Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Cotton Club (1984)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Writers: William Kennedy, Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo, Jim Haskins

Composer: John Barry

Starring: Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Lonette McKee, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Allen Garfield, Fred Gwynne, Gwen Verdon, Lisa Jane Persky, Maurice Hines, Julian Beck, Novella Nelson, Laurence Fishburne, John P. Ryan, Tom Waits, Jennifer Grey, Joe Dallesandro, Woody Strode, Mario Van Peebles

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It was the jazz age. It was an era of elegance and violence. The action was gambling. The stakes were life and death.

Plot: 1928, New York.  Spirits are high and sultry jazz, lively dancing and ruthless gangsters rule supreme. In the center of it all is Harlem's Cotton Club.  Playing on stage is cornet player Dixie Dwyer (Gere), who dreams of the big time, but he's too mixed up with the club's owner (Hoskins) -- and his sexy moll (Lane) -- to get anywhere fast.  Add the frustration of tap sensation Sandman Williams (Hines), who can't touch his girl, the lovely lounge singer Lea Rose Oliver (McKee), and you've got a short fuse ready to go.  As tensions rise, so do tempers, and the legendary nightclub becomes a pressure cooker of jilted loves and mob jobs that blows the lid off one of the most shocking showdowns ever staged.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I'm so unabashedly a huge fan of this movie it's not even funny.  I saw this in the theater thirty years ago and I was in love.  See, the music of the 20s and 30s is my bag.  Then there's my love for gangster pictures which pretty much goes hand in hand.  The Cotton Club is a place that I would love to spend an extraordinary amount of time in.  Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway.  Forget about it.  Those guys are huge in my book.  As a musician, this film has me.  The trivia says Gere played his own cornet solos but his fingering doesn't match the audio.  That doesn't mean he did or didn't but for someone who's a pro on the instrument it's important. Unfortunately Gere doesn't step up to the role.  He's OK but a better actor would've elevated it.  Everyone else is great.  I could spend a few paragraphs on just the cast but you'll know what I'd say when you see it.  The dancing is AMAZING.  Hines left us way too early at age 57.  Wow is this guy good.  The music is outstanding, both in the period tunes and with John Barry's score.  His love theme is perfect in tone and orchestration.  The picture's not perfect, it drags in a couple of spots and the ending just kind of ends leaving you with a feeling there should have been more before the wrap-up but for the music, dancing and everything else, I love this picture.  It takes me to a place I'd like to never leave.  It's a shame the DVD doesn't have shit for extras save a trailer.  It deserves better than that.

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