on 7 August 2008
Bruce Weber's photography turns the drug and alcohol ravaged face of Chet Baker into a landscape to be explored, and then shows you him as a beautiful young James Dean lookalike.
The music is extraordinary, and carries the film through what might have been its more self indulgent moments. It is cleverly set into context by the commentary from all the talking heads.
Some of the speakers are knowledgeable and insightful, but there is plenty of pleasure is to be gained from listening to his various lovers and wives bitching about each other, which certainly ensures that this is no hagiography.
Perhaps the best bits are when Bruce shows Chet getting angry - when questioned by young fans comparing him unfavourably to Miles Davies, or when being asked to play over the conversation of clubbers.
In the end, you get an extraordinary picture of the man and his work.
on 6 August 2010
I was especially delighted with this. I'd been to see Chet baker perform three times.
The last was in 1986 when he was playing at Ronnie Scott's.
During the interval, I went backstage and knocked on the dressing room door.
Chet was sitting alone, smoking a cigarette. He greeted me in a warm and welcoming manner and
after I'd introduced myself, he chatted to me for ten minutes about his music and his life.
I mentioned that I'd first seen him play at Ronnie's Old Place, in Gerrard Street, in the early 1960s,
when he sat in during Dexter Gordon's first visit to the club. He claimed to remember it too - he
certainly recalled the beautiful Italian girl I described him walking in with. What I didn't remind him
was the fact that he played three tunes with Dexter and turned his back to the audience throughout.
He was strung out that day - as he would be so many times in his tragic life.
But he did leave us with some beautiful music.
Some of it is on this disc.
I saw this film on its theatrical release, way back in '88/89, as a part of a run of late night movies on jazz themes, screened at the Cambridge Arts Cinema, as it was then known. I was completely enthralled and enchanted. Some films are intensely and self-consciously didactic, or analytical, or escapist, romantic, challenging, soothing or whatever... This film seems to be a wonderfully un-self-conscious mixture of biography, homage, celebration, voyeurism and more besides, all delivered with a dream like whimsy, and an artistic eye for bleak, melancholy beauty. The music is fabulous, both old and new, the performance footage revealing and entertaining, and the panoply of talking heads have a lot of interesting things to say.
I finally got to own this great film on video, some years later, and have watched and enjoyed it again a number of times. Since the advent of DVD I've seen it once more at the new Arts Picture House (Cambridge - complete with after screening video link chat with Bruce Weber himself!), and generally hankered after seeing it released on DVD. I've not got it yet... but I'm excited, as I suspect my partner has it on my xmas wishlist. I just hope they've put some good extras on the disc! So, whilst I can't advise on the DVD benefits, I can heartily recommend the film as a dreamy work of beauty, that almost magically captures the tragic beauty of Baker's life and music.
This movie - my introduction to Chet Baker - made a fan out of me. The film draws more on his vocal work, rather than his trumpet playing, an imbalance I grew to appreciate as I got more familiar with his recorded legacy. But in terms of great cinema, as opposed to a more scholarly form of balanced and historically accurate biography, the fact Weber leans on the vocal numbers is no real problem, if anything it simply helps strengthen the 'vibey-ness' of the film. Weber's penchant for hanging out with beautiful bozos, as well as the more articulate characters that litter the movie, which might irritate some, also helps create the dream-like aspect of this strange piece of art. Essays could easily be written on multifarious aspects of this picture, but ultimately it's a movie for the senses: so, regardless of whether you'd personally prefer a speed-ball or just a nice cup of tea, sit back, relax, and enjoy it!
on 29 May 2008
At last - my prayers have been answered. I have had this on VHS since it came out in '88. Alot of fans have been waiting for the DVD release (not bootleg) to appreciate both the documentary and music qualities. For anyone with the slightest interest in modern music or cinematography, this is a must for your collection. It must have been very hard for Bruce Weber to portray one of his music idols in such an honest way. But it works and allows an underlying story of the effects of heroin addiction to come through ( I won't say any more and let you find out yourself).
They should put a portrait of Chet aged 56 in all schools. If that does put them off hard drugs, nothing will.
Order this now, before the rest of the 5 stars convince you.
on 2 July 2010
If you are into 1950s cool.. the jazz, the beats, etc.. you will like this documentary on the life of trumpeter Chet Baker. It starts off in the late 1980s with a stoned Baker (looking all the worse for wear) being chauffeured around Malibu in a vintage convertible, both his arms around a couple of considerably younger girls. Then we go back to the early days and through photos, film clips of both live performances and movies he starred in, and chats with his relatives and ex-partners we examine his extraordinary life. This is great stuff and the dvd belongs right up there on our shelf next to "Whatever Happened To Kerouac" and "Jazz On A Summer's Day".
The movie is in black & white and full frame (4:3) aspect ratio. The sound is 2 channel stereo. There are subtitles available and I found I needed them because sometimes Chet seems to mumble and some of the other background voices are hard to hear. The subs came in handy. The movie runs for approximately 2 hours.
1. "Looking Again For Chet In All The Familiar Places": a new 20-minute featurette made up from footage not used in the film with a voice-over by the director and producer of the original movie. It's a reminiscence of sorts... both on Chet and the making of the movie.
2. "Let's get Lost Kodachrome newsreel": About 5 or 6 minutes random footage shot by the cinematographer of goings on during the filming of the movie. It takes colour to see how truly withered and ravaged by drugs Chet looked in the latter stage of his life. Music only audio on this.
3. "The Teddy Boys Of The Edwardian Drape Society": Approximately 5-minute short film by Bruce Weber showing aging British "teds" in record shops, displaying their tattoos and jiving... all to the soundtrack of Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro" sung by a soprano and capped off by the sounds of an auto accident and close-ups of faces. I fail to see the point in this... maybe someone can explain.
4. Movie Trailers for other Bruce Weber titles
5. 2 x Chet Baker Music Videos: "Almost Blue" and "Everything Happens To Me".
6. 8-page glossy booklet with some cool photos and comments from the director and Herbie Hancock.
This movie will leave you in a melancholy mood and have you reaching for those old 1950s West Coast jazz cds...
Well... It did me! ENJOY!
Bruce Webber has done a fantastic job here capturing the last dying gasp of a great talent's life. It could only have been made in black and white to give an authentic feel for the life and times of a jazz musician.
What an attractive young man with the look of Tab Hunter and the cool smoldering appeal of James Deen. And what a wreck he became after years of abusing every type of substance that came his way. Yet the appeal was still there to the end as seen in one of his final club performances. The almost whispering, melodic voice could still bend the lyrics so movingly and his horn playing although not as in his early years was still a joy to hear. It is neither right or fair to compare him to Miles Davis nor indeed to anyone else. He was an original Chet Baker.
I have been a fan for some fifty years [see my report on The Best of Chet Baker Sings] and I thought that I knew a fair bit about him, but after viewing this movie I realize that there were big gaps in my knowledge. I didn't know that this film existed until I was recently given this DVD and I enjoyed every one of the one hundred and twenty minutes.
His addictions may have diminished his talent or perhaps enhanced it. We will never know. We do know, as witnessed here,that the result of years of his addictions is the sad physical deterioration ending in his death; an old man of only fifty eight years.
on 10 May 2013
Fascinating and depressing at the same time. Chet's natural talent is well-known and his recordings provide great listening. These would be worth 5 stars but the film tries to be arty, and it turned me off. Chet's circle of "friends" and groupies did him no favours. No wonder he often lied to them. The film making gives the impression of a besotted fan hanging out, getting stoned and happening to have a camera to play with.
on 20 June 2013
Even if you haven't heard of Chet Baker you will find this documentary both fascinating and entertaining in equal measures.
He was a musician and singer who took the world of jazz by storm, playing the clubs of 1940's and 50's New York and then the world. His life was blighted by heroin addiction and a wild lifestyle, disastrous love affairs and estranged wives and children but you cannot help being charmed by his interveiws and the people who knew, loved and worked with him.
on 5 December 2014
Can't fault it as a film really. It's not always an easy watch as it is a documentary rather than a 'film', is shot in black and white and chops about from people to people and place to place. Also, Chet is a man who has chosen a certain path with his drug use and is clearly not strayed too far from that path during this film which shows in his dialogue. Marvellous insight into Chet's later life and interesting in the greater context of talent, drugs and dying young.