Brunswick Picture House

30 Fingal Street, Brunswick Heads NSW 2483

Jazz Film Festival: Miles Ahead (MA)

Rated: Rated MA 15+ | Year: 2015 | Director: Don Cheadle | Cast: Don Cheadle, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Ewan McGregor

Like the improvised nature of jazz, Don Cheadle’s biopic about Miles Davis brings a syncopated view on the legendary musician and trumpet player’s life as it scats around his turbulent life. We are there during the highs and the lows as he makes magic with his trumpet, meets the woman who makes his life beautiful and the drug dealers for his cocaine fix along with guns and clenched fists. It’s an outstanding albeit incomplete portrait filled with the major and minor chords of Davis’ musical and personal life. It’s a career highlight for Cheadle who assumes a husky voice, wears gold chains, oversized shades, an unruly Afro and pronounced limp for the role; Cheadle co-wrote the screenplay and directed the film.

After Miles Davis’ provocative quote ‘When you’re creating your own shit… even the sky ain’t the limit’, we meet the man himself who insists if a story is going to be told, it needs to have attitude. Attitude is something of which Davis has plenty and when asked to describe it, he lets the trumpet do the talking. The wonderful thing about Cheadle’s film is its freeform structure and the way the past and the present fuse together like a musos’ jam session.

Ewan McGregor plays Rolling Stone Magazine journalist Dave Brill, who arrives unannounced at Davis’ front door in the late 70s in the hope to get the inside scoop on a possible comeback, after Davis’ 5 year hiatus. Their relationship begins with a punch-up and Davis’ sense of wry humour is exposed when he talks about his life in such terms as: I was born; moved to New York; met some cats; made some music; made some more music and so on. Cocaine is what Brill and Davis have in common, which is where their mixed-up adventure together begins, amid stoushes with his disgruntled record company and executives.

Always present is Frances (Emayatzy Corinealdi, stunning), the beautiful dancer with whom Davis falls in love and graces one of his record covers – as we weave back and forth from the present to the past. We are there when he first meets her and gives her a $20 bill with his phone number. A passion-filled love affair and their marriage follows, slowly disintegrating into ugliness, amid drugs, infidelity, three-somes and domestic abuse.

The action is often as obtuse as the jazz that permeates throughout and Davis’ 1960 Sketches of Spain album gets a good workout. Cheadle makes no attempt to gloss over Davis’ imperfections; far from it, the film is a gritty mix of artistry and the low-life. I love the way we are transported into Davis’ life, treading on key stepping stones and running over others. Miles Davis fans will be enthralled, while film lovers will be fascinated by the creative result. It may not be a complete biopic, but it delivers a bittersweet taste.
— Louise Keller Urban Cinefile

Adult $18 | Conc. $16 | Adult Fri Double $30 | Conc Fri Double $24