Black Snake Moan (film)

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Black Snake Moan
Blacksnakemoan3.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Craig Brewer
Produced by Stephanie Allain
John Singleton
Written by Craig Brewer
Starring Samuel L. Jackson
Christina Ricci
Justin Timberlake
Music by Scott Bomar
Cinematography Amy Vincent
Editing by Billy Fox
Studio Paramount Classics
Distributed by Paramount Vantage
Release dates
  • December 9, 2006 (2006-12-09) (Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
  • March 2, 2007 (2007-03-02) (United States)
Running time 117 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[1]
Box office $10,903,846[1]

Black Snake Moan is a 2006 American drama film written and directed by Craig Brewer, and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, and Kim Richards. The plot focuses on a Mississippi bluesman (Jackson) who holds a troubled local woman (Ricci) captive in his house in an attempt to cure her of her nymphomania after finding her severely beaten on the side of a road.

The title of the film derives from the 1927 Blind Lemon Jefferson song, while the plot is loosely based on George Eliot's 1861 novel Silas Marner.[2] The film draws numerous references to the Mississippi Blues movement, not least in its title and soundtrack.

Plot[edit]

The film centers on two main characters: Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), a deeply religious farmer and former blues guitarist, and Rae (Christina Ricci), a young nymphomaniac. Lazarus' wife and his brother were having an affair, which has left him bitter and angry. Rae's boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) leaves for deployment with the 196th Field Artillery Brigade, Tennessee National Guard, and in his absence, she indulges in bouts of promiscuity and drug use. During one of Rae's binges, Ronnie's friend Gill (Michael Raymond-James) tries to take advantage of her. She laughs at his advances, comparing him unfavorably with another man, and he severely beats her. Believing she's dead, Gill dumps Rae and leaves her for dead in only a shirt and underwear by the side of the road and drives away.

Lazarus discovers Rae unconscious in the road the next morning and brings her home to nurse her back to health. Lazarus goes to see Tehronne (David Banner) - the man who Lazarus thought had beaten her - and learns of her promiscuity. Over the course of several days, Rae, delirious with fever, occasionally wakes up and tries to flee from Lazarus. He chains her to the radiator to keep her from running away. After Rae regains her wits, Lazarus announces that it is his spiritual duty to heal her of her sinful ways and refuses to release her until he does so. Rae makes several attempts to escape, and even briefly has sex with a teenage boy who helps out on Lazarus' farm.

She eventually comes to tolerate her position. Lazarus buys her a conservative dress to wear, plays the guitar for her, and feeds her home-cooked meals. Lazarus' pastor and close friend, R.L. (John Cothran, Jr.), visits Lazarus at his house and discovers that Lazarus is imprisoning Rae. The pastor tries to reason with Lazarus and the group shares a meal.

Meanwhile, Ronnie returns to town after being discharged from the National Guard due to his severe anxiety disorder. While searching for Rae, who has disappeared, he meets Gill, who informs him that Rae cheats on him whenever he is out of town. Ronnie attacks Gill, steals his truck, and continues searching for Rae.

In the morning, Lazarus frees Rae, having decided that he has no authority to pass judgment on her. Rae chooses to stay with Lazarus of her own will. Later, Rae and Lazarus take a trip into town, where Rae confronts her mother (Kim Richards) about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother's partner. Meanwhile, Lazarus has formed a budding romance with the local pharmacist, Angela (S. Epatha Merkerson). He plays a blues concert at a local bar, which Rae attends. Ronnie spots Rae and follows her to Lazarus' house. He confronts the pair with a pistol, but Lazarus talks him down and summons the pastor. Ronnie and Rae decide they are stronger together than apart and get married. While driving away, Ronnie suffers a panic attack and Rae begins to break down, but together they recover and move on.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

For the film, Jackson spent six or seven hours a day for half a year learning how to play the blues guitar for several songs he plays throughout the film,[3][4] all of which derive from the repertoire of R. L. Burnside.[5] Ricci wore an actual 40-pound (18 kg) chain during filming[6] and ate only foods of no nutritional value to achieve a sickly appearance.[7] She told Entertainment Weekly that she remained scantily clad even when the cameras were not rolling: "Sam [Jackson] would be like, 'Put some clothes on!' I was like, 'No, you don't understand. I'm doing something important.'"[8]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Reviews for the film were mixed.[9] As of August 18, 2011, Rotten Tomatoes reported a 66% "Fresh" rating based on 150 reviews, with an average rating of 6.3 out of 10[10] while Metacritic awarded the film an average rating of 52 out of 100 based on 34 reviews.[9]

On the television program Ebert & Roeper, filmmaker Kevin Smith, filling in for Roger Ebert, described the film as the best of the year thus far. Smith praised Ricci and Jackson, saying this was Ricci's best performance and Jackson's best performance since Pulp Fiction (1994). Richard Roeper also gave the film a "thumb up" rating. Matt Glasby of Film4, however, awarded the film only 1 star out of 5, calling it a "pressure-cooked mess" that was "bad enough to make gums bleed".[11] The film was also criticized by feminist activists for its portrayal of sexualized violence.[12] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone declared the film the year's Worst Soft-Core Sex on his list of the Worst Movies of 2007.[13]

Box office[edit]

During its March 2–4, 2007 opening weekend in the US the film earned $4 million, putting it in eighth place behind films including other new releases Wild Hogs and Zodiac.[1][14]

Marketing[edit]

In April 2008, Christina Ricci commented on the promotional poster for the film, criticizing it as exploitative of women:

"The way that movie was marketed was probably one of the most disappointing and upsetting things that's ever happened to me in my career. I have no interest in exploiting women any further than they've already been exploited...All they [marketing bosses] cared about was college-age boys going to see it."[15]

Soundtrack[edit]

Black Snake Moan
Soundtrack album by various
Released January 30, 2007
Genre Blues
Label New West
Producer various

Black Snake Moan was released January 30, 2007 by New West Records featuring various artists including four tracks performed by Jackson himself. The 17 tracks cover classic to modern blues.

No. Title Artist Length
1. "Opening Theme"   Scott Bomar 0:38
2. "Ain't But One Kind of Blues"   Son House 0:11
3. "Just Like a Bird Without a Feather"   Samuel L. Jackson 2:22
4. "When the Lights Go Out"   The Black Keys 3:13
5. "Standing in My Doorway Crying"   Jessie Mae Hemphill 4:40
6. "Chicken Heads"   Bobby Rush 2:32
7. "Black Snake Moan"   Samuel L. Jackson 4:04
8. "Morning Train"   Precious Bryant 3:00
9. "The Losing Kind"   John Doe 2:33
10. "Lord Have Mercy on Me"   Outrageous Cherry 3:04
11. "Ronnie and Rae's Theme"   Scott Bomar 1:08
12. "The Chain"   Scott Bomar 2:50
13. "Alice Mae"   Samuel L. Jackson 3:48
14. "Stack-o-lee"   Samuel L. Jackson 3:30
15. "Poor Black Mattie"   R. L. Burnside 4:10
16. "That's Where the Blues Started"   Son House 0:21
17. "Mean Ol' Wind Died Down"   North Mississippi Allstars 7:31

Critical reviews[edit]

Glenn Gaslin at Moving Pictures Magazine briefly reviewed and praised the album: "It should make anyone who loves the blues, er, happy."[16]

Chad Grischow at IGN reviewed the album at length, concluding with, "The album does an excellent job at capturing the sweaty underbelly of the southern blues scene, and is a recommended listen, even if not for the reasons you originally picked it up."[17]

On February 16, 2007, Sarah Linn of Sound the Sirens Magazine wrote in her final paragraph,[18]

As a stand-alone album, these 17 tracks are sure to give anybody, blues fan or not, a major taste of what blues music embodies: human struggle. Rootsy and spiritual, down-and-out but hopeful, each track is drunk and steeped on old-time blues, and can be best summed up by the “Father of the Delta Blues,” Son House. He says this on the blues: “Sometimes that kind of blues will make you even kill one another … or do anything, that kind of low … that’s where the blues started.”

James B. Eldred at Bullz-Eye.com concluded his favorable review with,[19]

Blues fans, indie rockers, and those who worship at the Church of Jackson should pick up this soundtrack. Not only does it prove that one of film’s great hard-asses can sing, it’s also a great introduction to the blues, both classic and modern.

Commercial rankings[edit]

As of May 20, 2008, Amazon.com ranked the album #8,894 in its music category. When considered within the blues subcategories, it was #91 in Regional Blues and #13 in Delta Blues.[20]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "BLACK SNAKE MOAN". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  2. ^ "DVD commentary as reported in LensViews review of Black Snake Moan". 
  3. ^ "About.com". Samuel L Jackson Talks About "Home of the Brave". Retrieved February 20, 2007. 
  4. ^ "Crave Online". Moaning MF'n Snakes. Retrieved 2007-02-20. 
  5. ^ "Samuel L. Jackson Channels The Blues In New Film". DownBeat Magazine. 2006-03-11. Retrieved 2014-01-22. 
  6. ^ "The Two-One-Three". Black Snake Moan. Retrieved 2007-02-20. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Yahoo Entertainment News". 
  8. ^ Rottenberg, Josh (2007-02-23). "Entertainment Weekly". 
  9. ^ a b Black Snake Moan at Metacritic
  10. ^ "Black Snake Moan". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  11. ^ "Black Snake Moan Review". Film4. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  12. ^ "Black Snake Moan". feministing.com. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  13. ^ Travers, Peter, (December 19, 2007) "Peter Travers' Best and Worst Movies of 2007" Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-12-20
  14. ^ "Weekend Box Office, March 2–4, 2007". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  15. ^ "Ricci upset by 'Black Snake Moan' marketing". Starpulse. 2008-04-19. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  16. ^ Gaslin, Glenn. "Black Snake Moan Soundtrack". Moving Pictures Magazine. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  17. ^ Grischow, Chad (2007-02-28). "Various Artists - Black Snake Moan Soundtrack". IGN. News Corporation. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  18. ^ Linn, Sarah (2007-02-16). "V/A: Black Snake Moan". Sound the Sirens Magazine. Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  19. ^ Eldred, James B. "Various Artists: Black Snake Moan Soundtrack". Bullz-Eye.com. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  20. ^ "Black Snake Moan [SOUNDTRACK]". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 

References[edit]

General sources:

External links[edit]