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A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy

Pic is a worldly, knowing look at adult affairs, and could do famously in urban centers, at festivals and on enlightened cable outlets.

The “Foxy Brown”-style graphics and opening, rotating closeup — of a woman deeply involved in her own erotic ecstasy — suggest that “A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy” is on a trip down a blaxploitation corridor of sin. But tyro helmer Dennis Dortch is a trickster: He’s far less interested in where movies have been than where they’ve never dared to go — into the abrasive side of sexual posturing, negotiating and politics. “Black and Sexy” is a worldly, knowing look at adult affairs, and could do famously in urban centers, at festivals and on enlightened cable outlets.

Each of the chapters — there are several, and one is in two parts — involve young adults navigating the four-lane jam-up of the heterosexual highway, dodging a collision here, pulling off onto the shoulder there. The first chapter, the almost self-explanatory “Reciprocity,” involves the woman we first glimpse, who’s definitely having a good time. But when her partner’s turn arrives, she reneges on what he clearly thought was a done deal. Acrimony ensues, as does an all-too-humorous (because it’s happening to other people) study in human behavior. The actors, Kathryn Taylor and Brandon Jones, play it too real for comfort.

Part two, “Her Man,” perhaps the best of the bunch, is about lunchtime adultery between Helena (Chonte’ Harris) and D’Andre (Marcuis Harris), and the lesson is about respect: If D’Andre would just give a little to Helena, she might not be so apt to pick up the phone when it rings, so she can spill the beans to D’Andre’s wife.

Dortch shoots tightly, with an observant eye for the small detail. In fact, pic is assembled almost exclusively out of detail; Dortch and cinematographer Brian Harding practically climb inside the relationships so they can scrutinize their watchlike inner workings.

What’s refreshing about Dortch’s script is how it acknowledges where it might go while not always going there: In “Tonite,” a young girl named Tamal (Mylika Davis) is eating fast food in a car with a boyfriend who’s way too proprietary about his fries, which is a tipoff to the flaws in his character. But rather than open the door to resentment and outrage all at once, Dortch shows how people will avoid the 800-pound elephant in the four-door, if romance is on the line.

All the performers are good, even when the dialogue occasionally loses some juice. Pic’s charm is its really novel take on sex, and who knew there was anything new to say about that?

Production values are adequate, although the intrusiveness of Harding’s camera is cool.

A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy

  • Production: A 1976 Experience presentation in association with Ramcity Pictures. Produced by Layla Mashavu. Directed, written by Dennis Dortch.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Brian Harding; editors, Dortch, Tangier Clarke; music supervisor, Dortch; sound, Shannon Rawls, Anton Haugabook, Robert Backus; sound designer/re-recording mixer, Geoff Green; casting, Adetoro Makinde. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Feb. 4, 2008. (In Sundance Film Festival -- Spectrum.) Running time: 92 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Kathryn Taylor, Brandon Jones, Chonte' Harris, Marcuis Harris, Mylika Davis, Nana Hill, Kareem Grimes, Alphonso Johnson.