In 2014, the world of cinema discovered Damien Chazelle through his first film: “Whiplash”. A resounding critical success, it did not, however, receive all praise. Just ask the jazz community about the feature film.
whiplash : attention, masterpiece!
Fascinated by jazz from a very young age (he was even part of a group), Damien Chazelle made a short film in 2013 called whiplashwith JK Simmons already in the cast. The film was then acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival. This allows the director to receive adequate funding to transform his short into a feature, and thus present it in cinemas the following year.
whiplash received massive critical acclaim, highlighting, among other things, the mind-blowing performances of actors Miles Teller and JK Simmons. The realization as well as the soundtrack are also appreciated. This brings the film to win 3 out of a possible 5 Oscars at the 2015 ceremony.
Whiplash follows Andrew, a young student who has the ambition to become a great jazz drummer. A first opportunity arises when he is spotted by Terence Fletcher, charismatic professor at the Manhattan Conservatory. Nevertheless, the latter is very demanding, not hesitating to push Andrew to the brink of exhaustion. For the latter, the apprenticeship will be very long.
Of the (rare) negative reviews of the film, many come mostly from jazz fans. A paradox when we know that whiplash was produced to pay tribute to this very particular musical genre. Indeed, as revealed by media such as The Independentthe feature film is accused to give a bad view of jazz and its culture.
You should know that this musical genre is known for the creativity of the artists who play it as well as the class that they can release. Two things that some aficionados did not find in whiplashhaving more the impression to deal with a war movie (as Full Metal Jacket) than a musical film, with all the moral and positive codes that it regularly includes.
This is also emphasized by Jon Newey, editor-in-chief of the magazine Jazzwisewho says he understands the views of critics of the film:
There are factual misrepresentations in the film. It is a distorted and retrograde representation of jazz and its sessions.
Besides, it’s not just the vision of jazz that is criticized in this film. Technical transcription is also denounced by real jazz drummers such as Mark Fletcher, a regular drummer at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club since the 1980s:
Some of the drum sequences are awful…passable at best. It seems confusing… Knowing all the formations and the chronology of classical jazz recordings does not make you a jazz musician (…) Jazz is not just a “genre”, it is a lifestyle , no, a form of life…