I had a bona fide day off on saturday which was extremely exciting... I ended up watching two music docs that i've been looking forward to for a long time. One was a 'cheeky' download of the A Tribe Called Quest documentary (release date TBC), and the other was the Chet Baker documentary 'Let's Get Lost' which I genuinely paid for (£5. Fopp. Smashed it).
Firstly, the Tribe doc. The full title is, I believe 'Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest'. Bizarrely, it's direct by Michael Rapaport, who you may recognise as the Police Officer that Phoebe goes out with in Friends?!
Anyway, it tells the tale of the revered hip-hop group, but unfortunately with a strong focus on the relationship breakdown between the two principal MCs in the group, Malik (aka Phife Dawg) and Kamal (Q-Tip). I can see what Rapaport is trying to do here. He's trying to get the film onto the festival/awards circuit, by trying to spin the narrative into a more general story about friends falling-out, that should theoretically have a more universal appeal, and open up the size of the film's potential audience.
Obviously, Kamal and Malik have fallen out badly, and it can't be ignored in the story of the group, but the film languishes in this middle ground, trying to be a musical biography but also fashion a hollywood storyline which isn't really there. It falls way short in musical analyis/content, and neither Kamal or Malik are articulate enough to really get the bottom of why they don't get on anymore. Which makes for pretty boring viewing. Obviously the music is AMAZING, which makes the film watchable to the end.
I should add that ATCQ are pretty-much my favourite hip-hop group of all-time, which is why I was so disappointed that this didn't deliver. I know Q-Tip was opposed to the release of this film, haven't investigated why yet...
Markedly better, was Bruce Weber's documentary 'Let's Get Lost', following Chet Baker on what would turn out to be his last tour of the USA, in 1987. Originally released in 1988, it languished in obscurity until it was released on DVD and in cinemas in 2008.
If you're a fan of early Jim Jarmusch, Fellini's 'La Dolce Vita' and The Maysles' 'Grey Gardens', you need to watch this film asap. There's downbeat coolness in spades, and it's full of eccentric characters that you can't help but admire. The kind of old-school hipsters that can't even afford to exist anymore.
It works on pretty much every level... It's the most beautiful looking documentary i've pretty much ever seen, with the best music, and again, full of the most interesting, bizarre, hilarious characters.
Chet wanders around surrounded by an ever-rotating cast of hangers-on, hipsters, beautiful women, and we're treated to sublime flashbacks of Chet in his glory days. It doesn't really get any better.
And, after watching this film, you WILL want to be a jazz musician.