Melvin Van Peebles made his mark on American movies with the angry Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971), whose chaotic production and unexpected commercial success were lovingly chronicled in his son Mario's 2003 drama Baadasssss! But as Joe Angio shows in this lively documentary, Van Peebles also made a name for himself on Broadway in the early 70s with productions such as Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, and later in life he launched a career as a Wall Street trader. This has its narrative lapses (an awful mock-newsreel segment summarizes Van Peebles's early years), but its framing motif—in which he has his head cast in polyurethane for a sculpture and ultimately poses beside it at an exhibition—nicely captures the artist's fierce powers of self-invention (and self-regard). 85 min.
By J.R. Jones