Biopics! “Miles Ahead” and “Born to Be Blue”

Musicians today, and jazz performers especially, have something to look forward to this coming spring— at least if you consider sharing great music and stories worth anticipating. In theaters, moviegoers may be exposed for the first time to two of jazz music’s most legendary trumpet players: Chet Baker and Miles Davis.

Born to Be Blue, which stars Training Day and Before Sunrise actor Ethan Hawke, traces the story of Chet Baker during his journey back to the spotlight. Baker, who in his late twenties became infamously addicted to heroin, was grievously injured in a drug-transaction that went horribly awry. He was beaten, and lost several of his teeth, leaving him unable to produce an effective sound on his instrument. After dental reconstruction and surgery, Baker regained control of his embouchure and began his comeback.

Obviously, Ethan Hawke is an actor first and foremost. But while most musical biopics involve the actor doing just that— acting out the musical technique without actually committing to a sound— Hawke forgoes the lip syncing and instead sings in Baker’s wispy gossamer of a voice. You can actually listen to his interpretation of “My Funny Valentine” in one of the official trailers for the film.

After you watch the subdued introspection of Blue, indulge in the effortless cool of Miles Davis by checking out Miles Ahead, the long awaited biopic by Don Cheadle. He conceived the project several years ago, and it is practically the product of a prank by fellow actor and friend George Clooney.

Cheadle, like Hawke, took his acting to the next level when he spent four years learning the trumpet. But his film isn’t for those who are looking for conventions of traditional cinema. The movie itself is nonlinear, and at first pass may not seem to follow any coherent path. He also takes several liberties with Davis’s life, liberally blending factual anecdotes with episodes of pure fiction. But if you are familiar with Davis’s life and music, there should be no reason you won’t enjoy this new film.

from Emmanuel Garcia


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