Screen Reviews
Black Wax

Black Wax

directed by Robert Mugge

starring Gil Scott-Heron and the Midnight Band

MVD Visual

Like all good titles, this one is subject to multiple interpretations. Your first though might be: “Gil Scott-Heron – Jazz singer from the 1970’s.” But the opening scene takes you to that creepiest of places, a wax museum. This one is the Wax Museum Nightclub in Washington, D.C. The museum forms a platform for the rest of this 1982 film, in it Heron talks about his childhood in Chicago, Tennessee, and Washington D.C., his music, and most important his advocacy of civil rights driven by his skills as a poet and speaker.

Black Wax

The film alternates between the wax museum, onstage footage and a walking tour of the less than touristy parts of Washington. Tenth and V Street is prominently mentioned, and Heron’s skills as both a jazzman and a speaker are clearly evident. He’s eloquent and commanding, and his arguments for peace, love and “stop beating the crap out of us” is clear and compelling. Heron claims his profession as “Bluesologist”, that’s a person who seeks the history and meaning behind the music. Anecdotes fly; when he arrived in Jackson, TN the music scene was orders smaller than in sprawling Chicago. He asked a local “where can I find the blues?” “Just stand right here, the blues will find you” came the reply. Heron excels at questioning poetry in “This Must be Deep.” He states: “I recognize all these words on their own, but I can’t get nothing out of how they are arranged. This must be DEEP.” As one of Mugge’s early works Black Wax introduces his noninvasive style; he lets Heron tell what he tells naturally, and allows him to mix the exterior world with Heron’s internal monologue. The result paints Heron as a still timely, mythic icon of the civil rights movement.

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