Whiplash (15)

Directed by Damien Chazelle
Picturehouse, Liverpool
From 16th January 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

I enjoyed this film to some extent even though I am not a fan of drum solos. I had a gruelling experience of watching and listening to a 20 minute session by Led Zeppelin's John Bonham at London's Earls Court, while the other three members of the band went off stage to have a fag, spliff and drink.

Ultrafast drumming for the sake of being ultrafast! Agh! The music played during the film did not turn me on at all. One comment I heard from a music critic I know was that it was 'almost demented, tunnel-visioned drumming'.

Jazz affaciandos have posed doubts as to the authenticity of the overbearing attitudes of the jazz teacher and conductor Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons) towards the music students at an exclusive New York-based music conservatoire, who particularly relished bullying drummer Andrew Nieman (Miles Teller).

If he or any other member of the band erred in their playing, Fletcher, the ultimate authority figure, would let rip with a torrent of homophobic, racist, or sexist abuse. He was also not averse to slinging a chair at Nieman if his performance exasperated him.

The most excruciating example of his heinous behaviour was when he totally humiliated a dumpy little guy on sax, who he accused of playing a wrong note, even though Fletcher knew he had not done so. Cruel.

The film, which writer/director Damien Chazelle shot in only 19 days, reached a farcical moment when Nieman, having been involved in a crash with a truck whilst driving his hired car, stumbled onto the stage to join the rest of the band in a music competition, splattered with blood , with a hand broken, and was allowed to play. Do me a favour!!

This incident illustrated the extreme lengths Nieman was prepared to go to in some way please Fletcher. The student was self obsessed to the point of mania, wanting to become a great jazz drummer, similar to someone like Buddy Rich, one of his musical heroes.

Incidentally, Whiplash is not a blues song about slavery played in a jazz manner but a song by Hank Levy, an American jazz composer and saxophonist.

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