A black architect has an affair with a white Italian secretary,
sparking racial conflict in both of their respective neighborhoods.
Jungle Fever (1991)
Written and Directed by Spike Lee
Starring Wesley Snipes, Annabella Sciorra, John Turturro,
Spike Lee, Lonette McKee, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee,
Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry, Frank Vincent,
Anthony Quinn, Brad Dourif, Tim Robbins
Jungle Fever is one of the most overtly racist films I've ever seen. It's a film that shows the fallout that an interracial relationship has on the black neighborhood and the Italian neighborhood, while also showing the effect the affair has on the couple's individual lives. Spike Lee has a reputation for harboring some resentment towards white people, and according to his own father, the film came out of Spike's anger at his father for marrying a white woman after his mother died. If this is true, then this backs up Spike's racial issues. If it's not, then the movie is just wildly racist as part of a social commentary. And it's not like Spike's not onto something. Interracial relationships have always been taboo in this country, and they used to be illegal.
Wesley Snipes plays Flipper Purify, a brilliant architect who has a brief but passionate affair with his new secretary, a white Italian woman named Angie (Sciorra). Flipper confesses the affair to his best friend Cyrus (Lee), while Angie tells her girlfriends. Suddenly, everyone knows what happened and Flipper is kicked out by his wife, and Angie is beaten by her psycho racist father and thrown out. The two move in together, and realize that they aren't in love. All the while, Angie's boyfriend Paulie (Turturro) is agonized by what happened and is the butt of jokes by his racist Italian friends. On the side of the story, Flipper's brother Gator (Jackson) is a crackhead trying to take advantage of their mother's good nature, but their psycho religious father will have none of it. There's a lot going on here, almost like there could've been two different movies out of it. Because of this, the film does feel overly long, but the story and characters are so good that it doesn't really matter in the end.
Jungle Fever will upset you, plain and simple. Particularly, if you are in an interracial relationship. This film shows the deep-seated racism inherent in both white and black people. We've spent centuries hating and fearing each other for our differences, and you can't expect that to just go away in a generation, regrettably. But the film has so few redeemable characters, and in the end, it feels like nothing was learned and everyone is still a monster, except Paulie. Spike knows how to cut to the core of racial tension, and bring out our true feelings, and he does that with this film. It's just that the feelings he brings out are spiteful, hateful, and infuriating to say the least.