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USA 1990
Directed by
Spike Lee
123 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Mo' Better Blues

Spike Lee’s follow-up to his breakout hit, Do The Right Thing (1989), is typical of a stylistically-related group of his films that also includes Jungle Fever (1991) and Crooklyn (1994) that like Woody Allen’s films (Lee for a while was tagged "the black woody Allen), deal with recurring, semi-autobiographical themes and uses an ongoing creative team both behind and in front of the camera.

The film concerns itself with the rise-and-fall story of jazz trumpeter, Bleek Gilliam (Denzel Washington), and his friend Shadow Henderson (Wesley Snipes) as they try to make it in the highly-competitive NY jazz scene and balance the conflicting demands of art and commerce.

With an original score provided by his dad, Bill Lee (who also appears as the father of the bride), the last that he did for his son, superbly realized by Wynton Marsalis (dubbing Snipes' sax) and his band which features Lee’s regular music collaborator, Terence Blanchard (dubbing Washington's trumpet), and starring Lee's sister, Jolie, who gives a strong performance, there's much to be enjoyed here - notably the director's characteristically superb visuals and stylish production design and his self-deprecating humour in the characters he plays. Lee, as usual, mixes comedy and drama in a story that both moves at a fair clip, reaching its apogee in the memorable scene in which Lee’s character, Giant, is beaten-up in the alley whilst Bleek and band are playing a frenetic bop number in the club, and is also quite touching in parts, particularly the scene in which Bleek realizes that he has lost the will to be a musician .




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