Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.
Opens with Bleek as a child learning to play the trumpet, his friends want him to come out and play but mother insists he finish his lessons. Bleek grows into adulthood and forms his own band - The Bleek Gilliam Quartet. The story of Bleek's and Shadow's friendly rivalry on stage which spills into their professional relationship and threatens to tear apart the quartet.Written by
Spike Lee is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting young filmmakers to emerge in the last 20 years. While "Mo' Better Blues" is not as wonderful as "Do the Right Thing" or "Malcolm X," it still deserves considerable recognition as one of his more solid efforts. The story is a bit uneven, but the acting and the music more than make up for it.
Denzel Washington plays Bleek Gilliam, a NYC trumpet player who fronts his own jazz quintet to sell-out crowds at a local club. He's managed by Giant (played by Lee), an irresponsible compulsive gambler who is only Bleek's manager because they're childhood friends. Meanwhile, Bleek is seeing two different women (played by Joie Lee [Spike's real-life sister] and Cynda Williams), and is torn between his passion for music and his inability to control his relationships.
Things go haywire when Bleek's sax player, Shadow (Wesley Snipes), vies for the affections of one of Bleek's women, promising her fortune and fame as a jazz singer since Bleek only cares about himself anyway.
Giant's gambling problems, Bleek's convictions as a "serious" musician, and the tightrope one walks between love and professional dedication are themes all visited in this exciting, vibrant film.
Besides the wonderful performances (by Washington, Snipes, and the always-underrated Lee standby Giancarlo Esposito, among others), Ernest Dicekrson's cinematography is stunning, and the music -- performed in real life by Branford Marsalis, who has a cameo in the film -- is dazzling. The way the "band" mimes the performances is thoroughlly convincing (although it must be noted that Bleek's drummer is played by Jeff "Tain" Watts, a real jazz drummer who actually performs on the tracks themselves).
If you're a jazz lover and a lover of Spike Lee's movies, check this out -- you'll be glad you did.
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