Passing Strange makes its local debut tonight at CMA

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Spike Lee's latest feature-length film, Passing Strangecomes to the Cleveland Museum of Art for showing tonight at 6:30 and at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10. Here is our review of the film.

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Passing Strange (US, 2009) With his indie-rock outfit the Negro Problem, front man Stew put out several albums that reveled in his wry sense of humor. They got critical acclaim but never attracted more than a cult following. His transition to playwright didn’t come as a shock, then, as his literary sensibilities proved to be well-suited to the stage. His play Passing Strange garnered Tony Award nominations during a Broadway run, and Spike Lee filmed its last show, the basis of this film. But what worked on stage doesn’t necessarily work on film. The sparse stage and weighty pronouncements (“Only the slums of America could produce such pain!”) don’t translate well, as we follow a young black man (Daniel Breaker) who dreams of starting a punk-rock band and traveling to Amsterdam and Berlin. The songs are noisy, rambunctious and fun, and the play has a good energy too. But Lee’s conventional rendering comes off as the filming of very good play. ** 1/2

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