Monday, February 15, 2016

Mo' Better Blues (1990)

The first time I saw this movie I knew next to nothing about jazz. Though I still know absolutely nothing about chords and blue notes, my jazz collection now numbers more than 2,000 tracks. I don't really understand the music on a technical level, but I love it. I love the expressiveness of it. I love how it can be one thing for one person and a different thing for another. There's dixieland, swing, big band, be-bop, modal, free, fusion, etc. and it's all still jazz. It's loud, it's quiet, it's classical, it's experimental. While I still hope for Spike to make a movie that's really "about" jazz (perhaps a period film?), I think with Mo' Better Blues he was able to succeeded at making a film that mirrored the style of jazz. There are quiet moments, there are loud moments. There are moments that look like they could be set in the 50's (complete with questionable ethnic stereotypes) and then there are the moments that are distinctly set in the late 80's. There are also the more conventionally shot scenes that butt right up against the more show-boaty "solo" shots with cranes and actors on dolly carts. Even Spike's tendency to cram in an excess of ideas contributes to the overall jazz stew feeling. Every time one of his pet themes shows up in the film, it's like when a theme comes back around in a song. While it's extremely far from perfect and audience interest wavers here and there, I defy you to find fault with that coda. Underscored by John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme, Pt. I – Acknowledgement" it is absolute cinematic perfection. Is it coincidence that this film ends with one of the greatest beginnings in jazz? I wouldn't bet on it. Ya dig? Sho' nuff!

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