the financial returns on solo work are nowhere near as remunerative as doing orchestral work — unless you‘re Yehudi Menuhin' and. so far without any outside financial
‘virtually into the let century‘
support. Friedman is carrying his own can.
With accompanist Allan Schiller. Leonard Friedman has hit on a rather enticing. ifunusual. selection of repertoire from this century. far removed in time from the music that made his name and reputation here. Yet. behind the baroque facade. and while the ()istrakhs and Menuhins of the world were playing the biggie classical concertos. Friedman has been quietly mindful of the newer masterworks. explaining. ‘If you were to look at the BBC bookings I've had in the past fifteen to twenty years. apart from the ensemble. it is all 20th century". emphasising. ‘all of it. And now all I‘ve done is escalated my experience in studying these score. some ofwhich I‘ve never played before in my life. ofcourse. for this series.‘ As iftrying to wipe out the hang-ups people often have about 20th century music. he feels strongly this is the music we should be listening to. saying. ‘we are now vitrually into the 21st century. [don‘t think any of us understand we're no longer in the 20th century artistically speaking. We're already finished because anyone born now won‘t be writing a masterpiece at the age of ten for the year 2000. It‘s as simple as that.‘ Works he sees as the Brahms and Beethovens of the next century are Sonatas mainly from the first half ofthis one — Hindemith. Walton. Copland. Villa Lobos. Virgil Thomson. Elgar. Ravel with one work by a living Scottish composer in each programme (Harper. Dorward. ()rr).
Having caught the attention ofthe BBC. his series is undoubtedly demanding. But it‘s not all Friedman’s up to. explaining ‘ln the middle of all this I‘ve invented a new orchestra in London. done recordings with that and I've made a new record of the two Bloch Sonatas. Astonishing.‘
The only blot on the horizon seems a lack of money. as Friedman admits. ‘I can‘t do it on my own resources. The series is a colossal risk. But I've always been like that. I live dangerously.‘ (CarolMain) Leonard Friedman (violin) and Allan Schiller (piano) are at the Queen 's hall. Edinburgh on Tuesdays 12. l 9 and 26 May. starting at 8pm (see listings ).
The List I — l4 May1