“Blue Giant”, the colorful journey of a jazzman in Tokyo


Dai Miyamoto is 18 years old. When he left the city of Sendai, in the Tohoku region, to settle in Tokyo, he had only one obsession: to become a great jazz musician. “I will be the best jazzman in the world,” he declares in all modesty. For three years, he has been practicing the tenor saxophone at high intensity. Hosted by Shunji Tamada, a childhood friend turned student, he frequents the jazz bars. One evening he meets a pianist of his age, gifted and arrogant, Yukinori Sawabe. With the help of Tamada, who begins to learn the drums, he decides to form a group, saxophone-piano-drums and to climb the Tokyo jazz hierarchy until he can give a concert in the city’s big club.

Adaptation of a manga created in 2013 by Shinichi Ishizuka and published in France by Glénat in 2018, Blue Giant operates on a frequently used pattern, that of artistic learning and the quest for glory, a glory obtained after a journey made disappointments, disappointments, but also surpassing oneself.

Filming jazz has always been a challenge for cinema. How can we avoid the simplistic vision of an art that has long been poorly connoted by cinema, an art which owes as much to composition as to improvisation, an art, finally, which has often suffered from having been associated with clichés, notably visuals, quite poor? No doubt thanks to a concrete approach, anchored in precise social determinations, with an acute conscience, tinged with melancholy. “Very few people listen to jazz,” notes one of the characters. No doubt also thanks to the capacity for abstraction and plastic invention that the animation techniques used allow, even if they are put, mainly, at the service of a classic narration and an essentially, but not only, figurative vision. and realistic.

Plastic invention

Certain details of the film seem to be informed by historical elements. Thus, following Miyamoto, his questions and his solitary training, we sometimes think of the story of Sonny Rollins seeking inspiration by playing alone, for hours on end, under the Williamsburg Bridge in New York, at the end of the 1950s. The journey of the three protagonists is punctuated by classic dramatic situations, although quite gripping (failures, accidents, etc.), fueling an expected suspense. It is distinguished above all by the precision with which the main issues of jazz are approached: forming a group for which a very particular cohesion must be ensured during the performance of the music, overcoming the difference in levels between soloists, finding the appropriate rhythm allowing to hold together a piece, to combine solidarity and virtuosity.

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