*could have been: by david braid
born to be blue- the initial interest for this movie came from a small update from a dearest friend during TIFF 2015: hey, i wrote movie tracks- argh, it was not possible to get to the sold-out showing then. finally, today, coupla months later, i cleared schedule to go see it as it's doing a briefest stint of a week at the lightbox. the project intersected so many lives of utoronto- i went with curiosity and beaming enthusiasm for friends and teachers.
then i walked out the theater with blue, smudging off from my trail, as melancholia filled my heart and brought down the daunting weight of the pursuit of happiness.
a young boy from the big field of oklahoma whose life consisted of repeated launchings into the stratosphere of highest euphoria and the consequent crashes, whose life could have been full of- well, i did end up being full of beauty which was sustained through consumption of his own life, overflowing into his musical legacy. and lies. so many lies. and the days that were soaked in heroin high, distorted into beauty, if brief.
but were those intentional lies or just highly distorted imaginary memory fragments, ashes of beautiful flare-ups that burned so bright, each time, and left the rest of the time with dust-light, darkest soot, sprawling whenever the wind blew?
i did not know chet baker, the person. i liked his tunes and have a very soft spot for his flugel playing. unlike other members of the trumpet, flugel is a bit of an anomaly- the heraldry golden sparkles of trumpet has been replaced by dark mellowness, smoky, rather. and i wondered if the movie was set in the timbre of flugel horn.
the movie is loosely based on particular aspects of chet's life, around his drug addiction, the massive trouble that followed him for heroin money, including legal troubles and a bad scuffle that left him with broken mouth. but as true addicts do, he rebuilds, to chase his happiness- through playing, drugs and beauty to the day of his mysterious death. this is not a biopic, but a fantasy on a theme of reality, much like a 'high,' where altered reality fills the experimenter with beauty that is greater than life itself.
apparently the character of carmen ejogo is a fictional amalgamation of all the ladies that wafted throughout chet's life- the flesh and blood, of bodily warmth from the 'reality.' and the 'reality' does restore chet, lets him rebuild- as he's made of flesh and blood, though only to allow him to re-launch to the vicious addiction cycle.
a quick glance on the web got me a a few negative, even angry feedbacks from jazz enthusiasts, of how this is not an actual biopic, therefore how insulting it is for chet.
but is it?
if the role of arts is to create an exit to a greater degree of emotions, i think the movie was a success. ethan hawke's character, if simple because he was so singular focused (chase that high- whether through music or through heroin), is realistic. i do believe that most of us mortals wander through life, not because we have diverse interest, but because we are not able to find that singular inlet into beauty; parallel examples are abundant around all of us- who have not seen a true addict? for an addict, a 'better' life is not necessary, but the pursuit and acquisition of the 'happiness' is an absolute mandatory. in a fact, we are all addicts to pleasure and beauty, or whatever one decide to call it.
hawke's character is weak and ugly. timid and afraid at times. such an anti-hero. however, that is who we all are. in the great force of life, we are timid and ugly. sometimes we are lucky to have aids, such as love, to support us through the hard time. we often compare 'love' to 'air,' a necessity for sustaining life. however, the narrative of this film stresses the very point we often choose to oversee- if a true happiness can be obtained through abandonment of 'life,' is it necessary to live?
filled with slow, grating narrative and frustration after frustration (come on chet, do the right thing...!), filled with beautiful music set in that hauntingly mellow tone of flugel horn (plenty of space and room for each sounds, thank the lord for sparseness. nowdays, so many things are too over-filled, including sound), the film filled my heart with a wish for true fulfilment, something that is imagined, not to become true (for most days of my life), and the hint of sadness that comes from such realization.
...it all began so well, but what an end,
this is the time a fella needs a friend...
*but not for me, george/ira gershwin, one of chet's best tune