Sunday, March 12, 2006

Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Dir: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)


This movie is rich, bitch. It is neither a comedic narrative, concert video nor documentary, but an incredibly pleasant amalgam that chronicles Dave Chappelle's effort to host a "Block Party" in Brooklyn featuring some of his favorite musicians (Dead Prez, Kanye West, Erykah Badu, The Fugees, Jill Scott, Mos Def, among many others). The movie starts three days prior to the actual event, and Dave Chappelle is actively recruiting locals in his native Ohio to be guests at the Brooklyn bash. His invitations extend to all ages and races (the best comedy occurs when Chappelle coaxes elderly white women from Ohio to enjoy a night of hip-hop...almost all say yes). Spliced among these "interviews" is footage from the concert.

Needless to say, the music is excellent. It is no accident that these are the performers invited to the Block party, some of the most talented and socially and politically conscious artists around. This may be a rather inelegant way of analyzing a film, but Gondry does an exceptional job of capturing fun; there are no scenes of hiccups in the planning or actual production of the concert or diva performers demanding triple-shot extra-hot foam hazelnut lattes in designer ceramic mugs. Even in rain, everyone, from the charming artists to the somewhat diverse audience, is having a good time. But Gondry does not lose sight of the larger social politics that inform the event and the music. In fact, I found the film to be a perfect reflection of Chappelle's comedic ethos: inviting, witty, insightful, and occasionally low-brow--but, Chappelle's breezy humor often howls for winds of change (I know he now carries the Richard Pryor banner, even if somewhat reluctantly).

I know that films will often provide a flattering portrayal of its lead, but Chappelle comes off as extremely affable individual who displays a sincere appreciation for his good fortune and the people who embrace his humor. I, for one, found his escape to South Africa and turning his back on millions from Comedy Central completely understandable (provided you are already financially secure and have a genuine passion for your craft...personally, I fail both criteria).

Fun and Funny. If for nothing else, enjoy the music.


Blogger Omri noted on 3/13/2006 01:27:00 PM that...

Sorry. I tried. Really I did. But Kanye West is among "the most talented and socially and politically conscious artists around"? That's what we're bringing now?"

Seriously, no, I think you're right. When I think of artists that really stand out as the conscience of their age, it's Aristophanes, Sartre, and this guy.  

Blogger ronvon2 noted on 3/14/2006 09:12:00 AM that...

and don't forget Steven Spielberg.