The year: 1946. The event: Oakland's "Jazz at the Philharmonic." The music streaked into the unknown, daring listeners to grab hold and fly there, too. On stage was the creator of those new sounds: Charles "Yardbird" Parke... more »r. In the crowd was the 16-year-old who would someday bring Parker's extraordinary story to the screen: Clint Eastwood. "Americans don't have any original art except Western movies and jazz," observes Eastwood. Movie fans, of course, know that few heroes sit as tall in the saddles as Eastwood. Now the legendary America icon, whose Dirty Harry films have been praised for their jazz scores, ventures deeper into that other original American art. Eastwood produces and directs Bird, a film burnished with the magic of that 1946 concert encounter between legend and future legend and honored with an Academy Award for Best Sound in its spellbinding recreation of a man and his music. Like jazz itself, Bird rings with counterpoints and embellishments. Past and future overlap as the film explores Yardbird's soaring skill and destructive excesses.« less
Unlucky Frank | Lalaland, CA United States | 03/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow, I can't believe the negative reviews for this MASTERPIECE by Clint Eastwood. Being a big fan of Jazz, I've owned this film for many years in more than one incarnation, and have watched it more times than I care to tally.Many reviewers said it's overly dark. Yep. Jazz musicians spend most of their time in dark smoke-filled nightclubs. So does BIRD. This is a great MOOD PIECE. It could also be called FILM NOIR. Many said it doesn't establish why Charlie Parker was one of the greats of Jazz. In one particularly brilliant scene of writing in this film, Parker is talking about himself and the legend of BIRD to Red Rodney, partner in Jazz and fellow heroin addict. He talks about "going inside the melody" of Cherokee, a song he had played many times and was tired of doing. Parker decides to go around the melody with little notes and discovers his style. Thus, a whole new form of music called Be Bop is born. A superb scene.Many reviewers said it dwelt too heavily on the negative aspects of Parker's drug abuse. This is true. However, heroin played a significant part in early Jazz music in this country. Heavily significant. A majority of the best and brightest Jazz stars were plagued by addiction for many years. Read Miles Davis' autobiography. He lists them all. Eastwood recognizes this in a scene where Parker is in Paris and is debating whether to return to the States. A fellow sideman is trying convince him to stay in France where he can make a decent living. SIDEMAN: "You can't make no living playing Jazz in the States." BIRD: "Dizz can. Duke can." SIDEMAN: "Well you ain't Dizz. And you certainly ain't Duke." BIRD: "So I kick." The Sideman laughs uproariously. BIRD: "I can kick." The Sideman laughs harder. The point of this exchange: the only successful Jazzmen are Duke and Dizzy because they may be the only ones not hooked on heroin. Subtle writing. A brilliant exchange that conveys so much about the world of Jazz. For some Jazz musicians, heroin was used in a creative context whether people will admit that or not. And drug and alcohol abuse DID kill Charlie Parker. Artists can be extremely self-destructive human beings.Some said it wasn't accurate. Many film biopics use composite characters for dramatic effect and change some history for storytelling purposes. Films can't possibly contain a person's whole history. It's not possible. But BIRD conveys Parker's fame and troubles with amazing grace and skill.Yes, BIRD is dark and depressing. It is also a brilliantly realized ART FILM. However, the timeline can be very confusing. I screened this for a friend, who was lost in the flashbacks. He did however, enjoy the film. Another thing I love about the script, is that it portrays Charlie Parker as an articulate and eloquent man, as many Jazz musicians were at the time and still are. (Wynton Marsalis comes to mind.) Even in "the midst of my disorientation," Parker remains articulate. One of my favorite lines of dialogue is when Parker is waking up on the floor after passing out in a wealthy patron's house. She explains to him that he has passed out, and Parker retorts from the floor, "Very undignified of me." BEAUTIFUL WRITING.I just had to chime in, because this film is an overlooked TREASURE. Forest Whitaker gives us probably the most amazing death scene I've ever witnessed on film. He should have won the Oscar for his performance. It was shamefully overlooked. Diane Venora is superb as are the rest of the cast. And as for Clint Eastwood; this is without a doubt, HIS BEST FILM. And one of my all time favorite flicks. Thanks Clint, for giving me many hours of enjoyment, and taking me back to a time I wish I had lived through, with this WORK OF ART. YOU are a TRUE JAZZ LOVER.If YOU are A TRUE LOVER OF JAZZ or A TRUE LOVER OF FILM ART, YOU MUST SEE THIS POIGNANT PIECE OF JAZZ HISTORY. THIS IS SUPERLATIVE MOVIEMAKING."
L. Shirley | fountain valley, ca United States | 11/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Bird" is an excellent film depicting the music and downfall of American Jazz legend Charlie Parker. This labor of love Directed by Clint Eastwood takes us from the early beginnings of "Bird"s" musical career as a saxophonist, playing with such greats as Dizzy Gilespie(who gave him his nickname "Yardbird"), to his eventual self destruction and death due to his abusive life style. Eastwood was awarded Best Director for this film at the Golden Globes.
Forest Whitaker turns in a superb performance as the strung out musician, as does Diane Venora as his wife who supported him wholeheartedly but could not help him. Whitaker and Venora were also both honored for their work, Whitaker with Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and Venora was the New York Film Critics choice for Best Supporting actress.
The Soundtrack, mostly Parker's music was remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is outstanding.It too was awarded with Best Sound at the Academy Awards.One of the songs that really stood out for me was "Bird's" rendition of "Laura" from the film noir of the same name.
The film does not glamorize Parker's life, but is an honest look at his departure from life and dependence on drugs.We see him turn inward at the loss of a child, the attempt at suicide, desperate attempts at finding work, and his depression at the change in the music world during the rock and roll revolution in the 50's, and finally his death at such a young age.
As far as the DVD, the sound was very good in the Dolby Dig 5.1.The picture was presented in the original widescreen aspect, but was very dark in places, making the actors undistinguishable at times.This may have been the way the film was made due to the dark content of the story. It was slightly distracting (my only reason for 4 stars) but otherwise an engrossing well made story with a great soundtrack.
Bebop Lives On in this film........Laurie
good film bios:
Marilyn Monroe - The Final Days
Eastwood on Eastwood [VHS]
Clara Bow: Discovering It Girl [VHS]"
Not as great as "Charlie Parker"
E. Cetin | East Quogue, NY United States | 07/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bird, is a film about the life of jazz great Charlie "the Bird" Parker. Forest Whitaker is doing a great job as Charlie Parker and the story is generally loyal to the real life, except one is lead to believe that "Chan" was his wife (in real life, she wasn't). One negative thing I felt was that the scenes were overly dark throughout the film. I think the director wanted to create an atmosphere of reality but in my opinion he overdid it to the point of annoyance. Another criticism is for a film about Charlie Parker, his talent on improvisation, his creativity could have been, and should have been emphasized more. There is a scene where he asks a friend to write a piece that he composed just that night and the friend wants to do it in the morning but by the next morning, Charlie doesn't even remember the piece, or even the conversation that took place. This is a good example but his creativity could have been emphasized with more examples like improvisation. In real life, Charlie Parker played the same piece of music differently almost every time, with some additions here and there, giving it a new mood, new angle, new taste. This could have been shown. However, despite these minor shortcomings, I think the film is a very good one. For Charlie Parker fans, I also strongly suggest the book "Bird Lives" by Ross Russell."
Ulf Axmacher | Missing Finger, VT | 10/14/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Bird" has had to withstand constant comparison to "Round Midnight", and my friends usually choose the latter as their favorite "Jazz Bio". As good as 'Round Midnight is, it is important to remember that "Bird" is the one based in fact, and the truth isn't always a pretty thing.Every time I watch this film, I marvel at how Forest Whitaker renders the musician/addict with such pathos and compassion. Like his friends and lovers in the film, the viewer never loses a sense of empathy and willingness to help, no matter how futile such help may seem.The supporting cast also delivers some fine performances. Diane Venora is strong and sympathetic as Chan Parker. And Samuel E. Wright presents a light and breezy Dizzy Gillespie, unburdened by the perils of drug abuse. Combined, they provide a perfect counterweight to Whitaker's dark and brooding Bird.While the music in the film is wonderful to hear and beautifully recorded, the topic of why Bird was a musical giant is carefully avoided. I think that this was a wise choice by Eastwood, as it helps make Whitaker's Charlie Parker all the more accessible to us mere mortals. Tackling a personality as complex as Bird's within a single film would have been an unachievable and necessarily diluting task. Focusing primarily on his personal sphere makes for a much more satisfying film experience. Eastwood clearly did not intend for this to be the definitive biography of Charlie Parker, but instead, a more universal character study. Those who need to know more will find many excellent and detailed bios available."
Next to listening to his recordings, this is a fine tribute
Craig Matteson | Ann Arbor, MI | 06/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am not usually a big fan of bio-pics about genius musicians because it is impossible to "act" them playing. And, after all, it is their playing that we care about. However, Clint Eastwood brings so much affection and integrity to this film and Forest Whitaker has such a perfectly fit genius of his own for this role that I think it comes off quite well.
Charlie Parker was a tortured soul whose musicianship was so powerful that he was able to teach himself a virtuoso style of playing jazz alto saxophone that has influenced nearly every alto-sax player since. Certainly, anyone with pretensions to playing bebop jazz. The film captures his difficult beginnings, his powerful rise and artistry, his terrible drug addictions (and how this also provided an unfortunate influence on others), and his early, far too early, death.
There is the sound of his playing throughout the movie, but it is in short snippets. We get more over the closing credits. But we get enough to remember what is special and unique about his playing. Everyone talks about his speed and harmonic variety. All that is there, certainly. However, there is also so much in Parker's commitment to what he is singing through his horn that allows us to feel the music in a way that was unique to him. Without that ability to reach into the heart of an audience, no amount of virtuosity can keep an audience for generations. Parker is still winning new fans every day and that is his greatest legacy. This film is a nice tribute to him. It is just so sad that he got onto such a self destructive path and the only way off for him was to die at 34."