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I just saw the premiere screening of "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" at
the Toronto International Film Festival. The film was introduced by
director Michel Gondry as a work in progress.
The concept is simple: In the summer of 2004, Dave Chappelle, on the heels of the success of his unfortunately now-ill-fated TV show, decided to throw himself a big party. So he recruited his favorite artists (Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Kanye West, Common, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Cody Chesnutt, John Legend, The Roots, and a reunited Fugees - not to mention guest shots by Big Daddy Kane and Kool Herc) to play an old-school style block party in Brooklyn. The film chronicles this party, intercutting riveting performance footage with backstage antics and a documentary that chronicles Dave's efforts in organizing the event, during which he not only tries to lure Brooklynites to the top-secret show, but also, by issuing a series of Willy Wonka-style golden tickets, a variety of people from all races and walks of life in the rural Ohio town where he lives. It's a trip to watch the older white folks from Ohio, who've never listened to a hip-hop record in their lives, having a blast at a Block Party in the heart of Bed Stuy.
Long story short, the result is not only hands-down the best hip-hop concert film ever made, but also a genuinely moving piece of film-making that somehow nearly brought me to tears in parts. Fundamentally, this is a heart-warming tribute to the power of hip-hop, just as 'A Great Day In Harlem' was for jazz and 'Woodstock' and 'The Last Waltz' were for rock n' roll. Though there was certainly some roughness in the sound mix and image quality at this particular screening, the vitality of the film was evident in spades. Not to sound too corny, but this is a piece of work that celebrates the human spirit - a bright light in the midst an arguably cynical cultural landscape.
The concert itself is amazing - a hip-hop show filled with the kind of moments of spontaneity usually only seen in rock concerts. You can see how the artists here are all friends, and they keep it loose and ego-free, often jumping onstage with one another during the course of the show, to marvellous effect. Some notable highlights: a spine-tingling version of Kanye West's 'Jesus Walks', performed with a full marching band that Dave invites from an Ohio college; the reunion of Black Star for an almost trip-hoppy rendition of 'Definition' that I desperately now want a recording of; Dead Prez's blistering version of 'Hip-Hop'; Erykah Badu ripping off her afro weave mid-set when the wind becomes a bit too unforgiving; Mos Def's late-night improv version of 'Umi Says' (and when he joins Dave on drums for an impromptu comedy set); Big Daddy Kane jumping onstage with The Roots and positively electrifying the dumbfounded crowd; and, of course, the headlining act, The Reunited Fugees - particularly Lauryn Hill's stirring vocals on 'Killing Me Softly'.
Anyway, enough praise. Long story short, at this screening the audience exploded with thunderous applause as soon as the incomplete end credits came up, and a few people were even stirred out of their seats for a standing O - something I've never really seen at the screening of a rough cut.
Check this out when it comes to DVD. It'll make you feel good.
because this was the sh*t! This is not a stand up routine, it is a
CONCERT FILM sprinkled with Dave's personal moments interacting with
folks, his love of the music and the artists. If people were expecting
"The Chapelle Show--The Movie!", either they are stupid, or did not
watch the trailer carefully. It's bigger than HIP HOP! This was also my
dream concert! It would've been perfect if D'Angelo and Me'shell
Ndegeocello were playing too. Then I'd be in heaven. It made me fall in
love with Hip Hop and good soul music all over again. Can't wait to buy
it on DVD. I just hope the DVD plays the full concert performances.
Just hearing Erykah Badu and Jill Scott rocking the chorus of "You got me" TOGETHER is worth the admission price. An instant classic. Thank God for Dave Chappelle!
Saw "Block Party" at the Toronto Film Festival as a work-in-progress.
You will laugh until your stomach hurts watching this film. Chappell's
comedy provides the balance this film needs to serve as an entertaining
reflection of the segregation and urban neglect the exists in America
today. This message exists as the subtext, and sometimes bluntly, in
the humour, interviews, and the music.
Michel Gondry did an amazing job capturing some rather beautiful images. In one shot, it lasted for only a few seconds, a beautiful young woman rocks out to Mos Def while perched on her boyfriend's shoulders.
Whether or not you're a fan of the music, it's hard not to be totally engrossed by this film. Plus Dave Chappell's in it!
this movie was outrageously funny due to the brilliant comic Dave Chappelle. This movie also features great music and entertainment. But if you think this movie is full of Dave Chappelles wild skits like on the Chappelle Show, ill let you know right now its not. Its a documentary about him putting this Block Party together. While it does have his amazing comic brilliance in it, it is MOSTLY filled with great music. Still I loved this movie for all its aspects, the Music, the jokes, the stories, and the entertainment. With Musical talent including Mos Deff, Kanye West, The Roots, Dead Prez, the Commons, a reunion of The Fugees, and much much more, this is a must see. So many of the movies that are put into theaters are not worth your 8-10 dollars, this one is. BUT go see it knowing that its not the Chappelle Show.
Some have said that Michel Gondry directed this documentary (this is
not a movie) like their grandfather would have done with a mini-DV
camera. Well, man, I'd like to meet your grandfather.
For those of you who don't know "When We Were Kings", it's time to watch it. Because both this documentaries are about the same thing. Of course I wouldn't say Block Party is as good, nor as powerful as when we were kings. But the purpose is the same: try to unite black people on one event, try to make them realise that even when you're black and coming from a poor neighbourhood, you can do something of your life without only blaming the white man for your condition.
Of course, at the time When We Were Kings was shot, Mobutu was Zaire's Dictator, and the movie was financed by Liberian producers, who mostly owned their money from selling diamonds coming from Sierra Leone, exchanged against AK-47's and other weapons. Therefore the omnipotent contradiction hidden behind the Black condition, and even mankind in general, but it has hurt black people much more: people trying to do good, and others getting money out of it with no rules or respect for anything or anyone.
So, for once, here in Block Party, it's something done for fun, not for money, but also for ideas, with representatives of this movement we don't see enough: Not only people AGAINST something or someone, but FOR a change, using the power that is present in this population. And Michel Gondry, who is a GREAT director, filmed this in the same way When We Were Kings was shot. Camera in hand, close-ups, rough cuts, interviews over the music, same kind of music, same kind of people. Showing the poverty, and showing there's hope. It's not a masterpiece to me, but a good documentary. And of course, if you don't like hip-hop it's hard to like it. I'm a huge fan of ALL the artist on this movie, I would have made exactly the same programmation if I had been in control!
Seeing this picture after a Hard night of partying, I had few
expectations. But the laughs I had at the beginning of the movie set
the tone for the rest of the picture. I just recently became a
Chappelle fan, having only heard his comedy on Satellite radio. But I
thought this movie was a nice blend of street and situational comedy,
and I couldn't take my eyes off the circa. 1972 afro that Quest was
sporting. It was poetry in motion.
I was not very knowledgeable about a few of the groups in the movie but I thought the concert scenes were great, and was in awe of the sheer musical ability of the featured groups; so much so, that I stopped and picked up a Jill Scott CD for my ride home.
You will laugh at the comedy scenes but this movie is not really about making you laugh. It seems to be a cross-cultural primer using comedy, music and just general conversation, to give all of us a small look into each other's world.
This movie is One of a kind, it created a magic that most films will never achieve. It is filled with some incredible performances and the first appearance of the Fugees in almost ten years. If Lauren Hill's performance doesn't move you then you must be a robot because that women is a goddess. I think Block Party will be looked back upon and be remembered as one of the greatest moments for music in the new millennium. This will go down in the books as one of the greatest Music documentary's of all time right alongside Woodstock. It is also fun to watch Dave continue his racial commentary on today's society. I loved Block Party and will recommend this movie to everyone I know.
For someone like me who didn't watch much of Dave Chappelle or who
isn't big into the hip-hop music, I was actually pleased with this.
Maybe it's with the help of Michel Gondry, who I read/seen on TV say
that he wanted to humanize the whole experience, both of the artists
and the audience. That he did as I was completely moved and knew if I
had been there, I would've felt the spiritual connection with the
audience that I'm sure those there felt.
I think it was definitely worth the near 10 bucks. A fair amount of good rap/hip-hop music (dude, I was even bobbing my head), a fair amount of interviews, a fair amount of comedy, and a fair amount of social commentary. This movie provides a face for the reason why hip-hop is relevant to our culture. And, I seriously give mad props to Dave for getting GOOD rap acts for his party.
Ultimately, I think it's actually better going in not knowing what to expect from it as well.
...However as a rap-concert movie, it's one of the better ones I've
seen in quite a while. It works for a few reasons, though for some it
may not work as well as for others. Basically, if you're coming into
this expecting Chappelle doing more of his stand-up &/or sketches,
you'll wonder how you could've been misled (not that his moments on
screen don't elicit enough laughs for satisfaction, at least for a
Chappelle admirer like myself)- in fact many white audience members
going into the film walked out of screenings. If this is due to the
film-making style or something wrong on the end of director Michel
Gondry, or just not caring for the rap and hip-hop, is up for debate.
But considering the kind of mix of better-than-usual rap music, solid
cinema verier style camera-work by Gondry and his small crew, and the
fine bits of interview footage, it's actually not a bad film if you go
into it knowing what you'll get. For some it may be one of the film
events of the season &/or year.
One reason it worked is that- and this is of course a subjective part of seeing Block Party- the musical acts are better than most of the rap and hip-hop currently heard on radio and seen on the music channels. Led by an actual band playing music as opposed to all beat machines, the groups (of which are Chappelle's own favorites, and some of which already appeared on the hit or miss musical segments of his show) bring out solid beats, and the rappers or singers are not off-putting or ridiculous. The highlights for me were with Kanye West (with a cool, powerful mix of himself and a school band for 'Jesus Walks'), The Roots, and the Fugee's 'Killing Me Softly'. There are also some cool, loose moments with Chappelle and some people backstage where he jams and riffs and jokes (funny jokes too, albeit for the musician's expense more than for the audience). For someone like myself losing interest in more of the ultra-violent, idiotic and over-indulgent rap music of the day, it was not unpleasant at all to get dropped back into it with acts that were fresh and interesting (not that there aren't some mis-steps, Dead Prez and Common not being some of the highlights for me).
The other thing that made the film work though is Gondry's natural eye with his lens, as he just stands by getting down the attitudes, the emotions and little bits of life in the midst of this huge spectacle. There isn't anything outstanding in his style like with the Maysles brothers or DA Pennebaker in terms of capturing the music in action, and sometimes his focus strays to people on camera who take up a little too much time. But for the most part (with some exceptions of little moments that just don't work) his attention to the rhythm of a film, and the rhythm of film led by music- he is one of the most artistically dominant forces in music videos of the past ten or so years- is focused just right. This style also compliments Chappelle, who has a laid back kind of way of talking to people, but with a sense of humor that cuts the chase. Some of the best parts though of his moments on screen aren't expected, improvised, like the James Brown bit on stage, or his obscure ability to play two specific jazz songs on piano, or even his more juvenile jokes in jamming.
In short, it's a side of Chappelle you might not usually see at times, or with Gondry, and it all gels together for the sake of the audience that showed up for the show. Nothing too pretentious, and entertaining enough to keep those interested in their seats.
reviewed by Sam Osborn of www.samseescinema.com
rating: 3.5 out of 4
For a comeback, Dave Chappelle's got it right with Block Party. It isn't a concert film, but features a hefty amount of highlight performances. It also isn't a stand-up comedy, but Chappelle certainly spouts some smile-turning kickers. And Block Party isn't a documentary, but we're left with a sense of culture from the footage of interviews throughout. In truth, Block Party really isn't much of anything, but it's enough to mount dizzying entertainment with the flick of Michel Gondry's hand-held DV camera.
It surrounds the conception, pre-production, production, and post-production of Dave Chappelle's 2005 Brooklyn Block Party. The word "production" is used loosely here, not to connote images of agents frantically finding the rights to singers and their songs and the construction of the set and all the hoo-hah that goes into a major concert. No. By Pre-Production, I mean Dave Chappelle traveling back to hometown Dayton, Ohio to hand out the golden tickets to his fellow citizens. By Production, I mean watching some excellent musical performances on the corner of Downing and Quincy, in front of the Broken Angel warehouse, to the sound of 5,000 screaming fans. And by Post-Production, I mean watching Chappelle and his fellow performers speculate about the show afterwards.
But for all the linearity described here, Block Party doesn't have mind for structure. The film doesn't roll chronologically; instead, Block Party jumps around itself, sometimes going to Ohio, then back to rehearsal, jumping forward to a highlight performance, and then back to Brooklyn at a children's day care where the kids bounce frantically around Chappelle. Gondry worries less about documenting the actual party, opting instead to find an accessible method for the audience's entertainment. If the film was said to be trying hard at any one thing, it would be that Block Party really tries to keep from bogging itself down.
Chappelle himself does well to not hog the screen. In fact, if there was any one complaint, it would be that we don't see Chappelle enough. This is not "Chappelle's Show", after all. There are no skits, and only a few planned scenes of comedy. Mostly, we follow Chappelle around with a couple DV cameras and a boom mic as he explores Dayton and Brooklyn, speaking to their inhabitants and hearing their stories. But this isn't to say that Chappelle avoids humor. We all know Dave Chappelle's a funny man when he's not even trying. Believe me, there are many laughs to be had. The style digs down to why we loved Dave Chappelle in the first place. Seeing him walk around his hometown in a state of relative normalcywithout spotlights or producers and writersoffers Block Party a homegrown attitude. The music reflects this, showcasing artists that inhabit the quality of music, instead of the financial returns that go along with it.
And the music's great, too. Gondry does well not to overdose on it, aware that that the beats may grow tiresome for the anti-rap audience. He only showcases one or two songs at a time, jumping back to another Chappelle experience in between. But whether or not you're a regular fan of rap (I'm not), Block Party's music is sure to rouse some sort of reaction. The attitude and community behind the music is what makes it great. The fans and the artists and Chappelle forged a culture at this party, and this culture is infectious. At the theatre, much of the audience started dancing and moving to the music in their seats, some even raising their arms at the musicians' demand. And at it's heart, it's just about everyonethe fans, the artists, the theatre audience, and Chappellejust having a good time.
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