What Don Cheadle (Writer/Director) tries to do here, is gather under one line of thinking, the process of creativity, specially radical Black American creativity.
As his first directorial debut, Cheadle brings an European art-house approach to a black American artist. Think Godard, and Truffaut, in the way drama intermingles with comedy and action. Cheadle riffs on Blaxpoitation films to deliver the story of an artistic ethos–creation at whatever cost.
The layering and weaving is poetic. Flashbacks delve deep into lost love, longing, and desire, all human qualities which inform the act of creation. Paranoid drug addict, abusive husband, narcissistic artist, Miles is not idolized, but instead multiple facets of his personality are depicted to show the full, sometimes contradictory, character of an assertive, radical innovator.
“Everybody has to have their own voice, their own style,” pleads Davis to his interviewer as he asks him to rephrase his introduction. When his interviewer offers Davis to rephrase it himself, the next scene literally jumps out of his trumpet through a visual trick.
A marriage in a private ballroom is a set piece to study: a live band provides entertainment with Miles occasionally picking up his trumpet to riff on feelings of longing, and elation.
Another character mirrors Davis’ own struggle with addiction, as an up and coming trumpet player.
The first ever encounter with his first wife, on a dark New York street, reinstates animal instinct and charged masculinity to love at first sight. His wife’s visage, which he would put on numerous album covers, resurfaces throughout as a trigger for visual ruminations on loss and memory.
What is the most precious thing in an artist’s life? Cheadle proposes the unseen. The unexplainable, unsaid things which emerge between the soul and the world. Cumulatively, Cheadle captures the essence of creative exploration, the necessity of storytelling, and the display of human grace and resilience throughout the often mysterious and inexplicable duration of existence. His reverence for not the artist, nor the art, but the playful logic in between, elevates this directorial debut to the status of monumental.