Jazzmen | Chicago Reader

Jazzmen

Best known for his black comedy Zero City (1988) and his historical drama The Rider Named Death (2004), Russian director Karen Shakhnazarov first made his mark with this modest 1983 charmer about a ramshackle band trying to play jazz amid the rigid Bolshevism of the 1920s. A young piano student with a thing for Scott Joplin gets tossed out of school for his supposedly bourgeois taste, then recruits a couple down-at-heel street musicians and a stiff saxophonist who have a tough time mastering the American music's loose rhythms and ethic of improvisation. The story meanders badly in the second half as the band tries to land a vocalist, though the movie is rescued periodically by zippy song-and-dance numbers. In Russian with subtitles. 88 min.

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