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It's Movie Time
Mon November 1, 2004
"Ray" is a film for all the people.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"De-Lovely" earlier this year was the lovely biopic of the year for me until I saw "Ray." Much as I love the tunes of Cole Porter, the genial crossover songs of Ray Charles could not have been better integrated into a biography than Director Taylor Hackford ("Proof of Life") does along with Charles' collaboration.
Although the bio takes us only to 1966, when he overcame his heroin addiction, "The Genius" has been established, the complex artist partially revealed, and the rest of his life until his death in 2004 telescoped into a weak epilogue to an otherwise strong film.
The scenes in recording studios and nightclubs help satisfy my endless yearning to experience how artists create their works. For instance, when Charles' wife learns of his heroin addiction and threatens to leave him, he is inspired to write "Hit the Road Jack." The genius's struggle to get control of his growing empire by overcoming the larcenous machinations of agents and friends is a revealing subtext on the challenges a blind, romantic artist must face in the unfriendly business of music.
The recurring flashback scenes to a childhood tragedy (Hackford's and Charles' attempt to explain his drug addiction) are after a while downright irritating, and finally, gratuitous, if you think about how the film could have cut down from its formidable 153 minutes.
Jamie Foxx will deservedly be nominated for the titular role. Most actors could imitate Charles' ticks and jerks, but Foxx breathes Charles' dreams and demons and projects them, addiction to womanizing represented as well as heroin. Don't worry that no man could parrot Charles voice, for Foxx lip-synchs almost perfectly. I look forward to see if Kevin Spacey in "Beyond the Sea" actually covering Bobby Darin's songs can top Foxx's spot-on versions.
Walt Whitman wrote of Americans, "Each singing what belongs to him or her." Ray Charles sang a unique fusion of R&B, Gospel, and Rock like an immortal American poet for all the people. "Ray" is a film for all the people.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.