40. Cleopatra Jones (1973)

Directed by Jack Starrett
Written by Max Julien and Sheldon Keller
Starring Tamara Dobson, Bernie Casey, and Shelley Winters
CW: anti-black violence

Of course the cop pulls his gun on an unarmed black man. But corrupt police play the long con and let the framed man live. Cleo’s license to kill looks easy to counterfeit. Her neck-up love scene proves you don’t need skin to be sexy. Imagine owning a Corvette impervious to water. I guess Mommy’s implied lesbianism makes her more devious. A dude in Doodlebug’s posse answers every question with an automatic right on. A guy who lived in my old apartment said all right, all right in response to any greeting. He’d chuckle whenever I left the building looking extra femme, but in a good-natured you kids kind of way. That summer I mastered riding a bike in a dress with a guitar on my back, which really only felt dangerous while swerving around the potholes on Florida Ave. NE. Warm weather unmasks my coworkers’ tattoos. I chatted with one of my interns about dress codes, Theda Bara, and the futility of cultural preservation. I wonder if they saw me at the zoo last weekend. I wore a pair of cutoffs that left little to the imagination. Like the rest of the inked locals, I watched the animals and longed for a simple life of tree-sleeping and lake-wading. Blue water ice failed to turn my lips blue. Two massive trucks make short work of Doodlebug and his British manservant. A junkyard of old cars is probably some kind of allegory for late-capitalist America. Cleo’s cohort of friends and organizers save her from the conveyer belt of death. The good white cop is maybe too touchy-feely at the end, but no one seems bothered. It’s quite a gamble to bet a weapons-stocked sports car on one perfect motorcycle ride.