Text - Marcus Correa / Model - Treyvon / Photography - A-W
Text - Marcus Correa / Model - Treyvon / Photography - A-W
With my passion, writing, and career goals very much centered around fashion, this month I take the backseat from this notion and focus on a bigger picture. As a streetwear kid- turned fashion fan- I have never just fallen in love with the fabrics or cuts but instead the stories in which they tell. Taking a page from fellow A-W writer Anthony Jones, I look to film this month for inspiration.
With a predominantly black cast and crew “Moonlight” has the striking audacity to portray the various shades of gray area in an oftentimes black and white society. The sense of emotion this film evokes is unrivaled for new film or most film in general. It is not so much the story in this case, but rather how it is conveyed that makes it so powerful. The writing, directing, and casting are all cohesive creating a natural chemistry, a window into another life.
Several Academy Awards and waves of positive press have followed, yet I still find review and critique of the film to be off the mark. In a fast-paced digital media age, headlines and stories must be competitive and concise. The problem with this is by boxing a movie such as “Moonlight”, you discredit the many complexities which make the movie so beautiful. I have no interest in categorizing the film, but would rather take a second to reflect on its importance to the art, fashion, music, and film categories at large.
The progression of the movie is one that resonates with me, not because I relate to the literal story, but because I feel as though I, along with many others, can relate to the complexity that is nuanced within it. Each character’s range of emotion and individual choices does a lot for the viewer. It is somewhat pacifying to see a caring drug dealer or a high schooler who succumbs to social pressures, not because I condone it, but because I understand it. Sometimes what we should do and what we feel we have to do, do not align. The beauty in this film is it does not make any sort of judgement about the character’s actions but instead gives insight to their thought process and emotions to understand why they do what they do. The ending does not really leave you happy or sad, but instead in angst. The loose ends are not tied, they remain frayed leaving only some connected. A reality is created on screen and as in reality- perfect endings are hard to come by.
I am not a film critic, but I am someone who is interested in all things that push boundaries or expand on culture “Moonlight” is able to do that through its organic and realistic development of characters. The use of lighting to affect mood is distinct to the film. Moments of conflict are given to us on a beautiful background of color that sticks out in our mind. The warm oranges and purples in his dreams of his mother screaming at him add beauty to an ugly situation, this contrast is memorable for the viewer. The movie never allows the audience to draw connections to another film or story, but instead makes you focus on the details of what you are currently watching. No matter what the medium from art to literature it is human nature to draw comparison and file away a certain piece of art away into the archives of the mind. When you watch a movie like La La Land, for all its greatness we understand it is a musical and a love story; the movie follows a somewhat conventional path. In the case of “Moonlight” calling it just a coming of age tale does not do it justice as the characters and events within it are too complex.
The tension of Chiron as a character is consistent throughout the duration of the film and consistent with the three actors who play him throughout his life. His character never goes where we want him to and never does what we are accustomed to. The remarkable part of this film is its ability to abandon the use of typical archetypes for personas that are much more thoughtful. As a result, discussion of the film is that much more profound. “Moonlight” is not a gay movie, a black movie, a poor movie, or even just a good movie, “Moonlight” is a thought provoking movie.
“Moonlight” dives deeper into something that was previously untapped, a reality of American life previously unexplored. Growing up, there were always a set of movies I watched; “Blood in Blood Out,” “Menace to Society,” “Paid in Full,” “American Me,” the list goes on. All great films in their own right, yet they never seemed to tell the whole story. As much as I loved all the classic “hood” films, the characters in them are always the same and a certain picture is painted for the audience. Growing up in a Chicano neighborhood, these were the films we swore by, and as much as I loved them and wanted to emulate them in one respect or another, there was always a part of me that felt misrepresented. I watched a culture being reduced down to a character and although the action was entertaining, it always caused those on the outside to interpret through a jaded view. Though the stories in these films were important, they were incomplete. The characters in these films were more defined by strong action than a range of emotion. While this made for a great story, it never really properly addressed the wide-range of characters you meet or the ideologies you encounter in these neighborhoods.
“Moonlight” does its due diligences from dress to music when telling its own story; we see themes from other films manipulated in a much different way. Chiron is black, gay, and poor. Even though these qualities take part in sculpting him, they do not define him. He is not your traditional minority in film as there is no traditional minority in life. As he finds himself thrust into situations typical to young men in this country, the subtlety in which he handles these situations is what makes the biggest impact for the viewer. Chiron is never excited or adamantly opposed to these situations, but instead showcases a level of discomfort while he goes through the motions of what is deemed normal where he is from. From a young age, we see physical and verbal confrontation bother him yet he cannot escape them. He is alienated in each conflict he finds himself in whether it be roughhousing with friends or being bullied outside school. Where we want him to stick up for himself or seek help, he instead swallows his pride and goes through the motions as he knows no alternative.
Films like this contribute to culture by expanding upon what is normal. When a genre or subgenre becomes too predictable or one-sided, the hope is this will breed creativity and change. I think about the trajectory of hip-hop and dress as a prime example of this. As the early 2000’s came to a close and rappers and rap fans became tired of the norm, we saw new styles emerge. I specifically remember ‘07 and ‘08 when “Graduation” dropped and Kid Cudi was an emerging rapper coming to the scene with a refreshing change up. When Cudi dropped “A Kid Named Kudi” with 10 Deep, I remember the build up around it and then listening to it and feeling like something felt different. Truthfully, I did not like it all that much, but I do remember thinking, “Yeah this works it’s just different,” it was not in opposition to other artists like UGK, T.I., Jeezy or anyone else who was popular at the time- Instead it offered a different take while contributing to the same theme. I found the mixtape to be incredibly important because it did not really fit into any box we had for rap music before. In today’s society, what hip-hop and R&B is and where an artist is from does not define them. A rapper used to be a very specific type of musician and now there are so many subgenres for rap, it is more subjective than ever. Likewise, around this time we saw a difference in styles as a slimmer silhouette could be seen next to the traditional tall tee and Evisu look. Now from music to dress, rappers and streetwear culture has a multitude of styles as boundaries become less defined each year.
In film however, progression like this has been slower in large part to it being a more difficult industry to enter. The fact that this film was not only made, but the way it was executed, sets a precedent going forward for filmmakers and film fans alike. “Moonlight” adds a new look to old themes. It broadens the spectrum of what a minority film looks like and even further gives pop culture another dimension to consider before categorizing people and characters. Characters like “Juan” and “Chiron” are not one-dimensional characters and though they both are/become drug dealers, we think of them as totally separate characters when we watch the film. By humanizing each character, we take time to differentiate them in a more meaningful way.
Moonlight never forces an idea or a theme throughout the film but instead challenges viewers to derive a message for themselves. It is uniquely powerful and though the story is in many ways gritty, the film maintains a certain beauty from start to finish. We already know it is a historical film based upon the accolades which it has already received however, one of the biggest accomplishments are the effects it has had off the screen. The hope is a sense of understanding for some, and a sense of liberation for others. Moonlight stands alone from a cinema perspective, but is a unifying force when it comes to American Culture.
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