“Summer of Soul” and “F9: The Fast Saga”, Reviews
In the midst of a busy year, the best movie yet, the one that is most likely to ease and lift you up, is “Summer of Soul”. It’s a documentary, directed by Ahmir (Questlove) Thompson, drummer, dj, record producer and founder of The Roots, best known as Jimmy Fallon’s house band. You might have caught sight of Thompson behind the decks at the Oscars in April, where he seemed to be pretty much the only person, among the dozens of attendees and millions of viewers, who was clearly enjoying himself. Now, adding one more arrow to his quiver, he has made his first film, in which roughly Everybody had a good time.
“Summer of Soul” is about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. If you haven’t heard of it, it may be because it has been – revealing, if not deliberate – erased from public consciousness. The festival was held outdoors in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park), and was filmed, under generous sunlight. The bands then remained in a basement, largely invisible, for half a century. Finally, they were unearthed and, in the hands of Thompson and his editor, Joshua L. Pearson, received new life and a new form.
Among the skills required of any documentary filmmaker is a croupier’s cunning, and you have to be quick to notice the way Thompson, holding a full set of footage, shuffling, and dealing. The festival consisted of six separate events, held multiple Sundays, starting June 29 and ending August 24. But we only get a glimpse of that time once, by the way, and the rest of the film makes no distinction between the different days, putting the acts together and leaving us with the impression that the crowds that have gathered in the park – some three hundred thousand people, in total, were treated to a great jubilee rolling in sweet sounds. As far as I know, we don’t get any snippets of the final event, listed as âMiss Harlem Beauty Pageant and Local Talentâ. Probably a wise decision.
The producer of the festival, and the host of the debates, was Tony Lawrence, who is hailed in the film as “a con artist, in the best sense of the word”. The result of his stampede was a lineup so absurdly rich and so vast in its range of genres that we want to laugh: Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, BB King, Hugh Masekela, David Ruffin – as thin as a barber’s stick, in a pink bow tie, with a god-sent falsetto – and Gladys Knight and the Pips. Especially the Pips. Their curved dance routines, around a single microphone, are of a calibrated beauty. (We can’t wait to hear more, and Thompson, an educational cutaway ace, obliges by calling on Knight. She gives credit to the group’s choreographer, Cholly Atkins, who trained them ten or eleven hours a day. .) Then there is the joyful confession of Ray Barretto, in glasses and busy with his drums: âIn my blood I have black and white red, Puerto Rican, Indian. I’m all messed up!
To claim that the stage was occupied exclusively by people of color would be incorrect. On the one hand, we see Lawrence welcoming New York Mayor John V. Lindsay and introducing him as “our blue eyed soul brother.” (For all viewers who are bewildered by Lindsay’s film description as a “liberal Republican,” it’s worth explaining that this is a once thriving species, hard to hide but strangely peaceful in demeanor, which now borders on total extinction, like the Sumatran rhino.) Also visible, during a phenomenal set of Sly and the Family Stone, and easily spotted in leopard-skin elephant paws, is Greg Errico. In the words of a man named Darryl Lewis, who was there that day, âWhite is the drummer! You know he ain’t supposed to be able to do this.”
Lewis, a source of kindness, is one of the many participants interviewed for the film. Their memories are, without exception, deliciously fresh. Dorinda Drake, who was nineteen at the time, says: “This is the summer when we became free” – pause – “from our parents”. Musa Jackson remembers the aroma of the park as if it were incense: âIt smelled like Afro Sheen and chicken. He was a little boy at the festival, but not so small that he didn’t lose his heart for 5th Dimension singer Marilyn McCoo. âI didn’t want to leave,â he said. Then, like a gentleman, he corrects himself: “I didn’t want to leave. her. “
The 5th Dimension is seen playing its version of “Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In” – which is almost as cheerful as the lip-synced version at the end of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005) – dressed in yellow , red, and orange. “Do you remember Creamsicles?” Jackson said, needing to nail the orange. At the risk of profanity, I find the clothes in “Summer of Soul” to be almost as entertaining as the music. Ties! The fringes! The hectic strawberries! Lawrence, as befits the emcee, sports an ever-changing cycle of outfits, including a white lace top with a crimson waistcoat and a shiny shirt that looks like an explosion in a multitude of golden daffodils. Imagine the envious looks he would have attracted at the court of Louis XIV.
âSummer of Soulâ is one of those rare movies that you come out of saying, âMy favorite part was that one. No, this little. Wait, how about this bit? âPersonally, I’m torn between Stevie Wonder’s keyboard solo onâ Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da Day, âin which he plays like a possessed, andâ Everyday People âby Sly and the Family Stone, with his captivating chorus – âDifferent hits, for different people, / And so on and so on and scooby-dooby-doo.â Has there ever been a cleaner summary of the Bill of Rights? And I didn’t even mention the beatific lineup of gospel performers including Pops Staples and the Staple Singers, or the edwin Hawkins Singers, lively in lime green, swaying in unison on “Oh Happy Day.”
But something else is happening here. There is no shortage of great concert films, so how do you explain the urgent thrill of this one? Because of all the unhappy days. Because the Harlem Cultural Festival ensemble was, as someone points out of Nina Simone’s compelling set, “like a rose running through cement.” Because “Summer of Soul” has a subtitle that presents its political references: “Or, when the revolution could not be televised”. The buzz of the occasion (even as the end credits die, you hear the buzz of the crowd) occurred against a backdrop of deep turmoil, in the African-American community above all. A year earlier, on April 4, 1968, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Harlem had suffered riots and hours of looting, and, as Darryl Lewis suggests, âNew York was trying not to repeat it. , in ’69. Hence the brief but vital images of white police officers, standing calmly in the midst of black festival-goers, and neither causing problems nor seeking to contain them. Who knows, maybe they felt the groove inside.
What we are witnessing, in short, is not a state of happiness but a precious and precarious interlude of liberation and relief, before the pressures of an unequal society resumes. History chose to commemorate Woodstock, which took place a hundred miles away. , in the heat of the same summer. But history, as so often, got the wrong job.
Clearly inspired by Montaigne, who has enriched his âEssaysâ over the years, the creators of the âFast & Furiousâ franchise have seen fit, by the grace of God, to go deeper into what they have done. The first film, âThe Fast and the Furious,â was released in 2001, and researchers focused on its iconic scene, in which the character of Vin Diesel took place. under the hood of a hot rod, in the space where an engine would normally be. No fit has ever been more comfortable. Now no one knew where the engine stopped and where the man started, and for twenty years this exquisite confusion has lasted.
The character’s name is Dom Toretto. (“Dom”, alas, is an abbreviated “Dominic”, rather than an ecclesiastical honorary title.) He’s back for “F9: The Fast Saga”, the ninth chapter of this countless epic, joined by a selection of members of the family. In a fiery flashback, we meet his father, Jack (JD Parto). In the present, we have Dom’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), and, new to the game, her ugly brother, Jakob (John Cena). The smaller Toretto is Brian (Isaac and Immanuel Holtane), Dom’s son, whom he puts to bed at the start of the film, neglects and then recovers more than two hours later. Where’s the babysitter? Is there a Toretto grandmother out there with her Prius and her knitwear?
The director is Justin Lin. Stunts have an elastic implausibility that, while well suited to a Road Runner cartoon, looks embarrassing when translated into live action. Locations include Tokyo, London, Cologne, Edinburgh, Tbilisi and, in a surge of desperation, outer space. The acting is a great ineptitude; the deeper Diesel’s emotions, the more he looks like a man who dabbed too much wasabi on his tuna roll. The most imposing performance is that of Corona – not the virus but the beer, whose labels face the camera with pride. Drink enough stuff before you see the movie, and you might have some fun. â¦