Monday, December 14, 2015

Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp - 2012

"Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp" - 2012
Dir. by Jorge Hinojosa - 1 hr. 29 min.

by Clayton Hollifield

When I tried to search for "Iceberg Slim" on IMDB, it automatically took me to the page for "Ice Sculpture Christmas," instead.  Thanks, dorks.  Likewise, no dice on a trailer for this movie.  I guess I'll track down a poster or something, so forgive the lack of visual flair.  I recorded it off of TV, anyways, and just now finally got around to watching it.  I shouldn't have been in such a hurry.

So, who is Iceberg Slim, and why is there a documentary about him?  He's a legendary pimp (the real deal, not a comedy figure), mostly famous because he quit pimping after a few prison stints, and was urged to write about his experiences.  So he did, and sold a pretty large number of books (six million is the quoted number, which is a lot for the dinky publishing house he published through).  His books have famous fans like Chris Rock and Ice-T, thus this effort to share Slim's (aka Robert Beck) story.

Perhaps the question that should have been asked is why should people care about Iceberg Slim?  I suspect the entirety of that answer lies in Beck's books; I have one ("Trick Baby," but haven't read it yet), and I can buy the idea that an author is worth talking about.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of the world hasn't read Slim's works, and I didn't feel like this film got across the appeal of his work in a meaningful way.  Also working against my interest: the story is presented chronologically.  So Iceberg Slim is not presented as an author of important and interesting work, he's presented as a pimp (and let's be clear, that means that he ran prostitutes and took all of the proceeds from their work to pay for his own hair care products and general flyness) who bounces in and out of prison until that becomes too much for him, at which time he attempts to live a straight life.

I mean, that's not super-charming, right?  It's only after Slim reaches a breaking point with his day job as an exterminator that his then wife convinces him to write down some of the crazy stories he's been telling her, which are then organized and published, to some success.  Maybe there's a reason to have a romantic notion of what exactly a pimp is, and since Iceberg Slim is one of the few that people might have actually heard of, maybe it makes sense to introduce him as a pimp rather than an author.  Then again, it made me really not like the guy.  I don't have to like someone personally to enjoy their work,  But including a clip from an interview with Slim, where he's reunited with a former ho, he comes off cluelessly as to what exactly the girls were dealing with.  He asks, innocently enough, what made her go straight, and she tells him that people were assaulting and murdering prostitutes on the streets, and that was reason enough for her to get off the streets.  That doesn't seem to register with Slim at all. 

The best thing about "Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp" is that it did make me curious about reading some of his work.  What it did not do: make me want to watch this film again.  Pretty much every interviewee in the film stopped one paragraph short of giving some real insight.  They would, routinely, get up to the edge of something interesting, and then we'd move on to something else. 

2 / 5 - TV

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