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"Bird" traces the life of Charlie Parker, a 1940's soloist jazz great
whose improvisation abilities led him to become one of the most
acclaimed figure in his own lifetime
However, his self-destructive
behavior and association with drugs and alcohol caused him to die
before he could fully comprehend the public appreciation of his genius
Eastwood worked with a cast of relative unknown stars, and managed to create an entire period piece on the relatively low budget show
Sensitively acted, visually designed, this dramatic story of the troubled life of a man of tremendous warmth and compassion, Eastwood delivers a compelling portrait of an artist with an ambitious presentation of love including a magnificent score, and stunning sound (The film's sound captured an Oscar.)
Whitaker gives an excellent performance, with an especially inevitable death scene at the age of 34 Diane Venora is impressive as the wife of this great jazz musician Their last conversation by phone presented the legend Parker's with his conscientious of his near-death, his lost effort, his feeling of loneliness, but also his kindness, his love, and his care to his entire family A great scene not to be missed!
There are certain movies that leave you dazed when you walk out of the
theater. For me, "Bird" was such a movie.
On a nice evening in 1988 I decided to take in a movie on the spur of the moment. I walked to the nearest theater (Fine Arts, Downtown Chicago) and looked to see what was playing. I had never heard of Charlie Parker nor his music, but I was developing a love of jazz and the movie being directed by Clint Eastwood didn't hurt.
I went in, found a seat and had no way of knowing that, in a couple of hours, my life would be different.
The music penetrated my soul in ways I could never express. I was in awe and filled with emotion as the music carried me away while the visions of Charlie Parker's life flashed in front of my face. When the final credits scrolled up the screen, I could not move. I was frozen to my seat, dazed, overwhelmed, completely awed. I couldn't get the music out of my head, songs were playing back as if I'd listened to them a thousand times. My mind felt as if it were orbiting the sun.. spinning round and round, bathed in this warmth of beauty.
I didn't walk out of the the theater so much as stagger. I walked around for miles just playing over and over in my mind what I'd seen and heard and finally, hours after the movie ended I found myself in front of an all night music store where I bought the soundtrack and raced home to listen to it.
No matter that I had to get up in the morning for work... no matter that the movie had ended before 10pm but I didn't find my way home until after 2am. No matter that I was dead tired from walking dazed miles in a haze of thought.
I played that CD until I fell asleep then took it to work and played it all day... I played it constantly for weeks and then I started to buy other Charlie Parker CDs and reading everything I could about him. Charlie Parker is my favorite musician of all time, to this day, nearly 20 years later... and it began with this movie.
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.
Those viewers who claim the film is flawed are missing the point. Screenwriter Joel Oliansky (who also directed the film "The Competition") attempted (quite successfully I believe) to combine the elements of jazz music with the visual medium of film. Rhythm, tone, the improvisational aspects of be-bop, all of these elements go into creating a movie unlike any produced. It is not to be viewed in the traditional sense of linear story-telling. The mood created by Jack N. Green's cinematography is completed suited to the atmosphere of the 1940's and 1950's. As for acting, let us point out Forest Whitaker's Best Actor Award from the Cannes Film Festival and Diane Venora's Best Supporting Actress Award from the New York Film Critics. This film resounds with fine filmmaking, headed by Clint Eastwood's passion for the music. And what music! Parker's original solos were cleaned up and integrated with modern musicians into a seamless flow. The picture won the Best Sound Academy Award (sadly, its only nomination). Look at this film as a tribute to a man and a music, a recollection of a brilliant yet dissipated life, and a kind of filmmaking rarely seen by today's audiences.
"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
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.
I. feel that the person that wrote negative things about the movie "Bird" missed the point. He mentioned the fact that the movie didn't go into the interracial marrige of Charlie and Chan Parker. I for one am glad that it didn't. I hate movies that beat the audience over the head with the fact that people can't, won't,and don't except blacks and whites in relationships that are positive. I felt that even though Mr. Parker had an addiction to drugs and had a wondering eye at times, he truely loved his wife. Mrs Parker not only loved her husband the jazz musician but her husband the man and looked out for his well being as best she could. The movie never let me forget that he was an addict but it also showed his genious and creativity. I'd give it a 9 because there was an uneveness about it that made it less than pefect. I truely wished that they had shown more of how he interacted with other greats like Miles Davis and Art Blakey.
The story of jazz great Charlie Parker. The film follows his rise from clubs
to records and follows him across tours, drug abuse, personal loss and his
eventual death. At the time of his death at 34 he was so eaten up by drugs
that the coroner assessed his age at 65.
This is a well put together film about a creative but flawed artist. The plot doesn't glamorise him too much, although it maybe sympathises a little with his addiction and doesn't show it quite as harshly as it could have done. That said he is a pretty unpleasant person when he isn't performing. The film focuses on his adult life, which is good as it saves us child actors running around and it means more time is spent on the important years. The covers a lot of time, but it doesn't feel rushed. His drug addiction is honestly handled and it shows both the ups and downs of his life as a user.
The direction is pretty good, it's obvious Eastwood likes his jazz, and he uses the clubs well getting a great sense of mood. Elements are quite funny and this tempers the more tragic side of his life well. Whittaker is excellent in the lead role, but Diane Venora as his wife is not as good. She doesn't totally carry her lines in the same way - she's OK but you feel like something is missing. The rest of the cast come and go - there are good performances all round from a mostly low-key cast. The main star is the music, and it's treated with a lot of respect with Eastwood giving it plenty of time and creating a good mood for it to work in.
Overall a tragic story well told with a good central performance and great music.
If you like Jazz you can't 'not like' this movie. If you like Noir you
will dig the overall look of it. My only problem is that Eastwood
concentrates more on presenting the tragic side of Charlie parker's
life and so we get a very dark and somber film.
While we do get glimpses of Parker as 'musician', Forest Whitaker's, Parker as 'junkie', tends to weigh down the story. If Eastwood had to choose between highlighting the story of 'The greatest jazz musician of all time' or 'The premature death of a self-destructive Junkie', It's obvious which route he chose to take...the easiest one.
Ultimately it becomes more a movie about Parker's relationship with his wife Chan, and less about Parker's relationship with Jazz. In my opinion, Clint doesn't really succeed at showing us why we should love the character of Bird and maybe this was not his intention; but if a separation of the personality (warts and all) and his art is necessary to show an honest depiction; then why not also highlight the music and allow it to speak for itself? In this case, by making it a more satisfying listening experience like Formans "Amadeus" or Tavernier's "Round Midnight". The way they allowed the music be THE lead character of the movie.
Still, the improved fidelity in the remix of the soundtrack makes some of these old recordings easier digestible for those who may be new to Parker's music. Incidentally, this is the best fidelity of Charlie Parker you'll find anywhere. On the whole this is not a bad movie; It is not a complete depress-fest like two other movies about drug induced pop culture icons: 'The Doors' or 'Sid & Nancy'. Indeed this movie has its moments. There's a scene where Parker (blowing on his sax) wakes up Dizzy in the middle of the night to improvise on 'Now's the Time'. I also love the scene where he takes a gig with Red Rodney to play at a Jewish wedding. I wanted more of this type of interaction with his fellow Jazzers!
A dark and atmospheric biopic on jazz legend Charlie Parker, who with
his fast improvisational style formed the sub-genre of bebop. Clint
Eastwood directed this movie with a heart and passion that reflects
back to his own love of the music which he has carried with him all his
life and played a role in all his work. Eastwood himself actually was
fortunate to have seen Charlie "Bird" Parker play in when he was alive.
The film chronicles his life and has a tight focus on his self
destructive behavior and the music itself. Bird explores the highs and
lows of his journey. Playing to a sold out house in Paris, playing
alongside Dizzy Gillespie, and earning a respect that few other
musicians have matched. In contrast we see his heroine addiction, his
suffering and depression resulting in several suicide attempts, the
death of his daughter, and his wife's loving struggle to help save a
man who's ill-fate was inevitable and irreversible.
Forest Whitaker plays Bird with a lot of heart and soul. Even though I have no idea if it was an accurate portrayal in capturing the man's nuances, Whitaker's interpretation was superlative. Equally as good was Diane Venora as Bird's wife, who found enough strength for the both of them and tried to hold the family together in an un-winnable battle. There's lots of rain, lots of dark nightclubs, lots of street lamps reflecting the soaked streets, and lots of feeling in this one. Having just watched another biopic, that one on Ray Charles, it's clear to see Eastwood's was the real deal, whereas Ray was merely decent.
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
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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