direction: Sasha Jenkins | game time: 106 min | year: 2022
Louis Armstrong was one of the most important and great musicians of the 20th century. Louis Armstrong Black and Blues It’s not just about his music, but also specifically about Armstrong as a cultural icon and his connection to the American Civil Rights Movement. His own recordings are widely used.
Not a lot of movie photos, but audio recordings. Later in his life, Armstrong had a hobby of recording conversations in his home and then listening to them again later when he was alone. Armstrong’s resulting archive of links reveals a little different from what we know.
His typical cheerful laugh can be heard a lot, but also a lot of swear words that not many people will associate with his wide smile, distinctive singing and playing the trumpet. In his private life, “fucked”, “despicable” and the “n” word were all there. His reputation as a cheerful man who meekly accepts all racial insults to white America turns out to be wrong.
This image was refuted not only by his own recordings, but also by testimonies from Ossie Davis, among others, the actor who played a major role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. And through Armstrong’s action against President Eisenhower in 1953, black students had to be admitted to a former segregated school in the southern United States, after a court ruled that segregation in schools was unconstitutional.
His claim in an interview that he was responsible for his letter to Eisenhower to deploy the National Guard to protect students from violent white protest is likely an exaggeration. Such interviews on television, from the last stage of his life, in addition to his own recordings, are also an important source of audio materials, on the basis of which his life story is told.
In addition to Armstrong himself, some other people have their say as well, especially in the beginning, whether through old interviews or not, such as his fourth (and final) wife Lucille Armstrong, film director Orson Welles and trumpeter and jazz expert Wynton Marsalis. His wife mainly talks about their personal lives, and celebrities (including a number of other jazz musicians) mainly talk about his musical genius.
It’s a well-known fact in documentaries about now-deceased artists: a number of experts say he was a genius, pioneer, and influencer. Sometimes they tell you why. In this case, Armstrong is arguably the first soloist of popular music, inventing the entire jazz genre and laying the foundation for many musical developments in the 20th century.
It seems as though his music would actually explain what made his music so special, but unfortunately it remains with public statements and the claim that he was the first to combine American and African music. That’s a lot of credit to Armstrong. Is a musicology lesson too much than a biographical documentary that lasts less than two hours?
Perhaps, but it would be nice to see an attempt to go beyond dancing around architecture. And because Armstrong laid the foundations for all of his jazz improvisation after him in the 1920s and 1930s, this isn’t high math. It was probably not necessary to use more than a few minutes.
All of this, of course, was filmed with numerous archival footage, TV interviews, and film footage from Armstrong’s acting career. In addition to this, the directors were also inspired by his hobby of covering the walls of his house with a bunch of newspaper clippings. The words he uttered are regularly depicted with a similar animated collage, a beautiful visual discovery.
Louis Armstrong Black and Blues She doesn’t quite live up to the marketing promise that this is her story in her own words. The fact that rapper Nas reads his messages makes a very big difference with his voice. In addition, the filmmakers fall into some pitfalls in the biographical documentary. However, the documentary partly presents a new portrait of the innovative musician and, using previously unpublished private recordings, places him in a historical context that differs from the usual portrait of Armstrong.
Louis Armstrong Black and Blues It can be seen on Apple TV +.
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