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A MASTERPIECE OF JAZZ AND DRUG FILM NOIR.,
This review is from: Bird (Widescreen) (DVD)Wow, I can't believe the negative reviews for this MASTERPIECE by Clint Eastwood. Being a big fan of Jazz, I've owned this film for many years in more than one incarnation, and have watched it more times than I care to tally.
Many reviewers said it's overly dark. Yep. Jazz musicians spend most of their time in dark smoke-filled nightclubs. So does BIRD. This is a great MOOD PIECE. It could also be called FILM NOIR.
Many said it doesn't establish why Charlie Parker was one of the greats of Jazz. In one particularly brilliant scene of writing in this film, Parker is talking about himself and the legend of BIRD to Red Rodney, partner in Jazz and fellow heroin addict. He talks about "going inside the melody" of Cherokee, a song he had played many times and was tired of doing. Parker decides to go around the melody with little notes and discovers his style. Thus, a whole new form of music called Be Bop is born. A superb scene.
Many reviewers said it dwelt too heavily on the negative aspects of Parker's drug abuse. This is true. However, heroin played a significant part in early Jazz music in this country. Heavily significant. A majority of the best and brightest Jazz stars were plagued by addiction for many years. Read Miles Davis' autobiography. He lists them all. Eastwood recognizes this in a scene where Parker is in Paris and is debating whether to return to the States. A fellow sideman is trying convince him to stay in France where he can make a decent living. SIDEMAN: "You can't make no living playing Jazz in the States." BIRD: "Dizz can. Duke can." SIDEMAN: "Well you ain't Dizz. And you certainly ain't Duke." BIRD: "So I kick." The Sideman laughs uproariously. BIRD: "I can kick." The Sideman laughs harder. The point of this exchange: the only successful Jazzmen are Duke and Dizzy because they may be the only ones not hooked on heroin. Subtle writing. A brilliant exchange that conveys so much about the world of Jazz. For some Jazz musicians, heroin was used in a creative context whether people will admit that or not. And drug and alcohol abuse DID kill Charlie Parker. Artists can be extremely self-destructive human beings.
Some said it wasn't accurate. Many film biopics use composite characters for dramatic effect and change some history for storytelling purposes. Films can't possibly contain a person's whole history. It's not possible. But BIRD conveys Parker's fame and troubles with amazing grace and skill.
Yes, BIRD is dark and depressing. It is also a brilliantly realized ART FILM. However, the timeline can be very confusing. I screened this for a friend, who was lost in the flashbacks. He did however, enjoy the film.
Another thing I love about the script, is that it portrays Charlie Parker as an articulate and eloquent man, as many Jazz musicians were at the time and still are. (Wynton Marsalis comes to mind.) Even in "the midst of my disorientation," Parker remains articulate. One of my favorite lines of dialogue is when Parker is waking up on the floor after passing out in a wealthy patron's house. She explains to him that he has passed out, and Parker retorts from the floor, "Very undignified of me." BEAUTIFUL WRITING.
I just had to chime in, because this film is an overlooked TREASURE. Forest Whitaker gives us probably the most amazing death scene I've ever witnessed on film. He should have won the Oscar for his performance. It was shamefully overlooked. Diane Venora is superb as are the rest of the cast. And as for Clint Eastwood; this is without a doubt, HIS BEST FILM. And one of my all time favorite flicks. Thanks Clint, for giving me many hours of enjoyment, and taking me back to a time I wish I had lived through, with this WORK OF ART. YOU are a TRUE JAZZ LOVER.
If YOU are A TRUE LOVER OF JAZZ or A TRUE LOVER OF FILM ART, YOU MUST SEE THIS POIGNANT PIECE OF JAZZ HISTORY. THIS IS SUPERLATIVE MOVIEMAKING.