Call Spike Lee's latest joint Red Hook Summer what you will, but don't call it a "sequel."
That's what the outspoken director made clear at the film's premiere at Sundance when he said, "Do me a favor, when you go out and talk about it, please tell 'em, this is not a motherfucking sequel to Do The Right Thing. " This, despite the fact that Lee reprises the role of Mookie, still delivering pies for Sal twenty years after lofting a garbage can through the window of the famous pizzeria.
If the film, which opens in Atlanta today, is not a sequel, what should we call a work that shares a thread with a previous film. The appropriate term appears to be "spiritual successor," defined by Wikipedia thus: "a work of fiction which does not directly build upon the storyline established by a previous work as do most traditional prequels or sequels, but nevertheless features many of the same elements, themes, and styles as its source material."
In the world of cinema, there exists a a surprisingly rich tradition of spiritual successors (academics might use the word intertextuality), including works by Jean-Luc Godard, Claire Denis, Steven Soderbergh, Richard Linklater, and Todd Solondz.
In 1991, Jean-Luc Godard's dense Germany Year 90 Nine Zero explores the failure of communism in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall by dispatching American Agent secret Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine, reprising the role from JLG's 1965 noir/sci-fi mash-up Alphaville) on a metaphysical investigation.
Turnabout is fair play: In Beau Travail, Claire Denis' 1999 adaptation of Conrad's "Billy Bud", actor Michel Sabor plays Commander Bruno Forestier, the same role he originated in Godard's 1962 Le Petit Soldat. (Tip to: http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc50.2008/PetitSoldatDenis/index.html)
Steven Soderbergh pulled a terrific cinematic trick in The Limey (1999) when he intercut vintage footage of star Terence Stamp (called Wilson) from Ken Loach's 1967 Poor Cow (in which his character is called Dave Fuller).
Richard Linklater populates the roto-scoped dreamscape of his film Waking Life (2001) with a handful of spiritual sequel threads—from lovers Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (between Before Sunrise (1995), and Before Sunset (2004)—to the lead actor, Wiley Wiggins—who is unnamed, but could easily be the slightly older Mitch Kramer, from 1993's Dazed and Confused. The film also follows the template of Linklater's Slacker (1991), and features a cameos by Linklater himself delivering a monologue akin to the one the kicks off Slacker.
Todd Solondz pulled a nasty trick in the open moments of Palindromes (2004) as lead character Aviva, attends the funeral of Welcome to the Dollhouse's (1995) protagonist Dawn Weiner, who we learn, committed suicide. Matthew Faber eprises his role as Dawn's brother Mark in this cameo.
Back in Bed-Stuy, maybe Mookie can convince Sal to put a picture of Dawn's brother up on the wall.
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