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She's Gotta Have It

One disc; MGM; $19.98

By Michael S. Gant

Spike Lee's first full-length feature was an art-house sensation when it came out in 1986. Here was an African American indie filmmaker with visual chops, his finger on the pulse of black boho life and a generous attitude about female sexuality. Twenty-two years later, She's Gotta Have It looks more dated than daring. Lee's direction is sprightly, with a mock-documentary editing style influenced by Woody Allen's Annie Hall—the connection is clearly seen in the wonderful sequence in which a series of horndogs show off their pickup lines ("I just want to rock your world"; "I got my BA from Morehouse, my MBA from Harvard ... and I want you to want me") as if being interviewed by the director. The tale is narrated by Nola Darling, a free-spirited Brooklynite, and her three competing boyfriends: uptight Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks), vain Greer (John Canada Terrell) and Larry Bird-hating Mars Blackmon (a wonderful comic creation in big glasses and giant bling by fast-talking Lee). Terrell's Greer, who never tires of looking at himself and only dates "fine women," gets a lot of laughs out of his sartorial fussiness; he takes so long folding his underwear that he kills a passion-op with Nola. The film benefits from Ernest Dickerson's lush black-and-white cinematography and Bill Lee's jazzy score (bogged down only by a bizarre color ballet sequence), but the center does not hold—Tracy Camilla Johns doesn't seem worth all the attention she garners from men and women alike. A wooden actress, Johns never had it, showing up in only a few films and TV shows after her debut. There are no extras.

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