Sunday, March 05, 2006

myWoodstock - Many are called, few are chosen

Based on a NYTimes review that this link points to I took my sons to see Dave Chappelle's Block Party playing at the movies.

I'll let Manohla Dargis' description of the movie's premise introduce my commentary.

In "Dave Chappelle's Block Party," much of which unfolds over a single rainy day and night, Mr. Chappelle looks and sounds alternately ebullient and weary. It was directed by Michel Gondry, the madcap genius behind "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," but in its tone and vibe feels like Mr. Chappelle's all the way. The setup is blissfully simple: a free block party on a dead-end street in Bed-Stuy with a lineup of musicians, some of whom, like Kanye West and Mos Def, have put in appearances on "Chappelle's Show." The nominal idea, the comic explains on camera, was "the concert I've always wanted to see." The result, which ping-pongs between Brooklyn and Mr. Chappelle's hometown in Ohio, is a tantalizing sketch-portrait of the artist amid an outpouring of hard beats and soul.


I loved this film on many levels. I knew little or nothing about Dave Chappelle nor am I a fan of hip-hop per se. Just as Woodstock introduced a generation of musicians to the world, Dave Chappelle's micro Woodstock event introduces another. IMO, this film is as significant as the first Woodstock in content and meaning.

As a film, this is a post-modern masterpiece of cutting, sketch, vibe, biography, political exposure, and party. Chappelle holds his concert in front of a hippie couple's ruin of a home called 'Fallen Angel' somewhere in Bed-Stuy, the eternal American political poster community. The rich metaphors electrify the irony. Like an abandoned religious shrine it frames and magnifies the question of what happened to the civil rights movements, social justice, and peace. The answer is that they've been internalized and marginalized. Chappelle, megaphone in hand, tells us we'll never hear this on the radio just as no one heard him speaking in the megaphone.

Chappelle marches a marching band through Bed-Stuy with few or no eyebrows raised. It is as if Americans have all retreated inside. Chappelle is a cross between Richard Pryor and Charlie Chaplin and I hate to overuse the term but this film has the touch of genius in it.

The music is a revelation. Hip-hop oftens emphasizes bass sounds that sound awful when being blasted on buzzy, car boom boxes driven by misguided tough-guys. Hearing this music in the theatre, illuminates the wonderful backbeats of all of the bands and artists Chappelle invited to play. The quality of sound will amaze you. And the quality of the artists will also amaze you.

This is high quality art. All high school students who are mature enough to think for themselves should most definitely consider themselves invited. This movie's musical impact will not be the same unless run through a high quality music system. I recommend experiencing it in the theatre.

And let me add a final postscript;

This film drips with a humanity rarely seen in American films representing the black community. EVERY black person in this film is articulate, there is not a thug in the crowd, the children are clean, well fed, beautiful.

Bill Cosby should go see what the black community he criticizes so harshly looks like.

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