Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Let's Get Lost

Bruce Weber’s 1988 academy award nominee and winner of critics’ prize at Venice film festival Let’s Get Lost (1988) is a hauntingly beautiful documentary of the career of the jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. Let’s Get Lost takes us on the journey through Chet Baker’s music career, personal life and the drug addiction that he never could let go of. The entire documentary was shot in black and white to give it that old school smoky neon theme and to blend in more with archive footage of Chet Baker playing in Jazz clubs. Just like his music, the documentary really does have the cool jazz feeling with Chet portrayed as a James Dean -like figure with Elvis’ looks. Let’s Get Lost truly tells the eulogies of the infamous trumpeter’s career and the tragic life of his addiction.
Close friends and family who knew Chet are not asked conventional interview questions but instead asked to talk and reminisce about how they first met Chet and the fun unique times they had with him. Photographer William Claxton recollects on the time he first met and photographed Chet saying how “Attracted I was to him photographically and so was the camera.” The entire documentary seems like a candid portrait gallery of Chet with endless amount of montage photographs of Chet playing and singing. Everything about Chet Baker screamed fame. He had the star quality and he was photogenic and charismatic. It’s almost insane to believe that the two Chet’s; the younger and the beautiful and the old, tired and addicted Chet  are the same person but as soon as you hear him play the trumpet and sing it all just comes back to you. Listening to him talk seems like he has never aged. Despite the drug abuse and beaten look he always seems so cool - an important factor of a jazz performer. As the documentary comes closer to the end Bruce focuses on the addiction side of Chet’s life. An interview with Chet's mother unable to even talk about her own son’s drug addiction and saying despite his success "He failed me as a son". Bruce ends the documentary with the final Interview with Chet trying to come off drugs but Bruce unable to see him in such pain offers him medical help, an exhausted and weak Chet replies "Bruce I’ll level with you, in doing this you create pain in your part because you’re only prolonging my pain". 
Just like his music the documentary is timeless. When listening to Chet it’s not just jazz, there’s something more to him. When listening to him lyrically there is so much romance in his voice, his whole persona is defined in the way he plays the trumpet and sings. Bruce really did capture this in the documentary. The entire documentary feels like you’re in a jazz club. Almost as if Charlie Parker and Ray Charles are in the theatre with you. Watching this documentary not only takes you on a journey of jazz but loses you in it. It’s almost as if you’re getting lost in Chet’s world. The documentary goes back and forward through time and with the past seeming almost like a dream sequence. What I admire most about Bruce’s documentation is how it ranges from vintage candid photography, old archive footage of The Steve Allen TV Show and even Italian films that Chet starred in. The documentary has an unconventional non-linear structure, Bruce begins the documentary at the end of Chet’s life, then going back to the beginning and then carries on in a linear structure through his life.
As a Chet Baker fan I admire how Bruce Weber didn't focus on the drugs and downfall of Chet. The people who truly knew Chet - ex-wives, old friends and even his children, set the main structure of the documentary. The documentary takes you on a journey through the 1950s when Chet played with Charlie Parker and Russ Freeman. When the documentary gets the drug addiction part of his life, Bruce portrays the addiction as if he always had it and that it was never frown upon nor was it accepted. It just focuses on the pain he has to endure and the vicious cycle of a junkie trying to go clean. Bruce Weber’s Let’s Get Lost really does Chet Baker justice both to his musical career and his personal life.

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