Wednesday, 11 June 2008

almost you

Last night I went to the cinema for the first time in…god, ever…cycled my bike fast down Pentonville Road (flying down that hill almost makes going up it worthwhile. Almost.) with the rare warm wind ribboning out around my arms and legs.

I met Rach on the steps of the Renoir and we went inside to see Bruce Weber’s well-loved (and well-written-about) documentary Let’s Get Lost about Chet Baker. I didn’t know anything about the film, or anything about Chet Baker, besides what I’d flitted over on the Renoir’s website. I wasn’t ready for what happened.

What happened was 2-ish hours of the sweetest melancholy. Chet Baker was intensely gifted, intensely adored, intensely addicted to various highs. Heroin. Methadone. Women. Gorgeous cars. His horn. And god, how he blew. Gently, without edges, romantic, stopping just shy of sentimentality.

Bruce Weber’s grainy black and white poured shadow into every crag of Chet’s too-old face. His cheekbones weren’t monumental anymore, they were like scaffolding the rest of his exhausted face clung onto. I listened to stories told by his ex-wives and girlfriends. There were a lot of them, and they had a lot of stories, not many of which agreed with each other, besides the conclusion they unanimously drew that Chet Baker was a serial liar, a manipulator, a flake. It was hard to know who to believe – they all pointed accusing fingers at each other – she’s crazy! She got him into drugs! Narcissist! And then there was Chet, telling his version of a history that might have happened, seducing with his saddest eyes and quiet croon.

Whatever happened, some hair pricklingly lovely music came out of it, and several dislocated lives, and a strange and lonely death. One of the loveliest songs in the film is his version of Elvis Costello’s ‘Almost Blue’ that I’ve been listening to all day and still reaches a hot hand around my heart every time I press play. In the film, he sings it to a luvvie-filled, distracted Cannes crowd who could have had no way of knowing it was one of the last times this man would ever sing his heart out.

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