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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
Something sad, something happy, and long but never boring, it's one of the more honest tributes to a musician in film
Clint Eastwood's direction was very suitable for the material in this film, dealing with subjects he cares much about (music, loners, risking on the edge), and his handle on Bird, for my money, was wonderful. It's not an easy film to take, and it asks a lot from one in the viewing (it's a big film, with a plot complex, but not confusing, but is rewarding for those with a good interest Charlie Parker and the days of 40's-50's jazz. It's arguable whether there might be flaws in some of the uses of symbolism or bits of dialog in Joel Oliansky's script. But it's strong points - Forest Whitaker's major breakthrough in the title role; the bountiful and superb collection of Parker songs on the soundtrack (with a fine score by Lennie Neuhaus); a keen eye for getting the atmosphere and lighting right by Eastwood - are worth the viewing.
Like most films about musicians with demons in the back of their heads (i.e. Ray, The Doors, even Amadeus), there is a level of possible melodrama that has to be crossed. With Bird, Parker is an interesting subject with this, and is ultimately shown well to be redeemed by the music. Likely to become more appealing, or at least easier to take on a second viewing, Bird is a solid, inspiring movie, with a kind of feeling to it that is unique. A+
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