5. High Society (Charles Walters,1956)
Based on the play ‘The Philadelphia Story’, High Society brings the story to the screen in a beautiful musical manner. The light entertaining comedy witnesses a great jazz musician Dexter Haven (Bing Crosby) who amidst his jazz is trying to win back his charming ex-wife (Grace Kelly) after divorcing her.
She on the other hand is set to marry a very honourable man, George Kittredge (John Lund), while being seduced by a newspaper reporter played by Frank Sinatra himself. The movie brings forth a dilemma as she is forced to choose between the three very very different gentlemen.
The film wonderfully portrays the comic love circle with musical jazz numbers that bring life to the screen. It is a fantastic film that takes full benefit of the talent of its equally fantastic cast.
4. Bird (Clint Eastwood, 1988)
In Bird, Eastwood takes on portraying the story of the legendary musician Charlie Parker (Forest Whitaker), also going by the name of Bird – one of the most distinctive and influential jazz personas whose impact is clearly evident on many jazz players until this day, as well as on the genre itself.
The movie shows us the ascent of his musical career, from his fascination with music as a young boy, to his first audition and his growing career throughout several bands and gigs.
Apart from his music, the biopic offers us the background of the life of Parker, including his last marriage to Chan Parker(Diane Venora) and the never ending struggle of drug addiction that is the downfall not only to his career but to his own life.
The wonderful element in the movie is the fact that it is Parker himself who is playing the saxophone in the music scenes as Eastwood and music coordinator Niehaus took Parker’s actual recordings and fitted his saxophone to the new high definition soundtracks giving the movie an even more authentic feeling, allowing us to really feel Parker as well as experience the never ending nights of live jazz.
3. La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)
In La La Land Chazelle once again passes along the love and appreciation to the genre the greatness of which seems to be dying out. Like in Whiplash he explores the ambivalence between love and striving ambition, but also the battle between the old and the new, exploring the fields of acting and musicianship, all done through a fantastic musical approach.
The story revolves around the two protagonists, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who is a jazz pianist with the goal of keeping the old non-commercial jazz alive through his playing and with the hopes of opening up his own jazz establishment to share the joy of the music with people, and Mia (Emma Stone) who is a young girl going around on auditions in order to quit her job as a barista at a cafe at the Warner Brothers’ Studio.
Their meeting slowly develops into a beautiful and intense romance as the two try to figure out their own aspirations that gradually become a threat to their relationship.
La La Land is about staying true to oneself and is yet another slap in the face about the sacrifices to the arts. But once you hear the skillful and passionate playing of jazz through Sebastian’s hands and through the voice of his favourite musicians, like Mia we begin to understand and appreciate the sacrifices made for the vibrant genre, and pray along with Sebastian that it will not be lost and abused by the glory and fame offered by commercial and mainstream music.
2. The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)
The Blues Brothers is a cult classic inspired by a Saturday Night Live sketch of the same name, combining a mixture of action, humour and of course jazz.
It follows the two brothers (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd), dressed in their infamous black suits, white socks and tinted sunglasses, as they try to get their old blues band back together in order to raise money for their old orphanage that is presently in huge debt.
They embark on a two and a half hour journey of rediscovering their ex-band members in the most strange places, following their running away from several groups of people that they have managed to enrage, including Nazis, police, a western band and of course an angry crowd.
All of this is casually interrupted with fantastic music numbers, never lacking a good old laugh and some good old jazz.
Landis manages to musically keep the absurdity and chaos from spiraling out of control as well as creating memorable stunt numbers and car chases. The music doesn’t get more relevant and thrilling as the likes of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin join the ride with soulful tunes, bringing back the musical essence of the genre.
1. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)
Whiplash is a beautifully intense and powerful drama that shows the love and sacrifices one would go through in the name of music. In it Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is a young drummer who spends all of his time beating on his instrument and perfecting his technique – all in order to become a great musician and impress the un-impressible Mr. Fletcher (J.K Simmons) who is the school’s legendary conductor of an equally famous jazz band.
Despite all of the rejection and embarrassment that Fletcher puts Andrew through in their time working together, nothing seems to be bad enough for the young musician to stop beating on his drums, through lonely nights and with bloody hands that only fuel up his passion for the craft.
The more Fletcher puts him down, the more determined Andrew becomes – getting rid of any distractions in the form of friends or girlfriends – and the harder he tries to impress the tyrannical teacher who justifies his abuse with the idea that praise will lead nowhere, as he tries to prove that he is worthy of playing jazz.
Chazelle skilfully uses the tempo that the jazz music creates in order to thrillerise his movie and create tension that will keep the audience at the edge of their seats as they witness and appreciate the ‘behind the scenes’ of dedicated musicianship.
Author Bio: Polina is an aesthete and cinephile, devoted to using the arts to revive “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” in hopes of loosening up the world by defying the unnecessary social restrictions. When taking time off her edgy crusade she can be found soaking in a bubble bath with a Dostoevsky novel.