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Black Snake Moan is a film written and directed by Craig Brewer. It was filmed in and around Stanton, Tennesseemarker, and stars Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, and Justin Timberlake. The title of the film derives from the 1927 Blind Lemon Jefferson song, while the plot, as confirmed by director Brewer in the commentary to the DVD of the film, is loosely based on George Eliot's 1861 novel Silas Marner The film draws numerous references to the Mississippi Blues movement, not least in its title and soundtrack.

Plot

The film centers around two main characters: Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), a deeply religious farmer and former blues guitarist, and Rae (Christina Ricci), a young nymphomaniac. Lazarus's wife has left him for his brother, which has left him a bitter and angry man. Rae's boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) leaves for deployment with the 1960th Field Artillery Brigade, Tennessee National Guard, and in his absence she has bouts of promiscuity and drug use. During one of Rae's binges, Ronnie's friend Gill (Michael Raymond-James) tries to take advantage of her. She laughs at his advances, comparing him unfavorably with another man, and he severely beats her. Believing she's dead, Gill dumps Rae by the side of the road and drives away.

Lazarus discovers Rae in the road the next morning and brings her home to nurse her back to health. Over the course of several days, Rae, delirious with fever, occasionally wakes up and tries to flee from Lazarus. He ties her to the radiator with a heavy chain to keep her from running away. After Rae regains her wits, Lazarus announces that it is his spiritual duty to heal her of her sinful ways and refuses to release her until he does so. Rae makes several attempts to escape, but eventually comes to tolerate her position. Lazarus buys her a proper dress to wear, plays guitar for her, and feeds her home-cooked meals. Lazarus's pastor and close friend, R.L. (John Cothran Jr.), visits Lazarus at his house and discovers that Lazarus is imprisoning Rae. The pastor tries to reason with Lazarus and the group shares a meal.

Meanwhile, Ronnie returns to town after being discharged from the National Guard due to his severe anxiety disorder. While searching for Rae, who has disappeared, he meets Gill, who informs him that Rae cheats on him whenever he is out of town. Ronnie attacks Gill, steals his truck, and continues searching for Rae.

In the morning, Lazarus frees Rae, having decided that he has no authority to pass judgment on her. Rae chooses to stay with Lazarus of her own will. Later, Rae and Lazarus take a trip into town, where Rae confronts her mother (Kim Richards) about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother's partner. Meanwhile, Lazarus has formed a budding romance with the local pharmacist, Angela (S. Epatha Merkerson). He plays a blues concert at a local bar, which Rae attends. Ronnie spots Rae and follows her to Lazarus's house. He confronts the pair with a pistol, but Lazarus talks him down and summons the pastor. Ronnie and Rae decide that they are stronger together than apart and get married. While driving away, Ronnie suffers a panic attack and Rae begins to break down, but together they overcome their afflictions.

Cast

Actor Role
Samuel L. Jackson Lazarus Redd
Christina Ricci Rae Doole
Justin Timberlake Ronnie
John Cothran, Jr. R.L.
S. Epatha Merkerson Angela
David Banner Tehronne
Kim Richards Sandy Doole
Son House (archive footage) Himself
Neimus K. Williams Lincoln James
Michael Raymond-James Gill Morton
Clare Grant Kell
Molly Roudabush Trixy


Production

For the film, Jackson spent six or seven hours a day for half a year learning how to play blues guitar for several songs he plays throughout the film. Ricci wore an actual 40-pound (18 kg) chain during filming and ate only foods of no nutritional value to achieve a sickly appearance. She told Entertainment Weekly that she remained scantily-clad even when the cameras weren't rolling: "Sam [Jackson] would be like, 'Put some clothes on!'" she says. "I was like, 'No, you don't understand. I'm doing something important.'"

Reception

Reviews for the film were mixed. As of April 20, 2008, Rotten Tomatoes reported a 66% "Fresh" rating with 95 positive of 145 total reviews, "Average Rating: 6.3 out of 10". On the television program Ebert & Roeper, filmmaker Kevin Smith, filling in for Roger Ebert, described the film as the best of the year thus far. Smith praised Ricci and Jackson, saying this was Ricci's best performance and Jackson's best performance since Pulp Fiction (1994). Richard Roeper also gave the film a "thumb up" rating.

Matt Glasby of Film4, however, awarded the film only 1 star out of 5, calling it a "pressure-cooked mess" that was "bad enough to make gums bleed". The film was also criticized by feminist activists for its portrayal of sexualized violence. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone declared the film the year's Worst Soft-Core Sex on his list of the Worst Movies of 2007.

During its March 2 – 4, 2007 opening weekend in the US the film earned $4 million, putting it in eighth place behind films including other new releases Wild Hogs and Zodiac.

Controversy

In April 2008, Christina Ricci commented on the promotional movie poster for the film, opining that it exploited women:

Soundtrack

Black Snake Moan was released January 30, 2007 by New West Records featuring various artists including three tracks performed by Jackson himself. The 17 tracks cover classic to modern blues.

Reception

The soundtrack album was well received by critics, customers and the public at large.

Critical reviews

Glenn Gaslin at Moving Pictures Magazine briefly reviewed and praised the album: "It should make anyone who loves the blues, er, happy."

Chad Grischow at IGN reviewed the album at length, concluding with, "The album does an excellent job at capturing the sweaty underbelly of the southern blues scene, and is a recommended listen, even if not for the reasons you originally picked it up."

On February 16, 2007, Sarah Linn of Sound the Sirens Magazine wrote in her final paragraph,

James B. Eldred at Bullz-Eye.com concluded his favorable review with,

Commercial rankings

As of May 20, 2008, Amazon.com ranked the album #8,894 in its music category. When considered within the blues subcategories, it was #91 in Regional Blues and #13 in Delta Blues.

Track listing

Track Song Title Artist Time
1 "Opening Theme" Scott Bomar 0:38
2 "Ain't But One Kind of Blues" Son House 0:11
3 "Just Like a Bird Without a Feather" Samuel L. Jackson 2:22
4 "When the Lights Go Out" The Black Keys 3:13
5 "Standing in My Doorway Crying" Jessie Mae Hemphill 4:40
6 "Chicken Heads" Bobby Rush 2:32
7 "Black Snake Moan" Jason Freeman 4:04
8 "Morning Train" Precious Bryant 3:00
9 "The Losing Kind" John Doe 2:33
10 "Lord Have Mercy on Me" Outrageous Cherry 3:04
11 "Ronnie and Rae's Theme" Scott Bomar 1:08
12 "The Chain" Scott Bomar 2:50
13 "Alice Mae" Samuel L. Jackson 3:48
14 "Stackolee" Samuel L. Jackson 3:30
15 "Old Black Mattie" R.L. Burnside 4:10
16 "That's Where the Blues Started" Son House 0:21
17 "Mean Ol' Wind Died Down" North Mississippi Allstars 7:31


Footnotes

References

General sources:

External links




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