Last night I watched Whiplash. I know I’m very late on this one, but man, what a great film. The performances are very good, the camera moves enough to keep your eyes interested , and the sets have
A reviewer in the New Yorker, Richard Brody, gets it all wrong, though for decent personal reasons. For Brody, this film is about Jazz and he thinks it gets Jazz very wrong. The film doesn’t venerate the musicians Brody would choose. It doesn’t portray his communal, non-individualist path to whatever he thinks of as greatness. He definitely knows about Jazz, but it’s almost like his knowledge is in the way here.
This is a film about sacrifice and the attempt to become legendary. The drummer is not a session guy everyone likes, he is Odin hanging himself on a tree for knowledge. The drummer plays through serious pain. He destroys relationships to achieve something extraordinary. The path almost ruins him.
Brody’s critique comes back, over and over, to “fucking Buddy Rich.” I’m not very familiar with Rich, but I watched some videos of him playing, and if that’s not excellence, I don’t know what is. What he plays isn’t my cup of tea, and it sounds like it isn’t Brody’s either, but I don’t know how you could look at someone displaying that amount of talent and sneer.
I don’t know if it’s just having read too much Nietzsche, but for me, this method of achieving greatness resonates with me. If you are not experiencing discomfort and doubt and emotional distress, I don’t know that you’re going to make great art. You might make something people like, but you won’t be making something people study and are challenged by.
I wish I had someone like this music teacher in my life. I wish I had someone to take apart what I’ve written, to give me a direction to achieve the impossible. But I don’t. So I have to push myself. This film makes me want to push harder. We should all be pushing harder.