There's something explicitly unique about blue's music. The history of the roots from the deep south pulsates through the base of the instruments, leaving you transfixed in the passion and spirit. After weeks of restraints across the United Kingdom, this movie was sure to open up the archives of 1920's America, bringing fond memories of a time when music ruled the humid streets of Chicago. Like many across the country, I was ready to lose myself in the past and appreciate the rebellious generation of blues singers.
This picture oozes energy from the lens. Director George C. Wolfe made no mistake in delivering an emotional punch for a rather simplistic narrative. From the opening notes, when Viola Davis lungs carry 'Ma Rainey' on stage, you know the following scenes will bring infinite attitude. The actress showcases one of her best roles to date, stomping across alleys with her riches and fame. Her presence on screen against the racial diversity at the time is captivating as you understand the troubling discrimination revolving the city at the time. Denzil Washington who produced the tale said, "The time has changed but the pain still hasn't."
The tone of the film resembles a fluid theatrical performance, with characters bouncing off eachother's lines whilst squashed into a tiny recording studio in the centre of town. Ma Rainey's band players light up the story with their individual tales of heartbreak and dismay battling against a predominately white musical industry. The characters detail in their costumes, make up and set design for the film is outstanding and a triumph in rewinding you back to the era of jazz and fire.
Chadwick Boseman deserves a handful of awards for his portrayal of 'Levee'. You witness every part of desperation from his characters sadness hidden in his charismatic words. Being one of his last performances on screen, his monologue of hatred and pain for the murder of his mother leaves you speechless and shaking in disbelief. He leaves a grave legacy for his talents in the industry, one audiences will reflect on for many years to come.
Ma Raineys Black Bottom (2020)
The movie provides a key hole into the lives around the centre figure of the band, Ma Rainey. As side narratives form, you draw yourself into the lives behind the curtains. One thing that fell short however, was the depth they were explored other characters. Levee's was depicted brilliantly, but the band's manager (Culter) and Piano player (Toledo) weren't quite given the chance to speak of their troubles in society. Given the shocking murder within the last few moments of the film, a broader depiction of these characters would have provided a more emotional rollercoaster towards the credits.
Unlike back to back scores in musicals, there's only a few songs performed fully for the picture but you equally feel the passion for creating these sounds. The lighting and editing shades of the picture flourish in Chicago's dusty underground scene and, with the immersive raw acting, it's a warm tearful experience. If there's one movie to remind you of what it feels like to fight against all odds, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will do the trick. Our culture is ever changing and to relish in the history of dreams is beautiful. As Ma comments, "The blues helps you get out of bed in the morning, you get up knowing you ain't alone."