\\ Five jazz (ish) films you must watch
Jazz films have been dominating cinema listings over the last few years. Hit up your friends on a Facebook event for a weekend of films, jazz records, popcorn and whisky.
\\ La La Land
“How are you gonna be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist? You hold onto the past, but jazz is about the future.” – Keith (John Legend) speaking truth in La La Land, the self-knowing musical that’s both current and nostalgic.
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist who wants to own a club, meets aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone). What could have been a cheesy musical romp is actually a very well-written screenplay with a smart script and genuine laugh out loud moments. Expect jazz chat throughout with traditionalist Sebastian getting endearingly nerdy about the live experience. There’s lots of references for vinyl lovers, too. La La Land is from the same director as Whiplash, Damien Chazelle; something tells us the guy likes jazz.
Watch if: you find yourself in heated conversations about traditional vs contemporary jazz.
Drummer Antonio Sanchez dropped one of the most iconic film scores of the twenty teens in Birdman. He composed a score which was almost entirely percussive to create something of a wet dream soundtrack for drum heads.
The music accents the struggles of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a once highly-esteemed actor who puts all hope of turning his career around on an ambitious Broadway production. Birdman is a black comedy that is almost incomparable to any other American movie released this century.
Watch if: you’re a true film buff, or if you particularly enjoy films for their scores.
\\ The Talented Mr Ripley
Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) is an underachieving, sensitive young man. He meets Mr Greenleaf who tasks him with bringing home his son, writer and musician Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), to New York; he’s living a spoilt playboy lifestyle in Italy – on his Daddy’s pay cheques.
Tom immerses himself in Dickie’s interests in order to convince him that they’d met before, enough to befriend him and bring him home to pops. He begins by studying classic jazz records; expect to hear Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker dotted throughout the soundtrack. He even practices identifying tracks whilst wearing a blindfold, as we all do. There’s a kitsch but loveable scene set in an underground jazz club where Matt Damon and Jude Law hit the mic.
Watch if: you enjoy a brilliant plot (the film is adapted from Patricia Highsmith‘s novel of the same name), and like to geek out over regular jazz references.
Okay, okay; drummers, we know that the bleeding hands scene was a little exaggerated to say the least. But bloody hell, the sentiment was there. The story told via the lens of a college drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) and his intimidating tutor Terence (J.K Simmons) isn’t all that unfamiliar; being pushed to our limits, influenced by someone you despise but equally look up to. It’s a gut-wrenching, immersive film that might make you want to pick up the sticks, despite the blood, sweat and tears.
Watch if: drummers are the musicians you’re drawn to watching at live shows.
\\ Miles Ahead
Carefully note the following; Miles Ahead is not a biopic, but a sensationalised story that portrays a short period of Miles Davis‘ life in the seventies. That doesn’t mean that the movie isn’t based around true events, but some scenes, such as the Hollywood-glossed car chases, should be taken with a pinch of salt.
However, Don Cheadle‘s attention to detail in portraying Miles Davis is razor sharp; that rasp, hip swagger, and blunt take-no-shit attitude are all portrayed to the T. It’s an entertaining film that will make you want to immerse yourself in Miles’ records for days after.
Watch if: you’re curious to learn more about Miles Davis but not too fussed about factual accuracies.
What other jazz (ish) films do you love? Tweet us @jazz_standard.
JS | Tina Edwards