Charlie Haden (Reto Caduff, 2009) USA

Reviewed by Jacqueline Gomez at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2010.

“Charlie Haden” directed by Reto Caduff documents the life and career of jazz bassist Charlie Haden. Through interviews and old footage the audience gets an inside look in to the life of Charlie Haden as a musician.

The problem with “Charlie Haden” is Reto Caduff, who is also a screenwriter, assumes the audience likes jazz as much as he does. Caduff should have focused on making the audience interested in Jazz rather than assuming they already are. Haden and the other interviewees were not interesting to watch. Most of them were older with monotone voices. Their story just wasn’t very interesting and I many times found myself saying “who cares?”

The screenplay begins with Charlie Haden as a baby growing up in a musical family, and chronologically documents his life for the next eighty or so years. While there were a few parts I found interesting most of the scenes were too long and tedious. I felt like the same material was being used over an over again.

The mis-en-scene was very dull. A lot of the old footage was black and white. Most of the clothing that the interviewees were wearing were neutral colors that showed no expression. Charlie Haden lived in an era where jazz was revolutionizing music. Young people were expressing themselves through this “crazy” new music that was sweeping the nation. “Charlie Haden” just doesn’t capture the essence of that.

The editing was done by Barbara Landi, who has also worked on projects like “Smash the Kitty.” There wasn’t anything that particularly stood out in the editing, there really was no creative aspect. I found scenes such as Charlie Haden and his piano playing friend playing together lasted too long. I know it was supposed to capture the spirit and dedication in their music but it was tedious and I wanted it to be over.

The original music was all done by Charlie Haden. While I come from the generation of rap and hip hop I could appreciate the music. Haden is without a doubt a talented man, whose story of navigating through a time when jazz was becoming popular could have been told with a little more spark and creativity. 

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