Whiplash : A Film Review

On the edge of Knowing.
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Learning the score
This is a lucious, glorious, engaging fast flowing film. It has an endearing pupil, intimidating teacher routine which upsets and provides the grist for the mill of the musical genre that is Jazz based but that enables escape of a kind in allowing you to determine what are the drivers within creativity.
What is Jazz and as it is so much associated with free flowing fluidity of musical timbre is it so, so fixed note mathematically cadenced and hung on the detail such as the on score message of the composers design?

Listen and watch and learn more to gain a worthwhile insight to the background and for many the foreground musical array chosen to balance their auditory needs.

The cast are firstly the Oscar leaning (BSA) JK. Simmons, as Terence Fletcher tilting over the drum kit and life of the singled out for greatness pupil Andrew Neyman played by Miles Teller whose playing is very highly fixed and skilled. Never having been in a Jazz Conservatiore I have no idea of the standards already in place at the get go but if this is the standard an around them both are the whole compliment ensemble needed as a class big band all equipped to carry this dynamic film.

Dynamism is the luxuriant array of sound which from the single stick tap in to the fully accounted for end scores peppered throughout this is foreground sound in film. It is not biographical as has been the recent entry of film to the soundscape of masters too numerous to name heck.

Deliverance
It takes a musically attuned ear to pick up on the note delays, tempo thrust and the delicacy of volume control amidst the disciplined Jazz-band playing which cascades towards us along with the visually arresting array of gorgeous instruments utilised to entertain us.

To cover this film properly requires a working knowledge of how Jazz has been the immigrants song creating legendary musical influences which enter Ito the repertoire we associate with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington whose vibe was the outlet for the racial differences found into the many States of America. Soul has Jazz Funk has Jazz Pop has Jazz and as the soaks have it, Jazz has Jazz.
Story, the last thing on my mind
Where is the story to come from? Where is the earthy to come from? Where is the core moral? What is the history made or recalled? Who makes it original? Where are the truths and what is the point of Jazz?!

‘Whiplash’ is the name and it feels that way. The Jazz ‘standard’ along with ‘Caravan’ a mope familiar one describe and provide the centrality of the thread which takes us across small School based but high achieving Jazz competition episodes which act as a form of divertissement to the main score – that of the musically being drawn through Blood and Claw (a website exists!) up close and beautifully filmed – encountered which at times seem as voyeuristic torture acts. We are witness to the demands and Andrew Neyman Is equal to delivering what he has been taught.
The names are skittish. Andrews real name Miles Teller and JK Simmons aka, Terence Fletcher, the Fletch arrow tuned, chewed thoroughly.
In taped hands rest the fingertips as extensions of the human rendering the innermost on this ancient instrument the drum. There also goes Superwoman Julie Neymar as a name of the times – no connection to the film whatsoever but Native American fusion.
The only love element in the film happens to be the Rory McIlroy type.
I’ll leave that hanging. He does.

His playing (not Rory’s but close,) is figured around the classic kit.
Every beat around his circular reach is known and every measure is – and here it is massively apparent – the kit is an animal to be tamed and ever service of music is sought of it.
The fine fill of brushes matching hearts cadence while below the bass drum is everyone in the units earshot key underpinning beat.
No matter how inconsequential a note might appear the players from the trombone to the clarinet, to the soprano sax, to the strings of bass and guitar all owe their perception of what goes on to the drums.

It is never do evident when latter on several performance show that Jazz at the finest union of music delivered as a giant memorable dynamic which takes the listener into a bodily felt union with the band. It is the music of democracy and community. Played as a pure recognition of interracial and irrepressible earthly wonder.
Except in the hearing, by being in the presence of this emotive charge it is tangible while being heavens expressed.
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Observatoire on life
It is up to you to use your observations and se how this fragile and seemingly era based music has no chance of remaining static and reflective. Every generation one after the other learn to discover its command over the classically trained and it becomes real time magic. Interpretation is famously about listening to the spaces within the sound. The estrangement of notes.
The Art never evaporates.
Recently, one CP, a fellow on Facebook identified a Nina Simone rendition, if that is what is can be loosely attributed as, of singing Feelings at the Montreaux Jazz Festival of circa. 73 in a movement almost Beckett inspired, of interrupting interpretation as it became obvious the ethereal was upon her, she became overwhelmed it is co-junction on several different levels as the listener. It was perilously close to being a Carl Andre pice of modern analysis.

So you think that (crit?) pretentious rubbish? Close to Pseuds Corner?
It is whatever you make it and the collective resources of your own thoughts may or may not embrace the extent to which we rely on the Arts to produce – not pre-curated thought processes but to unify and reveal the hidden there as simple evidence of a force which is extraordinarily contained in all of us.
Of Africa we are and of Africa so is Jazz as science and product.
How is that?! Listen widely. Jazz epiphany on 6 January.
We are late but what the hell. The two faces of January turn the year onto us.
Origins
It is a City sound unlike the prequel of Country folklore and imported narrative based songs associated with the vast rural spaces.

It’s hard to think of a Grand Canyon or Texas handle on Jazz.
Influences came into the big screen cinematic portrayals eventually via. The Gerswins, Berekley, big country music which suited the big screen. Oklahoma an instant nostalgia presented in the newly 3,000 seater cinemas and often Broadway stimulated show business.
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Here is today’s generation displaying the art of musicianship in the form making of Jazz is an integral justification of Americas sense of self.
Both races are represented in this as the vibe. The players are youthful scholars at the fictional New York Schafer School which sucks in excellence and budding talent.
Buddy Rich the drummers big band leader supreme is the core student Andrew prime loader of studious appraisal. He is inducted into a school set up band by the industrial ferociously driven and therefore corrosive egomaniac Fletcher. Proud of his Hugh Jackman like big arms (turns out he’s a pianist!) he escorts his shine, both bald head clean shaven head, his black shod shoes into the precision of the room of the School where a band assembles. His set up and his direct tool of control. Known as the Studio, it seems this is the martial core part of the work of a Jazz semester.

America has its form of educational style which deliver greatness in awkward uninhibited professionals as dynamically American. Think Lawyers, Scientists, Medicians, Philosophers and Journalists, those last two a case apart, and compare with the spectrum educations in India, (elitist) South America (colonial) English (eclectic elitism) German (Bauhaus, Baccalaureate) and the range seems also democratic.

Unfortunately this democratic rhythm to education is in this visualisation of a musical kind brings us into the Deadman walking opprobrium that is Fletcher’s heavy homophobic, racial stereotyping, mid America hating, myosin it’s attitude which is feigned but practiced as it is in keeping with the directions Jazz in his mind congregates around.

Jazz is nothing of the sort of course. The likes of Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin pursued their genius of vocal dexterity inside the macho world of large ensembles.

Andrew is faced with this acidic reckoning and the tutor Fletcher opens up implausibly – if he didn’t know of Buddy a Rich before hand he needn’t have bothered turning up but the Buddy Rich album Birdland (joe Zwaninul) my personal talisman of music, appeared to be advised! listening! As if.

I recalled the Weather Report of my own ears induction in the sound of live Jazz, then regarded as – well it was a sideline of progressive music as others would have it, – except in the band the Austrian born, Vienna born, classically trained Joe Zwaniul.

JW was not only author of Birdland but the free expressionist exponent and core influence for the likes of Miles Davis and all players surrounding, the never to be buried Jazz Gods messengers music trail. His In a Silent Way setting up another stage and level of Jazz which gave license to the likes of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis to create their own dominion.

This is the sphere of worldly Jazz Fletcher wishes Andrew to follow on from.
You can see this in every searing, humiliating frame Fletcher knows his gift is not sufficient to carry his own broad and well rendered skills. The teacher has found a protege and that is for him a fix except he almost destroys the prospect. The driving and completion, some false excruciating scenes are exercises in non modal countenance
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Conclusion. 3+###
Making their mark is the premise. As a young actor Miles Teller excels as the encouraged and discouraged but always courageous central character. JK Simmons tries his dampest, the repertoire for him is limited to serious grimacing face pulling enraged, sometimes a tad inanimate physicality, hand conduct with the repose generated by his contained thoughtfulness delivered by a face full of Bourbon or stronger muscle depletion character.

The film is a handsome piece of film making from the first film Director
and the choice is perfect imperious winter hardship at arms length viewing.
It’s entertaining and musically interesting without fail for those risen above novice, rookie – the pupil in class and I think this has been my only spoiler and it’s believe me minimal – is a squeaker – because it opens ears to the directions of Jazz. The self same name of Bill Evans with Miles Davis collaborative double album. It comes nowhere near the Jazz fusion esoteric drumming driven out by Billy Cobham and other advanced drummers.
The jazz playing gets about a three as it is schoolyard and ‘good playing’ the higher plain jazz is instrumentally there to be found live and in all cross over platforms yours to discover.

I got a thrill out of it tapping away discretely and entering the action belonging vibe that Jazz subscribes uniquely.

Looking at others stretching themselves to get there is a very common harmonious audience player relationship and seeing all those visually expressive instruments swing together is bravo musical film making.
Enjoy but don’t destroy.
It looks like being popular and students will get a kick out of it.

John Graham

14 January 2015

Belfast

Opens at QFT Belfast on this Friday 15th January and other screens around.

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