Born to be Blue (2015)

Born to be Blue poster.png

This faux biography of a particular episode in Chet Baker’s life plays fast and loose with the truth – which is not really what you expect. Ethan Hawke is Baker in 1954, when he’s the James Dean of jazz, getting his first hit of heroin; then he’s Baker in 1966, making a film about himself, when his dealer breaks his front teeth and almost ruins his playing career. He takes up with Jane (Carmen Ejogo) the actress playing his ex-wife Elaine and endures the usual cycle of movie portrayals of jazz musicians/junkies:  getting in trouble with the cops, making good with his parents, cleaning up, getting his girl pregnant, getting a chance again, getting hooked again. The big scene – Baker singing My Funny Valentine, the one everyone knows – doesn’t add up to much dramatically speaking despite it being quite literally the sweet spot in his career. The big irony in this interpretation is that he berates his father (Stephen McHattie) for giving up on his talent but then he has so little belief in his own that he thinks he needs heroin to play again at Birdland – a long sought gig  – after he’s got accustomed to his dentures. There are some lines thrown away about the difference between east and west coast music and Baker’s desperate quest to impress Miles Davis. The other subtext of Baker’s story was his weird desire to be part of the black community – hence his relationships with black women one presumes. This just raises more questions than it can answer. A bleak, joyless film that never conveys the utterly unfathomable improvisable beauty of a genre that I love. Written and directed by Robert Budreau.

Advertisements

The Outsiders: The Complete Novel (2005)

The Outsiders poster.jpg

SE Hinton’s novel is a huge part of every American teenager’s life. This story of a bunch of kids in 1960s Oklahoma is a big favourite and it’s easy to see why:  well written, smartly structured, emotional.  It is a good story, well told, of the Greaser and Socs and the tragedy that befalls them. Fans at Lone Star High in Fresno California petitioned Francis Coppola to make it and he got the author to collaborate with him in the production (she appears in a cameo as a nurse) and co-wrote the screenplay with her. Virtually every actor became a household name. It’s beautifully made and shot and Coppola revisited it 22 years later, making a longer cut with different music (keeping the Stevie Wonder title track was a mistake however), a different wrap-around structure and as is customary with many films a bit of a saggy midsection.  This is a gorgeous film which is true to the novel. Stay gold.