1988, Movie, R, 161 mins


A tribute to the life and genius of saxophonist Charlie Parker, BIRD is a collage of passages from Parker's remarkable life, from his childhood in Kansas City, through his tumultuous interracial relationship with Chan Richardson, to his tragic death at the age of 34.

Derived mostly from Chan Parker's unpublished memoir, Life in E-Flat, the story is told through an intricate structure that jumps backward and forward in an ambitious attempt to create a narrative and visual equivalent to Parker's complicated music. In a remarkable directorial effort, Eastwood shows a great flair for atmosphere and composition and presents a nuanced, complex, humane portrait of Parker's talents, obstacles, virtues and failings. Whitaker gives a towering performance as the tortured musical genius, and Venora is equally impressive as the independent, compassionate Chan.

Wisely opting to use Parker's actual solos on the soundtrack instead of having a modern musician re-create them, Eastwood and musical director Lennie Niehaus took several previously unreleased recordings of Parker and digitally stripped away his accompanists (mostly because of poor recording techniques that featured Bird at the expense of the others), replacing them with modern musicians. leave a comment

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