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Bird

1988
(Clint Eastwood)

Bird



Cast
Crew
Forest Whitaker - Charlie "Yardbird" Parker
Diane Venora - Chan Richardson Parker
Michael Zelniker - Red Rodney
Samuel E. Wright - Dizzy Gillespie
Keith David - Buster Franklin
Clint Eastwood - Director, Producer
Joel Oliansky - Screenwriter
Lennie Niehaus - Composer (Music Score)
Jack N. Green - Cinematographer
Willie D. Burton - Sound/Sound Designer


"Do you want a husband or a musician?" a mental-hospital official asks Charlie Parker's common-law wife, Chan, as they debate whether the fragile jazzman should get shock treatment. "They do not separate!" she insists. In this sensitive, sophisticated labor of love directed by Clint Eastwood--yes, Clint Eastwood--all the tangled wires that fired Parker's creativity get a careful examination. Unfairly dismissed by some jazz fans as just another doomed-junkie story, Bird is blunt about its subject's catastrophic heroin habit (when he died at age 34, the doctor who pronounced him dead guessed that Parker was about 65). But it's just one piece of the puzzle, along with Bird's prescient artistry; his keen intelligence; his mercurial emotions; his struggles with racism, finances, and the cops; and his love for challenging women, chief among them the free-spirited Chan (a snappy, sizzling Diane Venora). In the center of Bird stands Forest Whitaker, giving a towering, multilayered performance, breaking your heart but never losing his dignity. Best of all, this is one jazz movie that truly glorifies its music--Parker's own sax solos, dropped into modern accompaniment through the magic of technology, blaze in long takes at Paris theaters, Southern barn dances, Kansas City cutting contests, and Manhattan nightclubs. The movie makes a case for Parker as a unique artist who could not--or would not--create a better world for himself.

Charlie "Yardbird" Parker had been a hero of Clint Eastwood’s since childhood, and Eastwood, having been disappointed in such jazz biopics as Young Man with a Horn, really wanted to make a true jazz fan’s movie about the music. He cast Forest Whitaker as Parker, the legendary alto sax player, and Diane Venora as Chan, Parker’s wife. The film shows how Parker, a genius who changed the face of modern music, was hampered and eventually destroyed by his appetite for women, food, and drugs. The two leads do a great job giving a recognizable human face to the characters’ complex relationship. With wit and warmth, Bird tells the story in direct and honest terms, avoiding all sentimentality. Eastwood’s love of Parker’s music comes across in the tremendous care that he and composer Lennie Niehaus took with reconstructing it, using Parker’s original solos. Eastwood and cinematographer Jack N. Green also patterned the dark, moody look of the film after old photos of musicians who used to appear in jazz magazines. Music lovers will be thrilled with the result, and movie lovers will find plenty to engage them in this moving tale of a great man battling his demons.

Baltimore City Paper -- October 24, 2000


A selection of Bird related products.



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