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Mo' Better Blues

It's clear from the opening that the way Lee sees jazz is as Art, sanitised and consequently a mite gutless. Indeed, as obsessive trumpeter Bleek (Washington) advances on his inevitable comeuppance - you know he's gotta get it - Lee's earnest parable proceeds to hit whole clusters of bad notes. First, the music is wrong: ghosted by Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard et al, Bleek's gigs range through an anachronistic array of styles, while Lee's underlining of mood with a handful of classics (Coltrane, Ornette, Miles) comes over as a showy hip parade of his own cultural credibility. But more damagingly, plot and characterisation are trite, perhaps even reactionary. If Bleek's errant attitude to his two lovers (Joie Lee, Cynda Williams) is symptomatic of an arrogant devotion to his art, the women rarely rise above schematic stereotypes (the Jewish club-owners fare even worse). Moreover, Lee's coda advocates submissive motherhood for a neglected lover and patriarchal domesticity for all concerned. Ideology apart (no drugs here), a messy, meandering script ensures that, despite stylish camerawork and sturdy acting, this lengthy indulgence succeeds neither as jazz movie nor as cautionary tale.

Release details

Duration: 129 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Spike Lee
Screenwriter: Spike Lee
Cast: Giancarlo Esposito
Wesley Snipes
Denzel Washington
Nicholas Turturro
Joie Lee
John Turturro
Samuel L Jackson
Spike Lee
Bill Nunn
Cynda Williams
Dick Anthony Williams
Robin Harris
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