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Saxophone player Charlie Parker comes to New York in 1940. He is quickly noticed for his remarkable way of playing. He becomes a drug addict but his loving wife Chan tries to help him. Written by
"Bird" will probably be most appreciated by jazz fans who come to it already familiar with Charlie Parker and his incalculable contributions to jazz and influence on generations of musicians that continues to this day. The script contains many shorthand references that might be lost on the average moviegoer -- e.g., Parker calls Dizzy Gillespie "Birks," which was his middle name, but many people probably don't know that.
But there is the music, and tons of it. There are extraordinary performances by Forest Whitaker as Parker, and Diane Venora as his common law wife, Chan. In many ways the film seems more a love story than the standard musical biopic. Chan was unfailingly supportive of Bird, despite his self-destructive drug use, alcoholism and chronic infidelity. He loved her in his own way, and I think she realized that she was in love with a genius who would forever be plagued by demons, and that she couldn't have one without the other.
Clint Eastwood's love of jazz is well-known, and in "Bird" he provides a wealth of wonderful music, beautifully performed. The actual playing of Charlie Parker is augmented by accompaniment from contemporary musicians, and Parker has never sounded better. Eastwood also provides an unflinching portrayal of the complicated lives of jazz musicians, and the addictions to which so many succumb.
Despite the mess that Bird made of his life, he remains a charming and sympathetic figure. And his music, years ahead of its time, and so complex that countless fledging saxophone players have attempted to copy his recordings note for note, will forever live on.
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