2019 has been a great year for films, as we move towards the end of film festival season and into the beginning of awards season, many people have noticed that a certain film is barely being talked about even though it’s one of the best films of the year. The film in this scenario is none other than “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”, a beautiful piece of cinema about two friends trying to navigate a changing city that they feel forgotten by and can’t recognize anymore. It deals with a whole host of issues such as gentrification , friendship , abandonment , white privilege , masculinity and much more. Even though over the last couple of years there have been films that do take place in the bay area that do discuss gentrification, films such as Blindspotting and Sorry To Bother You and while both are excellent films. However, I feel that TLBMISF tells a completely different story and does something that you don’t see often in films that tackle such subjects. The two films mentioned previously, while both extremely nuanced when discussing it's subject matter, lacks subtlety. Nowadays a lot of films that talk about such social issues are very loud and bombastic , while I don’t think that’s a bad thing ,seeing a film that approaches these same themes with a lot of subtlety and takes a more gentle approach in it's presentation was a massive breath of fresh air.
The visual aspects of the film such as the cinematography are honestly some of the best many people, including myself have seen in the past year. The best way to describe the visuals is that it’s a combination of the dream like golden hour esque smooth cinematography that you can see from filmmakers like Barry Jenkins with the colorful and symmetrical picture book composition found in the works of director Wes Anderson. The visuals are something to behold as not only does cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra make the film look stunning but he fills the iconic city of San Francisco with so much energy and life that it turns a location into a character. On top of this, the excellent score created by Emile Mosseri when paired with the incredible visuals only enhances the cinematic experience. The score further brings the vibrant location of San Francisco to life and greatly compliments the dramatic scenes, a lot of the time in dramas the score often can be overbearing and manipulative which can lead to a lot of emotional scenes feeling cheap and unearnt. Luckily this is not the case and the use of the score makes a lot of things really memorable.
Director Joe Talbot could have taken a fairly bland and conventional approach with the direction of the film. Most films like this always have a tense and somewhat impending threat feeling to them and often times gives the audience a feeling of constant stress, Talbot throws this idea away and creates a calm and gentle film and the experience of watching The Last Black Man in San Francisco was one that I would describe as chill. I thought the script was also pretty excellent and had something very interesting and different to say about the issues it deals with, the dialogue and characters felt realistic and allowed the actors to give great performances. In my opinion Jonathon Majors as Jimmie’s childhood friend Mont was the best performance in the film, Mont is a fairly eccentric character who is a creative at heart and works well with the fairly straightforward everyday person that is Jimmie. It is easy to give a wacky and unrealistic performance when playing someone who is eccentric , however Majors gives a really good performance that is grounded and feels very real. Jimmie Fails also gives an excellent performance but I feel Majors’ is more unique.
Overall, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is an excellent film but why is nobody really discussing it when it comes to awards. I feel there are many reasons for this, one reasons is practically non existent marketing. Leading up to the film’s release in the states the studio A24 basically did nothing to get the general public interested even though from a critical standpoint the film was a sure fire hit due to its festival praise and success. A24 never made the effort to reach out to general audiences to get them to see the film and on top of this they gave the film a very limited open weekend release where it opened in only 7 cinemas before expanding. At its peak the film was in 207 cinemas across the US. When compared to other films that came out during that time period that is very weak, for example Midsommar which was also produced by A24 was released in 2,707 cinemas across the US. It is clear that A24 decided to push Midsommar instead of Last Black Man in both releases and marketing. This is fairly ironic seeing as the marketing of Midsommar was fairly misleading and false in comparison to Last Black Man. To a certain extent it does make sense that they marketed Midsommar more as the director's previous film was a huge success with both critics and audiences as well as the box office, However if Last Black Man got half of what Midsommar got in terms of release and marketing I can assure you that it would be talked about a lot more than it is right now.
However, it is also to note that what annoys me and many others is that The Last Black Man in San Francisco is the type of film awards shows should be paying attention to, and I feel these sorts of films should be getting more attention just in general. An original indie film about people of color that discusses current and important socio political themes and is subtle and nuanced, starring and directed by up and coming talents and not to mention it's technical brilliance. Instead of spending $12 on seeing the next Disney film, go out and rent The Last Black Man in San Francisco and go out and see the latest indie film. Let us all make sure that great and original stories don’t get forgotten, the same way that San Francisco did...