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The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Jimmie Fails wrote and plays himself in this autobiographical account of growing up in San Francisco. Jimmie and his friend Mont (Jonathan Majors) are inseparable, and Jimmie stays with Mont and his blind father (played by Danny Glover). Mont works in a fish market but spends a lot of time observing people and dialog in hopes of writing a screenplay. Jimmie is obsessed with the house that his grandfather built 70 years ago in the Fillmore district. When the current owners are gone, Jimmie and Mont go over to the house and do improvement work, such as weeding the gardens and painting the trim, much to the consternation of the owners. The film is a story of the friendship of the two and Jimmie’s obsession/love affair with the family home against the landscape of a city that is ever changing through gentrification. Two aspects of the film that caught my attention right away are its exceptional cinematography and the score. Nearly every shot is a masterpiece, whether it is a close-up of Jimmie and Mont, perspective caught through an angled shot, or a panoramic view of the city. The score mixes musical genres and is closely and carefully tied to the unfolding of the story. The acting by the leads is superb; their chemistry brings incredible depth to their screen friendship, and their superior acting skills are evident in the way they are captured by the camera. I loved the diverse (and sometimes hilarious) views of life in the city. The film is a homage to the city and a commentary on the ongoing gentrification that has displaced many. The film gets a huge thumbs up from me. It is definitely an art film; its pace and character development are slow, and maybe a little too slow in the first third of the film, but the frequent surprises, incredible acting, and beautiful filmmaking make it worth the wait. Those who have spent time in the city and know a lot about it will probably really appreciate the story and what it Jimmie reveals about his city. (2019; 4.5 Stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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