Film: LOUIS: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin and the birth of jazz

Anthony Coleman as the young Louis Armstrong

Abram Wilson reports from this week’s press screening of LOUIS

Throw the story of a young Louis Armstrong who dreams of his own cornet, the black and white silent film tradition of Charlie Chaplain, the lustful red light district of early 20th century New Orleans, not to mention some great music and you have the new silent film directed by Dan Pritzker.

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Based on a montage of fictitious stories told from several points of view, LOUIS: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin and the birth of jazz reinforces how jazz runs directly in line with the life that it came from.

The talented and charismatic Anthony Coleman plays a fictitious six-year old Louis Armstrong, his passion is his small, old cornet which he doesn’t know how to play but does it anyway regardless. He was a real joy to watch and left me wanting more of his story.

The beautiful and captivating Shanti Lowry plays Grace, a mulatto prostitute living and working in the dark corners of the whorehouses. Her story tells one of many black women during that era and the daily battles they faced leading them to make some extremely harsh decisions.

Jackie Earle Haley plays the grotesque, vain and ambitious Governor Perry. Haley succeeds in getting under your skin, stopping at almost nothing to get what he wants and demonstrating strong comedic elements of dark humour throughout the film.

With its crystal clear picture, the sharp cinematography gives a contemporary feel to the traditional silent movie genre. But, unsurprisingly, the highlight was the music, gracefully switching between compositions by Creole pianist and composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk performed by pianist Cecile Licad and music by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Wynton Marsalis. The latter was performed by an all-star septet including Marsalis himself, Wycliffe Gordon, Wessel Anderson, Herlin Riley and Reginald Veal. The music was of the highest quality and its execution was flawless and most importantly, swinging. This, along with Armstrong-esque versions of West End Blues and Tiger Rag made me very excited at the thought of seeing the band perform this incredible music live to film at the London Jazz Festival.

Louis will be screened at the Barbican on Sunday November 13th at 3pm and 8pm as part of the London Jazz Festival

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