Jazz and Film

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A good soundtrack and a good film usually go together. Most often in films of great cinematographic significance or those that leave a lasting impact on the viewer, the soundtrack that affects emotionally is an intrinsic part of the whole watching experience. Many films are known to feature one specific genre of music; moreover, some great fictional or biographical films are created around one particular genre or musician. Jazz has been moderately popular when it comes to cinema. Despite it perhaps not being as versatile as necessary to adapt it to any theme or cinematographic exploration, jazz is constantly seen in the film industry. Some films in particular have left an impact on both worlds, jazz and cinema, and they will always have their place in history as those that successfully combined two magnificent artistic mediums.

Bird (1988)

There are few things more fascinating than a well-directed biographical film about a person of exceptional importance; “Bird” is exactly that. Directed by the famous Clint Eastwood, it is an exploration and representation of Charlie Parker’s, one of the most significant figures in the history of jazz, life and career. Widely notorious for being an eccentric, impulsive and abrasive person with heroin addiction, in “Bird” Charlie Parker is represented as a genius virtuoso struggling with his inner demons. Eastwood employed his spectacular cinematographic skill and talent for powerful storytelling created a work of art that will certainly stand the test of time when it comes to doing justice to this exceptional artist. Needless to say, the film is packed with great jazz tunes and compelling performances most will remember for quite some time!

Whiplash (2014)

Whiplash (2014)
Whiplash (2014)

Slightly more contemporary, which is evident from its thematic threads and technicalities of cinematography, “Whiplash” is another significant monument to exceptional talent that manifests in the beauty of jazz. While it not in any way biographical, it is an exceptionally brutal and honest representation of what people are willing to put themselves through to achieve genius artistic expression and remain true to their dreams. The director, Damien Chazelle, did an outstanding job portraying the life of a devoted and talented drummer who had to undergo the difficulties brought about by his fanatic band leader – a situation that is not so uncommon in the music industry. The film is very packed with drums-dominated soundtrack and it is most famous for its drum solo, in which the main character, Andrew (Miles Teller), performs Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” together with a band.

Born to be Blue (2015)

A mixture of fact and fiction, “Born to be Blue” is a representation of a renown American jazz vocalist and trumpeter Chet Baker’s life. Drugs and jail both got somewhat in the way or, vice versa, gave sustenance to his genius and it is masterfully portrayed in this film directed by Robert Budreau. On top of his addictions and issues with law enforcement, Baker’s career experienced a heavy hit when he was attacked by drug dealers and lost his front teeth, consequently ruining his mouth’s shape and ability to produce clear sound. All of that, combined with exceptionally beautiful jazz-based soundtrack and Ethan Hawke’s convincing embodiment of Baker, makes this film worth your while.