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Following up a masterpiece isn’t necessarily an enviable task. Woody Allen’s Interiors, Francis Ford Coppola’s One From the Heart, and Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York are just a few cinematic casualties of their predecessors’ success. After 1989’s breakthrough Do the Right Thing, Brooklyn auteur Spike Lee used his newfound cachet to make Mo’ Better Blues, which depicted the misadventures of jazz musician Bleek Gilliam (played by a young Denzel Washington). The film earned lukewarm reviews and garnered more attention from the Anti-Defamation League—which took umbrage with Lee’s portrayal of Jewish club owners—than the ticket-buying public. Showing as part of the Atlas Performing Arts Center’s Spike Lee Presents summer film series, Mo’ Better Blues might not be the outspoken director’s lost classic, but its anachronistic appeal—the early ’90s were a strange time—make it worth re-evaluating with fresh eyes.
The film shows at 4 p.m. at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. $2.