Monday, June 09, 2008

Re-release - LET'S GET LOST made me cry

I rarely cry when watching movies but Bruce Weber's Chet Baker documentary made me cry. Maybe it was the contrast between the beautiful young trumpeter before junk took a hold of him and the haggard, frail old man, older than his years, photographed shortly before his death. Maybe it was the sight of one of the all time great jazz trumpeters humbly asking the Cannes mob to be quiet while he sings them a heart-breaking version of "Almost Blue". Throwing pearls to swine. Maybe it was the relentless parade of women who'd loved him, still loved him, despite being cheated on, abandoned, abused and used. Maybe it was his children, cheekily asking for money, or conspicuous by their absence. All through the film I felt the heavy weight of dissipation - yet another great jazz man lost to heroin.

Bruce Weber's documentary is beautifully shot, as one might expect, and captures perfectly Chet's slippery charm and his vagabond life. All through the craziness there's one continuous thread - and that's the music. Even having all his teeth knocked out didn't stop that - just derailed it. From TV footage in 1956 when Baker is poster-boy-pretty to the Weber orchestrated recording session in Paris in 1987, that soft, smooth, seductive voice is exactly the same. The horn playing is less easy to compare. TV shows went for the romantic ballads and the late night jam sessions with Dizzy aren't captured on film. But we get the witnesses telling us how inspirational it all was. Our generation has to be content with CDs and just imagine the talent that's only briefly hinted at on record. But at least those of us who volunteer to watch this film on re-release don't need to be asked to be respectfully quiet.

LET'S GET LOST played Toronto 1988 and Sundance and Berlin 1989. It was nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar but lost to Marcel Ophuels' HOTEL TERMINUS. It was released that in 1989 and is currently on re-release in the UK. It is available on DVD.

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