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dir Don Cheadle
scr Steven Baigelman, Don Cheadle
prd Don Cheadle, Robert Ogden Barnum, Pamela Hirsch, Darryl Porter, Daniel Wagner, Vince Wilburn Jr, Lenore Zerman
with Don Cheadle, Ewan McGregor, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lakeith Lee Stanfield, Brian Bowman, Austin Lyon, Nina Smilow, Christina Karis, Joshua Jessen, Morgan Wolk, Theron Brown
release US 1.Apr.16, UK 22.Apr.16
On a mission: Cheadle and McGregor
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
BERLIN FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Don Cheadle's passion project takes an experiential path through the life of jazz great Miles Davis, telling the story without the usual narrative cliches. It's a lively, brisk collage of a movie, with a sometimes rather odd central plotline surrounded by a range of emotional experiences taken from various points in his life. And it's gorgeously shot and performed.
In 1979, Miles (Cheadle) has been retired from music for five years when Rolling Stone journalist Dave (McGregor) drops by to find out what he's been up to, and maybe get his hands on a secret recording. Also skulking around are Columbia Records A&R man Harper (Stuhlbarg), his new trumpeteer Junior (Stanfield) and his bodyguard Walter (Bowman). As all of these men have a mini action-adventure on the streets of New York to retrieve Miles' tape, various events trigger Miles' drug-addled memories of his early career and his long-suffering wife Frances (Corinealdi).
With striking cinematography and a detailed attention to the various periods, the film looks terrific. And Cheadle's direction inventively transitions between the scenes to create a stream of consciousness that paints a kaleidoscopic portrait of Davis rather than telling his story in a straightforward way. The entire movie is infused with Miles' influential style of "social music", offering emotive rhythms to scenes both in the music and in the stylistic editing.
Cheadle gives a full-on performance that sparks with artistic electricity, clearly playing the trumpet for real while embodying every moment of Miles' unhinged addiction. McGregor is solid opposite him, even though he has little to do but hang on for the ride. Stuhlbarg is hilarious as a ruthless company man willing to do anything to get his hands on Davis' music. And Corinealdi is utterly radiant, filling the entire movie with a honesty and sensitivity.
So it's a bit frustrating that everything hinges on this somewhat madcap caper over one day in 1979, complete with car chases and shootouts (sometimes both at the same time). These scenes feel exaggerated for effect, whether or not they are, and distract attention from the much more intriguing scenes that drop in and out along the way, depicting Davis' experiences from the 50s and 60s. But the film is so lively and unusual, apparently like Davis himself, that it's well worth a look.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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