This past weekend I went to go see the new movie about Miles Davis starring Don Cheadle. The movie, called Miles Ahead, utilizes creative license and mixes fact with fiction in order to get at the truth a little more clearly than facts alone.
It may sound absurd to those who segregate information into discrete categories such as fact and fiction or truth and lies, but people are far more complex than most binary categories can yield. One of the advantages of this movie is that it drives this point. It addresses the complexity of Miles as an aging creative force in a world that sees art as a revenue source. It also explores the precarious dependency between artist and those who monetize art.
Miles was a master of improvisation, and given the way he interpreted music I think he would enjoy this interpretation of his life. After all, if we only look at something from beginning to end, we miss some of the larger themes that get buried in the day to day events. This movie realigns time and abruptly jumps from one time period to another in a series of cycles. The technique reveals the leitmotifs within the life of Miles Davis.
Don’t see this movie if you’re looking for a biography of Miles Davis. While some events in the movie are accurate, this is not a historical retelling of his life.
Go see the movie if you’re interested in an interpretation of the essence of Miles. One of the reasons I suspect that Miles would prefer this movie to a factual chronological biography is because, like his music, it tells us more about Miles than the events in his life could.