Every Friday I recommend an entertaining, slow-paced movie from no later than 1985 to help you unwind at the end of the week in our fast-paced world.
This week’s movie took some thinking. It contains some elements I find problematic, especially in its portrayal of its protagonist. But it’s a movie you’d benefit a great deal from experiencing, because it transcends its plot, its genre, and even its responsibility to real life.
What a combination.
On a plot level, this movie is a very conventional biopic. But on every other level, it’s much more than that—it steadily grows into something dreamlike, somehow surreal, playing with your expectations while not playing with them. It has an identity as distinct and unforgettable as its protagonist, Billie Holiday.
Again, only so much of this movie is adapted faithfully from real life, but in terms of a movie, the production crafted an incredibly interesting ensemble of characters. The relationships conveyed through their interactions are fascinating to watch, getting you closer to the period the film is portraying while also keeping you an ethereal observer.
Every single actor does wonders with the script, which creates some very multidimensional, organic, and nuanced moments, and the pacing of the movie gives the actors the time to bring those moments out. Where some of the characters go may surprise you, and the actors playing them may surprise you as well.
There are so many beautiful shots in this movie, not just with the camera angles and where the actors fit in the frame, but the lighting, colors, focus and other elements and strategies all come together to create several tremendously vivid experiences (and as far as I’m concerned, this movie uses lens flare leagues better than any J.J. Abrams movie).
And the music does a lot of interesting things as well.
“Lady Sings the Blues” is not a quintessential movie about Billie Holiday, but everyone involved really brought their A-game to this movie. I think it captures a lot of good human moments, from strengths to weaknesses, sometimes through dialogue and always visually.
And that’s a good movie night.
After all that, if you still need something retro to satisfy your movie appetite until next week, check out my previous recommendations:
Let me know what you think of this week’s recommendation and stay tuned!
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