Daily Archives: October 28, 1988

Bird

From the Chicago Reader (October 28, 1988). — J.R.

Clint Eastwood’s ambitious and long-awaited biopic about the great Charlie Parker (Forest Whitaker), running 161 minutes, is the most serious, conscientious, and accomplished jazz biopic ever made, and almost certainly Eastwood’s best picture as well. The script (which accounts for much of the movie’s distinction) is by Joel Oliansky, and the costars include Diane Venora as Chan Parker, Michael Zelniker as Red Rodney, and Samuel E. Wright as Dizzy Gillespie. Alto player Lennie Niehaus is in charge of the music score, which has electronically isolated Parker’s solos from his original recordings and substituted contemporary sidemen (including Monty Alexander, Ray Brown, Walter Davis Jr., Jon Faddis, John Guerin, and others), mainly with acceptable results. The film is less sensitive than it might have been to Parker’s status as an avant-garde innovator and his brushes with racism, and one is only occasionally allowed to listen to his electrifying solos in their entirety, without interruptions or interference (as one was able to do more often with the music in Round Midnight), but the film’s grasp of the jazz world and Parker’s life is exemplary inmost other respects. The extreme darkness of the film, visually as well as conceptually, leaves a very haunting aftertaste.… Read more »

Bad Blood

The distinctive and unusual talents of French filmmaker Leos Carax have relatively little to do with story telling, and it would be a mistake to approach this, his second feature, with expectations of a “dazzling film noir thriller,” which is how it was described for the Chicago Film Festival last year. Dazzling it certainly is in spots, but the film noir, thriller, and SF trappings–hung around a vaguely paranoid plot about a couple of thieves (Michel Piccoli, Hans Meyer) hiring the son (Denis Lavant) of a recently deceased partner to help steal a cure to an AIDS-like virus–are so feeble and perfunctory that they function at best only as a literal framing device, an artificial means for Carax to tighten his canvas. The real meat of this movie is his total absorption in his two wonderful lead actors, Lavant and Juliette Binoche (The Incredible Lightness of Being), which comes to fruition during a lengthy attempt at the seduction of the latter by the former, an extended nocturnal encounter that the various genre elements serve only to hold in place. The true sources of Carax’s style are neither Truffaut nor Godard but the silent cinema–its poetics of close-ups, gestures, and the mysteries of personality, its melancholy, its silence, and its innocence.… Read more »