Saturday, October 10, 2015

@NYFF53 Closing Film: Traveling 'Miles Ahead' and Taking Wild Detours With Don Cheadle

Miles kin: Vincent Wilburn, Jr. (nephew), Cheryl Davis and Erin Davis (children) after the press and industry screening of "Miles Ahead." Photos by Yours Truly.

DON Cheadle and Aaron Sorkin are on the same page in their approach to the biopic.

Both are on the record, emphatically stating their lack of interest in a "cradle-to-grave” treatment.

An approach in the case of "Miles Ahead" that will surely raise hackles among those expecting the expected and grousing about what has been left out. In a work that was never meant to be exhaustive, incidentally.

“It would be done better as a documentary," DC said about that traditional approach to "Miles Ahead" during the press conference after the press and industry screening of the film, which was attended by several MD family members.

The Miles Davis biography, the closing film of the 53rd New York Film Festival, has its world premiere this evening. Not only does DH star as MD, he also directed the film and co-wrote the script.

AS gets a writer's credit on a film about another controversial, visionary cat: the eponymous “Steve Jobs,” the NYFF53 centerpiece (

The ending of "Miles Ahead" features a modern-day Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, both MD collaborators. In fact, HH arranged the music for "Miles Ahead."

Implied at the end is a perpetuity that pays homage to MD's musical philosophy. It will surely set tongues a-wagging. Note the words on the back of his vest.

Both writers have delivered bios that are anything but linear. In “Miles Ahead, DC uses as a jumping-off point, MD's seclusion in his apartment once upon a time in the 70s, supposedly finishing his next album, the first in a long spell.

He is also agitating to get paid by Columbia Records while being dogged by “Rolling Stone” magazine reporter Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor), a composite character, according to DC.

Do pay attention, because the action in "Miles Ahead" does not take place sequentially. Recall that it is non-linear. A troubled man is looking back on his life, recalling triumphs and regrets.

At any given point, Miles' reminiscences may go back a few weeks, then a couple of decades, then forward a decade.

Now, forward two decades, back one, forward one, back one, back one, forward one and back two and so on.

Producer Pamela Hirsch, Vincent Wilburn, Jr. (nephew), producer Lenore Zerman and Erin Davis (son) after the press and industry screening of 'Miles Ahead."

It's as if someone is on an acid high. Credit to John Axelrad for such scythe-like editing, particularly of the boxing match scene.

Superimposed over the melee is an image of DC as MD playing his horn in a happier time. A beautiful piece of chaos in motion.

Much has been made of the fact that DC looks nothing like MD, except for coloring. Many have wondered how he would pull it off.

Well, DC – a quiet unassuming artist, has nailed MD – a tortured, talented, temperamental artist – with little makeup, a spot-on rasp and massive acting chops. Five or 10 minutes into “Miles Ahead,” DC becomes MD and it's on.

This is what good actors do. They inhabit a character and through some sleight of body only known to them, become the character right before our very eyes.

The result is a wild, sometimes wacky, fantastical thrill ride with a pulsing soundtrack.

Visit to learn more about the 53rd New York Film Festival, including showtimes and venues.


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