From the stunning visuals to the chemistry between Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya — Queen & Slim is a searing assessment of Black love, trauma, grief and terror in 21st century America. Traveling home from an awkward Tinder date in their Cleveland hometown — Queen and Slim soon find themselves on a run for their lives after Slim shoots a policed offer killing him in self-defense.
What happens next is a masterclass in cinematography as the couple travels from Ohio to New Orleans. The Blackness throughout is glorious, the texture of the story—the soundtrack and the costuming were thrilling, and the ending is profound.
Lemonade director Melina Matsoukas explained what three films inspired her stunning feature film debut.
Hype Williams’ ‘Belly’
Matsoukas has a music video background, so it’s understandable that she was inspired by acclaimed director Hype Williams’ Belly. The crime drama was Williams’ feature film debut and Matsoukas has always been moved by the way the dark skin was lit in the movie.
“Belly by Hype Williams has influenced me so much as a filmmaker,” Matsoukas told Cinema Blend. “The way he’s able to celebrate black culture with the lens, the way that he highlights us. I really consider him the godfather of modern-day black cinema. He really redefined a visual language for my generation. And the way that he was able to play between something that was really commercial and beautiful and artful all at the same time. It was really intriguing to me as a filmmaker.”
Wong Kar-wai’s ‘In the Mood For Love’
The director wanted to make sure she had a handle on love stories. So she looked to 2000’s In the Mood For Love. “I was thinking about making a love story, and I was trying to figure out like what my favorite film was in terms of passion, and that’s In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai,” Matsoukas explained. “That tone, and those long languid moments and how he just allows their story to develop on-screen without always having to be dependent on a script, but how all the elements of their environment kind of add to that passion and richness that these two characters have between them – that was really important. And I wanted to create literally that mood for love in a similar way.”
Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Y Tu Mamá También’
As much as Queen & Slim is a movie about police brutality and love– it’s also road trip film. To grasp that aesthetic the filmmaker turned to Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También.
“I love how [Alfonso Cuaron] was able to shoot the car in different ways,” she explained. “Sometimes the camera is outside as the car travels through the landscape, and the environment becomes another character. And sometimes the camera is inside the car, and we’re actually a camera on the journey with them. I thought it was a really interesting approach to shooting a car that wasn’t expected. So I looked to that to help me in my approach to how to shoot these cars.”
Queen & Slim is currently in theaters.