“BOLDEN” – Rated R (nudity, language) –
In a word: Frenetic
If you are a lover of old-time jazz music, you’ll love this movie. While I do enjoy jazz, this movie offers an overdose, with constant repetition of horns from beginning to end. Nevertheless, it certainly fit within the plot structure, focusing on the pathetic life of Charles “Buddy” Bolden, Louisiana-born kid who happened to develop a unique talent playing sounds and rhythms that were new to the music industry at that time. The opening credits for the movie claimed Buddy Bolden to be the inventor of jazz music.
Bolden formed a band that was well-known in New Orleans between 1900 and 1907. That’s when he lost his marbles and began episodes of lunacy which culminated in being locked in a cell block within a mental institution for the next twenty-five years until his death in 1931. During his “hey-day” playing jazz with his band all over Louisiana, Bolden embarked upon sub-life of using drugs and alcohol to a point where it apparently damaged his brain and he was deemed hopelessly insane.
This was his story, as much as we know about it. Jon Cornick is quoted on IMDB: “A mythical account of the life of Buddy Bolden, the first cornet king of New Orleans,” which suggests some of the story is embellished, or partly fictitious.
The acting, led by Gary Carr as Bolden, was excellent across the aboard. Settings were as authentic as can be in the late 19th century and after, including a few scenes in 1931 featuring a young Louis Armstrong deftly portrayed by actor Reno Wilson.
My primary criticism would be focused on the director, Dan Pritzker (also the screenwriter) who had the viewer shifting scenes back, forth and around, from era to era, childhood, adulthood, later years, and back again, in and out of the dungeon-like sanitarium. That was needlessly confusing, especially without a remote to review the scene over again. I also believe he over-used close-up shots of Bolden head and face, over and over until it slowed the pace of the movie.
All in all, it was a learning experience for us folks who love the history of music – all music. And if you really like horns and jazz, this is not to be missed.
I give this a 7.5 out of 10.