By turns raw, hammy, fresh, musty, stilted, thrilling, dumb, and profound, Black and White easily earns distinction as the greatest semi-improvised didactic fantasy ever made about cultural miscegenation. To watch this messy analysis of hip-hop culture a couple of times is to become infuriated with its incoherence, transfixed by its power, and excited that somebody wants to make cinema of real social relevance. James Toback’s movie is ruled by his obsessions with sex and money. On the one hand, such an approach seems dangerously reductive; on the other, such an artistic vision places Toback in the company of today’s leading rappers.
The plot, baggier than a B-boy’s jeans, concerns a gangsta-turned-music mogul, the white negresses he’s sleeping with, and the basketball star — a friend from the hood — being forced to rat him out to the cops. These characters are more symbols than actual people, and while the dialogue is a jumble of catchy slogans and provocative blather, the pictures tell a subtler story. It’s Toback’s forceful compositions — the faces framed in doorways and windows, the bodies trapped on bridges and in corners — that color in the shades of gray. B