Trust the French to come up with the best bebop movie. Sax legend Dexter Gordon is mesmerizing as American horn player, Dale Turner (a thinly veiled amalgam of Bud Powell and Lester Young) trying to shake his demons in 1959 Paris, with loving help from a local fan (Francois Cluzet - Tell No One; The Intouchables) and his young daughter. Plagued by years of alcoholism and drug use, knowing the end is near; he plays every note of his memories and battles with dignity and wisdom, and then returns home to New York. The forlorn music includes early work of Monk and Bird, the standards of Gershwin and Porter. Gordon’s contribution aside, Herbie Hancock is on piano and others such as Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Billy Higgins all figure, with Lonette McKee on vocals. Hancock, who a star attraction at this year’s TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, also composed the film’s beautiful score.
Director Bertrand Tavernier (Coup de Torchon; Life and Nothing But; The Princess of Montpensier) clearly understands jazz, but he also understands the dynamic between the American artist and a young French acolyte - before he became a filmmaker he was a movie publicist in Paris in the 1960s and looked after such legendary Hollywood directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks.
"This movie teaches you everything about jazz that you really need to know… It is about a few months in a man’s life, and about his music. It has more jazz in it than any other fiction film ever made, and it is probably better jazz; it makes its best points with music, not words.." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times