As a testament to the respect he garners in the neighborhood, however, he is allowed to pass by without being sprayed by the water.
Radio Raheem's warrior status is first challenged in the film by a group of Latinos hanging out on their front stoop. They are listening to the radio, which is blasting Latin music. Suddenly, Radio Raheem appears, with his ghetto blaster pumping out Public Enemy. The Latinos react in anger, and turn up their music in order to drown out Radio Raheem's. This contest goes on for a few more takes, but it is ultimately Radio Raheem who emerges victorious in attaining maximum volume. The "fight" against the "power" has been won - at least momentarily. As Radio Raheem marches down the street, leaving his victims behind, a small black child runs up next to him. Radio Raheem gives the child a high five.
In another important scene, the batteries on Radio Raheem's ghetto blaster have malfunctioned. He goes into the Korean shop in order to buy new ones. He angrily yells at the Korean owner and his wife when they are unable to initially understand his request for batteries, which are kept behind the counter. He insults them racially, and they yell back at him in response. Clearly, by this point, we can determine that Radio Raheem is meant to represent the anger of a black man living in poor conditions in New York City. Earlier in the film, we saw him interact angrily with the Latinos on the street; now, he is having a confrontation with the Asians in his neighborhood. He would clearly prefer not to have to interact with anyone other than African-Americans - the only group of people who seem to respect him, and whom he respects in return.
After a conversation with Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito), Radio Raheem agrees to "fight the power" by boycotting Sal's pizzeria. Earlier in the film, Radio Raheem had been insulted by Sal (Danny Aiello), who asked him not to blast his music in his shop. Buggin Out is enraged that Sal does not have any African-Americans on his "wall of fame," which consists wholly of Italian-Americans. Together, Buggin Out and Radio Raheem go in to confront Sal in the scene of the film that will lead to the bloody climax.
After nearly killing Sal for calling him a "nigger" and destroying his ghetto blaster, the police arrive and, in restraining Radio Raheem, wind up murdering him. This sparks a massive riot.
Do the Right Thing is an anti-violent film. But it is a violent act - namely, the murder of Radio Raheem by the New York police - that sparks off the rioting that results in the destruction of Sal's pizzeria. At the same time, it could also be argued that it is Radio Raheem's uncontrollable anger that got him killed.
Thus, by the end of Do the Right Thing, it is not merely the African-American denizens of the neighborhood who have learned a valuable lesson, but the Italian-Americans who work there - and who have lost their livelihood as a result of their uncontrollable anger. This violent clash between different ethnic groups on a hot summer's day thus serves as a quintessential New York story - and, like Mean Streets, as a morality tale.
Woody Allen's Annie Hall
The typical Woody Allen film presents a masterful blend of satire and wit with occasionally outlandish scenarios. More often, however, his films are so true to life that they inspire us to ponder philosophical complexities even while we are laughing. One of the most prolific and uncompromising filmmakers of all time, Allen continues to average a film a year - most of which he writes, directs, and stars in.
Widely named among the greatest comedies of all time, Annie Hall stars Diane Keaton as a ditsy midwestern girl trying to find herself in the Big Apple, and Allen as the neurotic stand-up comedian who pursues her - and ultimately wins her love. The story is told in the past tense by Allen's character, who frequently breaks the fourth wall in order to comment on the action - a Woody Allen trademark. In the words of Travis Jeppesen, "Annie Hall is one of those quintessential '70s films that remarkably manage to say so much about the culture-at-large through the guise of an intimate love story." It also shows us a side of New York that viewers of Mean Streets and Do the Right Thing do not see.
The two main characters, Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) and Alvy Singer (Woody Allen), each come from two completely different backgrounds. Singer is a famous stand-up comedian living in a ritzy part of midtown Manhattan. He was not always from such a fortunate background, however; in flashback sequences throughout the film, we learn that he grew up in a working-class Jewish immigrant family in the Coney Island area of Brooklyn - an area that looks completely remote from the bustling world of city life we see in the Manhattan segments, where the film is mostly set. Hall, on the other hand, comes from a white bread Midwestern American family, and has moved to New York's Bohemian quarter Greenwich Village in search of adventure and excitement.
Annie Hall thus portrays a relatively mainstream version of New York City life. In one memorable scene in the film, Annie and Alvy are in Central Park people-watching, marveling at all the various "types" one can find in the center of New York on a warm spring day - the Mafioso, the homosexual, the literary type, etc.
The rich variety of life one finds in New York is contrasted in several key scenes with that other major American city, Los Angeles. Whereas New York is portrayed as a city rich in cultural complexity, Los Angeles is shown as being full of superficial phonies. While this is most likely rooted in Allen's defiant stance as a filmmaker - turning his back on the Hollywood mainstream by insisting on remaining in New York and staying true to his home town vision - the audience still gets to laugh at the seeming otherworldliness of Los Angeles, which makes New York seem like a very down-to-earth place. For this reason, Annie Hall has emerged as one of the most quintessential New York City films of all time - despite its deliberate avoidance of the sort of controversial issues explored by directors like Scorsese and Lee.
From the mean streets of Little Italy to the ghettos of Brooklyn, from the working-class area of Coney Island to the high class of midtown Manhattan, American filmmakers have attempted to render New York City in all its myriad complexities. Behind all the dirty and grime and urban violence, however, one thing from each of these films remains clear - that, unlike such discontent figures as Jane Jacobs, author of the Death and Life of Great American Cities, these filmmakers all clearly love New York City and take inspiration from its chaotic formation. As Italo Calvino wrote of one of his "invisible cities,"
No one remembers what need or command or desire drove Zenobia's founders to give their city this form, and so there is no telling whether it was satisfied by the city as we see it today, which has perhaps grown through successive superimpositions from the first, now undecipherable plan. But what is certain is that if you ask an inhabitant of Zenobia to describe his vision of a happy life, it is always a city like Zenobia that he imagines, with its pilings and its suspended stairways, a Zenobia perhaps quite different, a-flutter with banners and ribbons, but always derived by combining elements of that first model (Calvino 35).
Based on the filmic representations we have examined, it seems clear that mainstream American audiences - which constitute the majority of the viewing public - will more readily identify with Allen's depiction of New York. Both Scorsese and Lee confine their films to specific neighborhoods, where ethnic and class-based conflicts play out. The typical New York tourist, however, will likely not witness occurrences. Where they do identify with Mean Streets and Do the Right Thing, it will likely be rooted in personal traits of individual characters, rather than the New York aspect of the experience portrayed.
Calvino, Italo. 1974. Invisible Cities. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Cannon, Damian. 1997. "Mean Streets (1973)." Movie Reviews UK. Retrieved April 24, 2008 from: http://www.film.u-net.com/Movies/Reviews/Mean_Streets.html.
Ebert, Roger. 2003. "Mean Streets." Retrieved April 25, 2008 at http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20031231/REVIEWS08/401010340/1023.
Friedman, Lawrence S. 1997. The Cinema of Martin Scorsese. New York: Continuum.
Grist, Leighton. 2000. The Films of Martin Scorsese, 1963-77: Authorship and Context. New York: St. Martin's.
Jacobs, Jane. 1961. The Death and Life of Great American Cities: The Failure of Town
Planning. New York: Random House.
Jeppesen, Travis. 2008. "Woody Allen." Think Again Magazine, January/February.