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Absolutely stunning! Attended the world premiere at the NewYork film
festival this past weekend. As the film ended, my mind felt entranced.
The film's rapid clip style and dramatic ending made me film as if I
had viewed one of Mile's mind blowing paintings. Somehow, it all seemed
to come together as one mental image at the end. An ingenious portrayal
of both Miles music and painting style. Along with the fabulous music
throughout, the movie even included a clip of miles working on one of
his paintings, as if the cue us in on the films approach.
The music of Miles Davis provides the background for many of the scenes and it is performed in many scenes. As Miles was also an accomplished abstract painter, he is also featured creating some of his artwork. His challenges, triumphs and failures in love, the music industry, music composition, health, etc. compose a collage that comes together like one of his abstract paintings. At the end, a stunning scene brings it all together and emphasizes the phenomenal impact of the Miles music through today, for all time, and across many genres.
Greetings again from the darkness. What would rate as the bigger
challenge: defining jazz or describing the life of Miles Davis? In true
"passion project" mode, Don Cheadle not only portrays the iconic
trumpeter, but also directs, co-writes and co-produces. Cheadle's
tribute to The Prince of Darkness is as open to interpretation as the
hundreds of songs from Davis' recordings over thirty plus years.
Having stated in numerous interviews that he had no interest in the usual "cradle-to-grave" biopic, Cheadle's odd blend of fact, fiction and hallucination are meant to capture the essence of Miles Davis, rather than the life and times of the man. Guns, drugs, music, girls, and art are all present throughout this trippy trip of a movie that plays like an impressionistic painting, and not a portrait.
The bulk of the film is spent on Miles Davis during his self-imposed six year drug-fueled hiatus in the 1970's when he secluded himself in Howard Hughes fashion. There is an odd and ill-fitting plot involving the "secret" master tapes that Davis has recorded while waiting for his manager (Michael Stuhlbarg as Harper Hamilton) to pay him the money he is owed. Mixed in is a "Rolling Stone" writer named Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) desperately trying to get an interview with Miles and listen to the tapes. This mad caper-ish core benefits greatly from the quick cuts to the past especially those featuring Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi) as Miles' beautiful, talented and supportive wife.
Of course, we shouldn't expect linear story-telling from a man whose life was anything but linear. After all, we are focused on the man who claimed his music was not "jazz", but rather "Social Music" and that "it takes a long time to play like yourself". The car chases and gunfights might seem out of place, but do capture the essence of a man fueled by drugs and a possible (temporary) loss of his creative genius. Perhaps, as the movie suggests, Miles was remorseful for how he treated Frances. Or maybe it was simply the pressure of being Miles Davis . The coolest of Cool Jazz.
Mr. Cheadle does a nice job in portraying Davis, and is spot on in the trademark raspy whisper which Miles was known for (the after-effects of a larynx operation in the 1950's). Ms. Corinealdi (to appear in the new "Roots" project later this year) is outstanding as Frances Taylor, and is the one character we latch on to in hopes of maintaining our bearings throughout.
Taking its title from a 1957 Miles Davis album, the movie offers a glimpse into the mind of a musical genius who didn't always fit into "proper" society, and would be the perfect pairing for a head-scratching trumpeter double-bill with the recent "Born to be Blue", a look at Chet Baker.
The life and music of Miles Dewey Davis, better known as Miles Davis,
is on display in the new bio-pic, Miles Ahead. Don Cheadle wears as
many hats as afforded to him playing the title character as well as
appearing in the credits as producer and director in a film that
showcases Cheadle's talent and offers a strong case in ensuring the
Oscar's have some color on the stage at next year's telecast.
The film opens in the later years of Miles' life. He has already reached fame and fortune. But his drug addiction has turned him into a Howard Hughes recluse. And he has temporarily turned his back on music. The story opens with Miles alone in his home when he is aggressively approached by Rolling Stone magazine writer Dave Brill (Ewan McGreggor) who is interested in writing about Miles' new project. The opportunistic Brill gets swept into a fantastical series of events that include following Miles as he confronts his record label, procures cocaine and is chased through the streets in a hail of gunfire by unscrupulous folk looking to advance their worldly standing through the theft of Miles' still-in-progress demo tape.
The events that unfold are not based on historical fact. But it doesn't matter. Miles Ahead is more a movie about the attitude and persona of legend Miles Davis than it is a straight up account of a fraction of the musician's life.
By way of flashbacks, we get a glimpse into the more serene life of Miles Davis before drugs off-tracked his career. A clean cut Davis is seen rising in ranks through the Jazz clubs of America and eventually falling for Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who would eventually become his wife of 10-years.
The film doesn't dive too deeply into the domestic violence between the two lovers that became headlines back in the early 60's nor does it touch too intensively the racial tensions in America at the time. There is a scene where Davis is unprovokingly harassed by police officers and taken to jail for simply showing kindness to a woman of white skin, but the film has no message to present in terms of Miles' involvement with racial divides at the time. Instead, Cheadle keeps the camera focused on a single day in the broken down icon's history. This works largely to the films advantage but sacrifices giving us a glimpse into the life of the historic character.
Don Cheadle is a revelation as Miles. The raspy voice, the trumpet playing, the belligerence. All are played exactly on key. The supporting cast does amply in tow but there is little to look at outside of Cheadle's performance.
For this particularly story, things do work out well in the end. Relatively. We had hoped for end credit title cards that would have told us more about the man. Those unfamiliar with Miles Davis might have wanted to know if he was still alive or what became of Frances Taylor after their split. Even a short blurb unveiling Miles' nine Grammy Awards would have been refreshingly educational at film's end.
Miles Ahead is not the be-all of musician movies. But I would categorize Cheadle's performance of the late trumpet player as one of the better performances of a real-life musician on screen. It's good enough to recommend the film to anyone. Jazz fan or not.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Don Cheadle plays a good part as the young and older Miles Davis, Ewan McGregor as usual in my opinion is poor and an expert at dumbing down all of his roles. How does he get the work I ask myself ? I, My friend and I are keen Miles Davis fans, his wife is not, to quote her " I know less about Miles Davis than before I saw the film " The storyline is poor, only showing a a brief chapter of Mile's life when he retired for five years, and the record company " stole " his new tape. An episode of the Keystone cops ensues with car chases and gun toting ....... Very uncool, very unMiles. I don't believe a word of it. OK,be different,but to only mention one of his 3 wives ( and imply he only had one wife) is downright ridiculous, and not one word about any of his many children and grandchildren I mean ...... Really ! I was really looking forward to this film but we all left the movie " Kinda Blue "
This film had wonderful music, but I thought it incoherent and
self-indulgent. If someone who doesn't know a lot about jazz, and
thinks this film would be a good place to start, they will probably be
put off, and worse, will deduce that many jazz musicians are druggies
and nasty people.
It isn't a biopic. It is a sketch of a very small part of Miles' life. Even though I know he was a difficult person, this film emphasized the negatives in his personality rather than the positives.
It is a wasted opportunity to make a memorable film about this great musician.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really was looking foreword to this film, i love classic jazz and Miles Davis stands with Charlie Parker as the best of the best, but oh dear this film is just dreadful and on so many levels it is a disaster from first to last. Where to begin, well the films scrip and plot revolves round his Howard Hughes like recluse years when he withdrew from performing and casts what i believe to be a purely fictitious chase all over town after a stolen session tape, with a writer looking for a story hugging his heels.cue loads of bad language as Don Cheadle who has a passing resemblance to the jazz genius profanes crudely and engages in crazy gun fights and threatens all and sundry with a gun to there face. Now we know Miles Davis had a dark side but where is the evidence for this nonsense that seems straight out of a "blackspoiltation" B movie of the seventies complete with stilted dialogue glibly uttered. Clint Eastwood gave us "Bird" a masterful film on Charlie Parker, Miles Davis deserves a film of equal stature not this all together embarrassingly wooden fiction that is all together empty. At last over the end titles we get to listen to some Miles Davis jazz, i at least i enjoyed these moments as the small audience silently walked out.
"Miles Ahead" (2015 release; 100 min.) is a movie about the jazz legend
Miles Davis. As the movie opens, we are in 1980, and Miles is being
interviewed, and comments to the reporter: "Don't call my music jazz,
it's social music!". It's not long before another reporter, Rolling
Stone's Dave Braden, chases down Miles, to write a "come-back story in
Miles' own words". We then go back to the 1950s, as Miles is breaking
big. One day he meets Francis, and he is immediately smitten with her.
To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have
to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: first and foremost, this movie is a labor of love AND a tour-de-force by Don Cheadle, who stars in the title role and directs, and he also co-wrote the script and co-produced. His performance as Miles Davis is spot-on, and towers above everyone else. Sorry Ewan McGregor (as the Rolling Stone reporter), and sorry also Emayatzy Corinealdi (as Frances). Cheadle's brilliant performance covers up the somewhat confusing back-and-forth between the "present" (i.e. late 70s) and the flashbacks in the 50s. Please note that "Miles Ahead" is not a bio-pic, nor is it intended as one. Cheadle (whose vision for the film was fully supported by the Miles family) simply picked two periods of Miles' life and attempts to give us a flavor of what Miles Davis the man was like. At that, I think Cheadle succeeds. If you don't care for the music of Miles Davis (?), by all means avoid this film, as it is chock-full of outstanding music (check out the excellent soundtrack, available here on Amazon). The very last scene of the movie is a live performance with participating in the band none other that Herbie Hancock, Gary Clark Jr. and Esperanza Spalding, just to name those. Just fantastic. Last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that 95% of the movie was shot on location here in Cincinnati. Yes indeed, just like Todd Haynes' film "Carol" a few months ago, there are certain sections of Cincinnati that apparently easily stand in for New York back in the day.
"Miles Ahead" finally opened this weekend on two screens at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and the Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended quite nicely. I doubt that this movie is going score huge at the box office, but hopefully it'll find some legs at the art-house theater circuit. If you are curious to find out more about Miles Davis, or simply want to admire the stellar performance of Don Cheadle, you cannot go wrong with "Miles Ahead", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
As the reviews of Miles Ahead amass on the Internet I'll be interested
to read all the different ways people will have to describe Don
Cheadle's electrifying performance as jazz great Miles Davis. Or should
I say "social music" great, a term Mr. Davis preferred to jazz,
according to this biopic. I'd never heard this term before, looked it
up online after the movie ended, but couldn't find any definition that
fit what I thought Mr. Davis might have meant. What it meant to me
though, after being treated to a sumptuous sampling of Miles Davis
music in the film, is that there's no better musical expression of the
human soul than jazz if done right. In Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle seems
to be able to relate to that. As for his portrayal of Miles Davis in
general, he plays a man who lays everything on the line in everything
he does. Total honesty. Total this feels right so I'm going to do it.
No-bs, no-putting-up-with-bs attitude. From violence and crudeness to
stunning beauty - this is humanity unadulterated. The movie's high
points, to me, are the stunning beauty scenes - when Mr. Davis plays
the horn. That is the culmination of everything.
Still, it's ironic that while Don Cheadle seems to get not only jazz, but the concept of creativity - starting off the movie with the Miles Davis quote "When you're creating your own sh**, man, even the sky ain't the limit" - Miles Ahead is limited by being formulaic. In other words, the movie itself is not jazz, though at times it tries to be and wants you to think it is. For example, there is too much clichéd man/woman relationship drama in the film, and while I get that Miles' love of women is necessary to portray for the all-important character development, Miles Ahead gets a little schmaltzy at times, if only because I'd seen the same kind of drama scenes more or less so many times before in so many Hollywood movies.
Overall, Miles Ahead is a passionate tribute, beautifully done, and the love that Don Cheadle had for the project and for Miles Davis really shines through.
"Miles Ahead" is chaotically put together, difficult to follow, and
difficult to care about. Miles Davis (Don Cheadle), the main character,
is depicted as a repugnant human being. The film plays shopworn
musician biopic tricks in nasty ways to manipulate the audience. In
interviews, Don Cheadle has said that he needed to get a big white star
to appear in the film, and thus he built the film around the MacGuffin
of Davis being interviewed by Ewan McGregor, allegedly the big white
star. My guess is that Cheadle's funding didn't come through not
because he is a black actor playing a black musician. My guess is that
the funding was hard to find because the script was not a commercial
script, no matter the color of the main character.
The film opens with a confusing mishmash of images. Miles Davis is being interviewed. We don't see the interviewer. There is film in the background of the Jack Johnson fight. This confused me. I know the fight took place over a hundred years ago and I did not know that anyone filmed it meaning I was losing focus on the movie I was watching, and drawn into thinking about the movie in the movie. Not a good thing.
The scene is shot in extreme close-up. We see Don Cheadle's mouth and fingers as he smokes a cigarette; we also see an ashtray. This extreme close-up gives the film a claustrophobic feeling. As the film went on I began to wonder if the tight close-ups were used because there wasn't enough of a budget to create a set that reflected the time periods of the film: the 1970s and the 1950s.
The unseen interviewer asks Davis about jazz. Davis interrupts the interviewer and commands, "Don't call my music jazz." He insists that calling his music "jazz" stereotypes it. That's one of the dumbest and most petulant things I've ever heard a character say. Of course Miles Davis was a jazz musician. Ordering someone not to call jazz jazz is the demand of a petty dictator who wants control of language. The film was just beginning and I already hated the main character. And I was really sick of all that focus on his cigarette and his ashtray.
Ewan McGregor, the big white star meant to offer his magical powers to get purportedly rich whites to underwrite the movie and buy tickets to see it, shows up as Dave, a Rolling Stone reporter. He knocks on Miles Davis' door. Davis opens the door and immediately sucker punches Dave, a visitor he has never met. At this point, the film has offered me no reason to like Miles Davis, and lots of reasons to dislike him. There's more. He has a receding hairline and he wears his hair long an older man's unsuccessful attempt to look young. And he dresses like a blind pimp. He's wearing a hip-length, turquoise and black jacket made of fabric best reserved for upholstery in houses of ill repute.
Davis has already proved he's cool by sucker punching a white man. He also proves he's cool in other cheap, manipulative ways. The film consists of a jumble of scenes shot in the 1970s and flashbacks to the 1950s. In the 1950s scene, Davis is in a car with a young white woman. The young white woman behaves foolishly. The young black woman in the front scene rolls her eyes at this white girl's buffoonery. So, Davis is cool because he can get a white girl.
The car pulls up to a house. A very beautiful young black woman is on the street. This is Frances Taylor, whom Davis will marry. He asks his white date for a twenty dollar bill. She gives him one. He writes his phone number on the bill and hands it to the black girl. Again, Davis is cool because he can mistreat white people, in this case a woman.
In more jumbled together, plot-less scenes, we see Frances dancing. She is exquisitely beautiful and the camera adores her. We see Frances and Davis making love. We don't see Miles Davis beating his wife. He did. He also made her quit her dancing career. What a guy.
More jumbled, plot-less scenes whose only point is to show what a boss Miles Davis really was, because he could mistreat white people. Miles Davis marches in to the offices of Columbia records. There is a man there who is obviously meant to be Jewish. He is smarmy and oily and condescending and power trips Davis. Davis pulls out a gun and shoots at him. He takes the man's money and uses that money, in a subsequent scene, to purchase cocaine, from yet another worshipful, star-struck white man he mistreats, while a white girl, partially undressed, sits on a bed. Davis, of course, must tell her to move over so he can sit next to her.
You get the idea.
What the movie does not show you is that Miles Davis grew up comfortable and privileged. Davis' father was a dentist who owned a couple of homes and a ranch. His mother was a musician. Davis received music lessons as a teenager, on daddy's dime. Davis was no gangster. He was a brat and a creep and an abuser of himself and others. I learned nothing about his appeal or his talent from this movie.
Miles Ahead (2016) 1hr. 40 min.
Miles Davis is one of the best jazz musicians of all time. Davis was one of those musicians that really conveyed great talented passion and emotion in his trumpet playing. Miles made a great album in particular his 1959 masterpiece" Kind of Blue". Which Rolling Stone magazine voted it as one of the best albums of all time, regardless of genre of music. His life should've been made ages ago, unfortunately it took 2016 for a Davis film to be made, with Don Cheadle playing the great musician and also making his directorial debut.
The film takes place in 1980, where Davis hasn't made an album in five years and has recorded on but does not want the album released without his permission. He would prefer to snort his new drug of choice, cocaine than work on any releasable music. He is also hates to do interviews but a persistent one from Rolling Stone writer Dave (Ewan McGregor) who wants desperately to interview the legend and follows him to his record company at Columbia records and talks to a the President of Columbia, Harper (Michael Stahlberg) whose ethics are not honorable and demands Dave to coax Davis to send his most recent work to work with a talented musician (Keith Stansfield), who is also a junkie heroin addict. The one drug that Davis was once addicted to. Miles has no desire to give his boss anything and threatens his boss with a gun to leave him the hell alone.
Dave decides to take matters into his own hands with questionable ethics, to get his dream of an interview with a legend and says he know someone who can give him good coke. On the basis of drug use they become good friends. The first part of the movie is about a cat and mouse game of Davis music recording becomes of tug of war of who has the upper hand in who will eventually get Davis most recent recording. Another main subplot is more interesting is the relationship between Davis and his greatest love and muse Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corlneaidi) which takes place in the 1950's. The film deals with their courtship, marriage and Davis wanting Frances to give up her career as a dancer when they marry. To all of the predictable, nonetheless interesting because it is well acted are the relationships of Davis girlfriends and his infidelity and his addiction to a drug that makes him paranoid. The film contends that the relationship with Frances gave him the greatest creative musical prowess and his music was at its great peak when Davis dated and married Frances.
The film other subplot is also not very original but the car chase sequences back and forth between Davis and Dave vs. Harper and is crooked associate's is not very interesting and lacking in energy. Miles Davis deserved a better treatment in a subplot that is right out of the many car chases we have seen in the movies since the standard of car chases in the great 1971 action cop movie The French Connection. A car chase still can be entertaining if those scenes can offer something thrilling, this film action scenes are rather dull and pointless. The other love story is predictable but well-acted with Corlnealdi a standout as Davis's greatest love. Don Cheadle is very good as the great trumpeter, I just wish it was in a movie that dealt with a more interesting story of Davis life, maybe coming to terms with his coke addiction and his marriage to the great actress Cicely Tyson. Cheadle does a very good job of directing his first feature, but as it stands, more should have been made of his personal struggles with addiction and more of the great jazz that people love with great intensity.
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