“Chi-raq” and Lysistrata: Why We Should Care About An Ancient Greek Comedy
Spike Lee’s latest cinematic venture: “Chi-raq,” is a reimagining of an ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes: Lysistrata. Featuring a malevolently gleeful Sam Jackson and an absolutely gorgeous Teyonah Parris in the lead role, here is why the Greeks have suddenly become relevant again.
“Welcome to Chi-raq,” says Sam Jackson with the kind of evil glee only he can muster, “Land of Pain, Misery and Strife.” And so begins the first trailer (via Tracking Board) for Spike Lee’s latest cinematic outing, a modern day reimagining of Aristophanes’ play “Lysistrata.”
Rhe name itself is a portmanteau of Chicago and Iraq, referring to the informal name for violence infested Chicago’s south side. Previously, Lee got into trouble with the name, with Chicago city council members outright demanding him to change it to something more politically correct.
When Aristophanes wrote Lysistrata, back in 411 BCE, he wanted a commentary on the dire status of Athenian women as their husbands fought the interminable Peloponnesian War. Back then, Lysistrata, a Greek woman of extraordinary character and strength, united all the women of Greece to withhold sexual pleasures from their husbands unless they negotiated a peace amongst themselves.
And so does Teyonah Parris in Lee’s modern day fable, with her hands hovering over her alluring body, and her sisters repeat after her,
“I will deny all rights of access and entrance. Lock it Up, Lock it Up, Lock it Up.”
Lee, whose films have repeatedly explored race relations and urban crime, expertly draws parallels with Aristophanes war and inner-city gun violence. He uses the lyrical device to its full use, with all the characters speaking in a hypnotic rhyming couplet.
But even if you do not care about rhetoric or social issues, there are a couple of reasons why you should check out “Chi-raq”: Kanye West is one, Nick Cannon is another. In fact the film stars the who ‘s who of African-American talent: from Jennifer Hudson to Angela Bassett to an eyepatch toting Wesley Snipes, shooting up the neighbourhood with nihilistic joy. There also a really serious John Cusack in the mix, although we are not entirely sure what he is up to.
“Chi-raq” releases on Amazon Instant and a limited number of theaters on Dec 4, 2015.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons/Chi-raq