Just finished looking at Do The Right Thing (1989) with my Film Studies class again this year. More than ever I am struck with the theatricality of this film and wondering when Spike Lee is going to act on his prediliction for live theater. Yes, I know his film of the stage Passing Strange will be in theaters soon, but I mean actually directing a play. A number of filmmakers have done it--Arthur Penn and Mike Nichols split their careers almost equally between film and theater, Sam Mendes, Rob Marshall, David Mamet and Neil LaBute are leading examples today, and in the Classical Era, even John Ford directed plays in California (a look at the staging of group scenes in The Searchers would suggest just how good Ford probably was in the theater.)
Perhaps I am influenced by the fact that I put Do The Right Thing in the syllabus as a basis for examination of the concept of mise-en-scene, specifically with reference to the use of space; the establishment and invasion of territory is a central theme. But given the deliberate limitation of the story to one day on one block, this piece feels like it wants to be a play, or perhaps a cutting-edge musical. So far I've yet to find a theater artist who agrees with me, but I haven't given up looking!