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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
A sincere but disappointing tribute to Charlie Parker
Clint Eastwood's reputation as a serious filmmaker was given a considerable boost with this lengthy biography of jazz legend, Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, who Eastwood, a jazz aficionado, saw perform in Oakland, California in 1946. For this labor of love, Eastwood assembled an excellent cast including Forest Whitaker as Parker, Diane Venora--flawless as Bird's woman, Chan Parker--and, in a small role of one of the musician's flirtations, Ana Thompson (the "cut whore" from "Unforgiven"). With the aid of cinematographer Jack N. Green, Eastwood captures the neon burnished lights and darks of the night world Parker inhabited, and the music, featuring genuine Parker solos augmented by modern musicians, can't be faulted, but despite its merits, this "Bird" never takes flight. It is long--too long--and the story it tells, though certainly dramatic in its bleak and uncompromising portrait of an artist whose music was often overshadowed by his drug addiction, weighs down too heavily on the latter than the former. Why is Charlie Parker so important? That question isn't answered here, but another question--why was Charlie Parker dead at 34?--is addressed and answered at length. There is potential on view here--Parker's struggle to survive as a musician in a culture that is more appreciative of rock and roll than of jazz is a minor thread that could have been expanded--but much of it is unrealized. "Bird" is a handsome film, but its craftsmanship and artistry is defeated by the script.
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