In the Cool Cool (Film Thoughts: Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool)

miles-filmAs much as a jazz vocals fan I am, I am not as well-versed with instrumental jazz artists. Of course, I know some of Miles Davis’ work, and love his early output, when he was doing more lyrical interpretations of jazz standards. His later, more ‘improvisational’ work allude to satisfy me, but that’s just more taste. So I was coming into the documentary ‘Miles Davis: Birth Of the Cool’ with a little bit of excitement, and the thirst for knowledge about him and his artistry. Directed by Stanley Nelson, the film feels very informative – it’s a chronological telling of his life and work, and indeed it is quite educational, as we learn more about the person through interviews from people he knew and worked with, underscored by his musical work (although most of it is abridged, encouraging viewers to take notes and check it out for themselves) I found a lot of the anecdotes fresh – most of what I saw I hadn’t heard before. I didn’t know, for example, that he had an affair with Juliette greco when he was in Paris right after the end of the second world war. Like most real artists, Davis had a lot of personal demons – he used drugs heavily in episodes of his life, and his wife suffered from domestic violence. A lot of the personal stuff seemed a tad glossed-over – this is not the kind of juicy gossipy unworthy of its subject. Over and over everyone says that Davis defined and is the epitome of cool – salacious information would probably sully that. In that end, the film is truly suited for PBS, so it’s straight-laced and informative.

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