Mesmerizing and mysterious as well as visually striking and deeply affecting. Every time I see it, I discover a new facet to this profound work of art (there is no other way to describe it). A singular, stunning achievement from a mind that seems to simultaneously not be from this world and to have a better grasp on human nature than most of us. A masterpiece.
Falls more under the art-film genre than blaxploitation - this is the full 110 minute version rather than the severly truncated 78 minute theatrical release. One reviewer said..."an experimental overlapping of dialogue, image, voiceover and music that makes you feel as if you're suffering from an awful fever dream" - indeed.
I'll be the first to admit it; I don't entirely 'get' this film. Blaxploitation is a sub-genre is either love or hate it feels. Anyway, G&H is at its best memorable, abstract, and mesmerizing. It fits somewhere in the middle as far as vampire flicks go. The 70's effects do it justice in my opinion; unsettling. At is worst, the film barely carries a story or thought in a sensible way; confusing, meandering, & preachy.
Though certainly not what the producers expected Bill Gunn's ground breaking, influential art film has gained a following with age. Gunn's take on vampirism and black spirituality offers much more than a horror offering. One can only suppose its influence on later films such as Romero's 'Martin', Ferrara's "The Addiction" and Fessenden's 'Habit'. Low production values (especially sound) don't take away the impact.
Mislabeled as cheap blaxploitation horror, Bill Gunn's Ganja & Hess is an emotionally complex and deliberately paced psychological meditation on addiction with an inspired turn by Duane Jones in one of his few post-Living Dead roles. The 16mm photography is naturalistic and vibrant and is accompanied nicely by a versatile and sometimes surreal score by Sam Waymon (brother and sometimes collaborator of Nina Simone).
"You could say that Bill Gunn was a man who came before his time, but that leaves you working under the flimsy assumption that a time more hospitable to this man of undeniable talents and mercurial preoccupations would some day come." - Brandon Harris, Filmmaker Magazine. 3.5 stars
This is a film packed with enigma, eloquence, fatalism and meandering references to Voudoun and African roots. It is a must see for fans of Night of The Living Dead due to the presence of Duane Jones and shows what cinema is all about. It would be a chic double feature with Vampyros Lesbos, or a perfect triple with Morissey's Blood for Dracula.
One of my favorite MUBI discoveries! History may simplify it as part of the "blaxploitation" wave, but that does little justice to its adventurous combination of schlock, lyricism, commentary, and the avant-garde, plus a few exquisite monologs from the director's background as a playwright. It's a shame this was buried for so long and that Bill Gunn's film career was cut so short.
A masterpiece and it was the ONLY American film shown in Cannes in 1973. It is NOT a "blaxploitation" film as MUBI (and white people insist) as it was funded knowing that Bill Gunn was a serious Triple Threat artist and a maverick of African-American drama. He was the second black filmmaker to direct a movie for Hollywood (Gordon Parks was the first) but his film "Stop" was shelved. Gunn was a radical and a genius.