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Bird (1988)

If you only think of Clint Eastwood as two-fisted Dirty Harry, you have a major discovery in store for you . . .

Pianist, jazz buff and first-rate director, Big Clint made the ultimate movie about jazz and about his idol, Charlie “Yardbird” Parker. There has never been a musician like him and there has never been a movie like Bird.

It distils the essence of the greatest alto saxophone player of all time into a passionate and truthful look at both the man and his music.

With a history of nervous breakdowns, suicide attempts, drug addiction, and bleeding ulcers, Bird was a self-destructive genius, but his music revolutionised jazz.

When he died in 1955, at the age of 34, the coroner thought he was twenty years older. It’s not a pretty story, but Eastwood captured every conflicting nuance with a passion that bordered on obsession, and in a fabulous tour de force, Forest Whitaker brought Bird to life with throbbing vitality.

Whitaker didn’t just play Bird. He became Bird. His performance seems haunted. Half focusing his eyes like broken shutters, absorbing all and missing nothing, he is mesmerising.

Diane Venora was also marvellous as the white wife who tried to save him, then help him, then bury him.

Eastwood recaptured not only the essence of the man himself, using all the original Charlie Parker recordings on the soundtrack, but the entire swing era. The long (161 minutes) movie captured Bird and his music with the driving tempo of a jam session.

This is a dynamic, powerful tribute not only to a stormy legend but to the whole jazz era that gave him life.

Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker
Forest Whitaker
Chan Parker
Diane Venora
Red Rodney
Michael Zelniker
Dizzy Gillespie
Samuel E. Wright
Buster Franklin
Keith David
Michael McGuire
James Handy
Young Bird
Damon Whitaker
Morgan Nagler
Dr Heath
Arlen Dean Snyder
Sam Robards
Dr Caulfield
Bill Cobbs

Clint Eastwood