Within the talented fingers and piercing gaze of a laid back silhouette, Miles Davis saw the future without giving it a name. However, in absorbing the violence of his parents’ fights, a wealthy childhood would offer no protection for the future that awaited him…
… commendably takes off both the gloves with the shades and shows Miles at his very best and his very worst.
Speeding through the years in tempo with Miles’s fluttering fingers, director Stanley Nelson’s documentary keeps time with his subject and the changing decades. From honing his craft in NewYork’s 52nd Street by night and gaining a formal musical education by day, Miles wasn’t just another bebop musician chasing a departing train. Armed with an elegance and nobility way ahead of his time, he would find refuge in Paris.
Surrounded by the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso and other luminaries, his mind was expanded beyond the confines of race and class. Returning to the US, it was to be a crash landing. Shorn from the acceptance that Paris afforded him, heroin-addiction would step into the waiting void. However, as so often the case, with his back against the wall with a play or die engagement at the Newport festival, Miles rewrote jazz in the space of a single performance. Placing his trumpet against his mic, the freneticism of 52nd Street had gone, replaced by a wistful, naked vulnerability that crossed every appreciable divide.
Whereas, Don Cheadle’s ‘Miles Ahead‘ wasn’t the biopic that such a talented yet inwardly sensitive man deserved, ‘Miles Davis – The Birth of Cool’ commendably takes off both the gloves with the shades and shows Miles at his very best and his very worst. Creative and collaboratively ambitious at the outset, romantically insecure by the end, a professional terseness would violently stain his soul.
So, whether improvising an entire film score for Louis Malle or sketching his way through the seminal ‘Kind of Blue’, Miles was always miles ahead. Delivered in a suitably unpretentious manner, ‘Miles Davis – The Birth of Cool’ is his one marriage that sticks. Truthful, painful and elegiac this is the movie that does right by Miles. Telling the full story without pausing for breath, Miles’s own words strips away the mystique of a man whose music became a projection for others.
A humbling talent honestly countered, Stanley Nelson’s portrait finally articulates Miles greatest fear – of how god can punish you by giving you everything when there is no time left – but you can.
You can buy a ticket.