DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY
In September 2004, US comedian Dave Chappelle gathered some of the nation's best rap and soul artists for a free one-off concert in Brooklyn. The crowd consists of locals, aspiring hip-hop performers, and busloads of visitors (including a student marching band) from Chappelle's home town of Ohio. Stand-out performers include Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Dead Prez and The Roots, but it's a last-minute setback which results in the night's most talked-about event: the reunion of the Fugees, after eight years apart.
Review by Lesley Chow:
One of the best films of the year so far, this party begins with an inspired act of generosity: Dave Chappelle handing out golden tickets to a New York block festival, featuring hip-hop's biggest acts. Basically, his dream is to transfer the feeling of one block to another: gather people from his home town and march them all the way to Brooklyn, cramming the day with as many different sounds as possible.
Director Michel Gondry creates an ongoing show, by cutting between the concert and Chappelle's efforts to put it together: seeing how acts and audience members were collected along the way. Even publicity is part of the performance: in Ohio, Chappelle calls out the event's headliners with a megaphone. Rappers use their swaying arms to work the crowd: Dead Prez, with their controlled use of silence and breaks, and Kanye West, with his quick intake of breath that makes the crowd gasp.
When Chappelle claims he gets his comic timing from jazz, it seems like a stretch - but Gondry provides the evidence. Music spills out everywhere: when Chappelle plays off bands during rehearsal, and also when the musicians match their beat to his routines. Rhythm and beats structure the film: backstage, when a guitarist quietly strums as Lauryn Hill tells her story; during the soundtrack that plays over grey images of Ohio; and even in the borough, as word of mouth starts to spread. The brass band echoes and introduces the feature acts; in turn, the rappers riff off their horn section. Yet the mood never falls into hushed reverence: Chappelle does merciless rap parodies between sets.
We look at the artists' relationships: the way they respond to each others' images on playback. Occasionally, Chappelle heads backstage and asks, "Who's going next?" - every kind of improvisation is made to keep the show going. One "compromise" results in a huge coup: the Fugees reunion. But the most memorable performer may be Erykah Badu, whose nostalgic style of singing harks back to a sunnier time in the neighbourhood, when afternoon parties circled the block.
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DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY (MA)
CAST: Documentary featuring Dave Chappelle, Mos Def, Bilal and others
PRODUCER: Dave Chappelle, Julie Fong, Michel Gondry, Bob Yari
DIRECTOR: Michel Gondry
SCRIPT: Dave Chappelle
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ellen Kuras
EDITOR: Jeff Buchanan, Sarah Flack
MUSIC: Cory Smith
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lauri Flaggioni
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 4, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
VIDEO RELEASE: July 20, 2006
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