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LET’S GET LOST

Director: BRUCE WEBER

U.S.A. • 1988 • BLACK AND WHITE • 120 MIN


RE-RELEASED FOR ITS TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY, ACE PHOTOGRAPHER BRUCE WEBER’S FEATURE-LENGTH PORTRAIT OF TRUMPET LEGEND CHET BAKER NOW LOOKS LIKE ONE OF THE GREATEST DOCUMENTS IN JAZZ.
Want to know what people mean by ‘the jazz life’? Just compare the archive footage displaying Chet in his ’50s heyday, where he has the cheekbones and voice of a young god, with the material marshalled by Weber in 1987, in which a wizened ghost just about holds it together until his next methadone shot. Cinematographer Jeff Preiss’ extraordinary high-contrast black-and-white captures every single line, creating images just as iconic (though for very different reasons) as the unforgettably stylish photos of Baker’s halcyon days by famed jazz snapper William Claxton. It’s not just about stylish pictures though, since the film is also a welcome reminder of the singing trumpet and deliciously soft singing style of the ’50s Chet, highlighting a musicianship which never left him. indeed, although his physical resources were fading, the latter-day artist still sang in a way which exposed the bitterness and pain of the intervening years—a wracked performance of Elvis Costello’s ‘Almost Blue’ is a genuine heart-shredder. Hagiography this is not however, since Weber’s often frank questions to Baker, his family and fractious ex-wives uncover a trail of heartbreak and betrayal as Chet charmed his way to the next fix. Baker himself was found dead after a fall from an Amsterdam hotel window just months after the shoot: this is a striking memorial, for good and ill.—Trevor Johnston.
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