|Directed by||Brian De Palma|
|Produced by||Charles Hirsch|
|Written by||Brian De Palma
|Starring||Robert De Niro
|Music by||Eric Kaz|
|Editing by||Paul Hirsch|
|Studio||West End Films|
|Distributed by||Sigma III Corp.
MGM (DVD, 2004)
|Release dates||April 27, 1970|
|Running time||87 minutes|
Hi, Mom! (1970) is a black comedy film by Brian De Palma, and is one of Robert De Niro's first movies. De Niro reprises his role of Jon Rubin from Greetings (1968). In this film, Rubin is a fledgling "adult filmmaker" who has an idea to post cameras at his window and video tape his neighbors.
- Robert De Niro as Jon Rubin
- Charles Durning as Superintendent
- Allen Garfield as Joe Banner
- Lara Parker as Jeannie Mitchell
- Bruce Price as Jimmy Mitchell
- Ricky Parker as Ricky Mitchell
- Andy Parker as Andy Mitchell
- Jennifer Salt as Judy Bishop
- Paul Bartel as Uncle Tom Wood
- Gerrit Graham as Gerrit Wood
- Floyd L. Peterson as John Winnicove
- Paul Hirsch as Avery Gunnz
- Joseph King as Dr Joe King
Be Black, Baby
Its most memorable sequence is one where a black radical group invite a group of WASPs to feel what it is like to be black, in a sequence called Be Black, Baby. It is both a satire and an example of the experimental theatre and cinéma vérité movements. Shot in the style of a documentary film, it features a theater group of African American actors interviewing Caucasians on the streets of New York City, asking them if the whites know what it is like to be black in America.
Later, a group of theater patrons attend a performance by the troupe, wherein soul food is served. The white audience is then subjected to wearing shoe polish on their faces, while the African American actors sport whiteface and terrorize the people in blackface. The white audience members then attempt to escape from the building, and they are ambushed in the elevator by the troupe. As two of the black actors rape one of the white audience members, Robert De Niro arrives as an actor playing an NYPD policeman, arresting members of the white audience under the pretense that they are black. The entire sequence plays with natural sound, and is "unrehearsed" and in "real time". De Palma's familiarity and collaboration with experimental theatre informs the sequence and ratchets up the emotional impact of those who view it, simultaneously engaging their personal responses to racism and commenting on the deceptive and manipulative power of cinema. "If truth itself is plastic," the sequence asks, "then filmed truth is deeply flawed."
Be Black, Baby remains one of the most challenging and intriguing sequences from its era, and its use of an audience's willingness to become emotional accomplices sheds light on De Palma's subsequent career.
MPAA rating board
According to the book The Movie Rating Game by Stephen Farber (Public Affairs Press, 1972), the film was originally given an "X" rating by the MPAA, but after a few minor trims, it was approved for an R. The main cut occurred during the scene where Gerrit Graham paints his entire body for the Be Black, Baby performance. He hesitated for a moment about painting his penis, and then finally finished the job. The actual painting of the penis was deleted to get the R. (The first film, Greetings, was released with an X after losing an appeal to change it to an R.)
The movie would introduce Jennifer Salt after she made a cameo in the film Midnight Cowboy and Charles Durning. Both would work with DePalma on his suspense thriller Sisters. Another person who would star was Paul Bartel, who would move from acting to directing. He directed films like Eating Raoul and Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills.