Saxophone player Charlie "Bird" Parker (Forest Whitaker) comes to New York City in 1940. He is quickly noticed for his remarkable way of playing. He becomes a drug addict, but his loving wife Chan (Diane Venora) tries to help him.
A sound engineer digitally and electronically isolated the solo tracks from the old recordings that Clint Eastwood got from Charlie Parker's widow, Chan Parker. Then modern day musicians, such as Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Red Rodney, Barry Harris, and Walter Davis, Jr., recorded backing tracks over the music. Dizzy Gillespie was on tour, so trumpet player Jon Faddis stepped in to do Gillespie's part. See more »
Charlie Parker died in March, but in the movie he is buried in autumn; dead leaves are on the road. See more »
Dizzy sent you a birthday card. Seems he's back in town. Do you owe him a phone call?
I owe Dizzy everything...except a phone call.
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Pre-titles card: "There are no second acts in American lives." - F. Scott Fitzgerald See more »
Performed by Charlie Parker, John Guerin plus strings
Courtesy of S. J. Records/Ed Chalpin PPX See more »
Tragic story, great central performance
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.
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