Thursday, 31 December 2015

Whiplash (5 Stars)

This is a tale of passion and obsession. It's all about music. That's something that people can become passionate about. That's something that people can become obsessive about. When I was in school kids made fun of one another because of their tastes in music. Some of the kids capitulated and pretended to like what the others liked. Not me. I stood my ground. I never lied about what I liked.

When I was at school my favourite album was "Mëkanïk Dëstruktïw Kömmandöh" by Magma, but my tastes have shifted over the years. If you asked me today, December 31st 2015, what my favourite album is I would say "Master of Reality" by Black Sabbath. Two years ago I would probably have said "Irrlicht" by Klaus Schulze. If you ask me again next year I might say something else. At this point in my life I have more of a passion for live music than recorded music. The atmosphere and the spontaneity of live performances is much more exciting than listening to a polished studio recording at home.

The film is about two men who share a passion. One is Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), a music professor, the conductor of a music school jazz band, who dreams about finding a new Charlie Parker among his students. The other is Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a boy who has been drumming since childhood and dreams of becoming the next Buddy Rich.

The two clash from the beginning. The professor recognises Andrew's talent, but he doesn't show it. He exercises tough love, yelling at his smallest mistakes. He even promotes an inferior drummer over him in order to motivate him.

The unspoken love and respect between the two turns to hate. It became apparent to me today that the film follows the plot rules of romantic comedies, as ironic as that may seem. Andrew is the girl in the relationship. If you analyse the film carefully you'll see what I mean.

There's one thing I've noticed in my years of listening to music. In the 1970's, maybe into the 1980's, there were a lot of true virtuosos as drummers in rock groups. Their drumming was an integral part of the songs their groups performed, and during live concerts they usually performed drum solos. Examples are Bill Ward (Black Sabbath), Ian Paice (Deep Purple) and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin). Even the lesser skilled drummers of amateur bands felt the need to emulate the greats and insert at least a short drum solo into their concerts. That's changed today. Most of the drummers I know in rock groups today are what I call solid. They keep the rhythm, they support the rest of the group, but they don't stand out as musicians in their own right. If you want to hear a first rate drummer today you have to listen to jazz.

Incidentally, the last CD that I bought this year was "Glaube, Liebe, Hoffnung" by Grausame Töchter. Let's see what my first CD in 2016 will be. I don't have any plans, yet.

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