I’ve had the 25th anniversary edition of Juice (Ernest R. Dickerson, 1992) for a few years and finally watched it today. I was suddenly in the mood.
According to the making-of featurette, the director had envisioned making a film adaptation of Claude Brown’s autobiography Manchild in the Promised Land, and upon graduating from NYU, he conceived of the film as a film noir with high school kids in Harlem. Co-written by Gerard Brown, Juice follows a brief period of time in the lives of a group of friends Quincy aka Q (Omar Epps), Bishop (Tupac Shakur), Steel (Jermaine Hopkins), and Raheem (Khalil Kain) and the consequences of one of their actions.
As I watched the film, three contemplations occupied my mind:
~ Penetrating personal space is an act of intimacy or menace, depending on the situation. A person who threatens someone else invades personal space faster than a person will inflict gestures of lust onto another person. You can desire someone else with much intensity and do nothing that would suggest that’s the case. The viewer might know that two charaters are not going to kiss just because their faces are that close together, but there is a moment when the passion that underlies an act of domination could become one of passion…if the genre and plot were different.
~ Quincy is you — everyone sucks here. One gun in a friend group is no good. Everyone having a gun isn’t that much better (unless you’re in a western, I suppose).
~ During the first day of intro to film in college, the professor brought up The Matrix (Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, 1999) and how we, the audience, know that Neo is the protagonist. Aside from casting choices, costume, lighting, and the story, how does one determine that this person is supposed to have our support? I thought about this question when watching Juice and how we know that Quincy is this character. For me, it was because he’s the only one who has a hobby that can be monetized within the story world. Q is an amateur DJ and the film spends a considerable amount of screen and narrative time on it (not to the extent that there’s a hidden “sports film” in there, but it’s important). His friends aren’t given the kind of potential that he has in a conventional sense, which makes two of them disposable…after the film establishes which of his friends is the antagonist.
Watch some of the making-of clips here.
Pic creds: IMDB, Amazon