Monday, September 13, 2010

Rebel High

(Harry Jakobs, 1987)
This "Harry Jakobs Comic Book" is based on a novel called "New Africa High", which may help to explain the uncomfortable ideology that keeps peeking out around the edges. At bottom this is a conservative adult's-eye view of inner-city school as gangsta's paradise, with class and race politics to match; it beats Tarantino to his gratuitous N-word games by five years. What half redeems it, however, is that Jakobs himself hasn't got a brain in his head; all he sees in this material is an opportunity for extremely broad slapstick, and much of this is fairly endearing in spite of the frequently atrocious execution. Whatever the social assumptions behind the scenario, teachers and students alike are portrayed as lovable fuckups rather than threats to the social fabric; and by uniting them against bureaucrats and capitalist opportunists the movie renders its ideology merely incoherent, thus freeing us to mildly enjoy the silliness. The end product is obviously some kind of patch-up job, just professional enough to render its amateurishness a liability; shots don't cut, gags hit the dirt, "funny" narration patches holes. But thanks to the superabundance of dum-dum stuff, it's rarely hateful; even the geek gets a gentle ride.

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