Rattling His Chains

There's no polite way to describe Craig Brewer's "Black Snake Moan," so let's get it over with. Samuel L. Jackson stars as Lazarus, an old black bluesman who tries to cure Rae (Christina Ricci) of nymphomania by tethering her to his radiator with a steel chain. Revolted? Intrigued? Amused? If you checked all of the above, Brewer would be delighted. His film "Hustle & Flow" got two Oscar nominations (and won for best song) in 2005, but it also kicked up a lot of criticism that the story of a black pimp didn't need to be told, especially by a white director.

"Moan" raises the stakes with both its reverse slave imagery and its disturbing depiction of sex addiction. "Having a white girl chained up at a black man's house, that definitely seems manipulative," says Carmen Van Kerckhove, president of the diversity-training firm New Demographic. Brewer understands how the film seems confrontational--that's the point. "Craig wanted this film to be provocative," says Jackson, "but it's a pretty straightforward redemption story when you look at it." Brewer insists the film works on several levels. "Audiences do not find it shocking when Rae wakes up with the chain," he says. "If anything they're relieved, and they understand Lazarus's actions, as misguided as they may be." Let's hope that it's not Brewer who's misguided.

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