Criterion film a day, day 17: My Crasy Life

My Crasy Life is a film that reeks wonderfully of 1992. West coast gang culture was a new and fascinating thing, and the film–directed by a Frenchman–reads like a foreign tourist who is suddenly really into Easy E and Ice Cube. This is a fascinating trend in hip-hop,especially in how hip-ho relates to gang culture: The primary consumers of hip-hop have always been white suburban males. Futhermore, as outsiders to that culture, but looking to attach it to their own identity, it’s always the suburban white boy who has taken hip hop way too seriously, seeing it not as a culture to be lived, but a role to be learned.

The film smacks of an obtuse outsider, but for a film that blend’s documentary, fiction and essay, that perspective and tone does not serve the film poorly. My Crasy Life follows a samoan gang in long beach, as they live the life of a gangsters (predominantly playing cards and drinking 40s, according to this film). There is little violence, but it is always hanging as a potential in the background, both in the gang member’s boasts and in intercut interviews with the gang members.

There is some quaint silliness, such as an extended sequence in which the gang members give definitions to various slang words, and a cop who is accompanied by a judgmental HAL-like computer.

Part of the reason I chose this film is that the Criterion collection, and film in general, is so dominantly white, that I’m eager for any film that attempts to portray the reality of the non-white world, and in this respect, the film is a success.

It is not necessarily critical as much as fascinated with the Samoan gang member’s perspective, but there are several leading moments that give windows into what pushes people towards gangs, white drives the culturally unique Samoans to adopt gang culture, and how they incorporate their own culture into gang culture.

I don’t think it’s a great film, but it is one that presages the experimental documentary movement of the 90s, and in the end, the film kept me interested and paying attention for an hour and forty minutes, and painted a picture, albeit a flawed, blurry one, of a culture that I previously knew nothing about.

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About Big Adam

A NYC doorman, a community organizer, wannabe ape, sometimes blogger, sometimes writer, always crossword puzzle incompleter, I will ride bicycles with your papa, dance Bhangra with your mama, take you on dates that cost nada.
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