The Miles Davis Movie: Will/Should ‘Miles Davis’ premier at Cannes?

With the 2009Festival de Cannes set for May 13-24, is it possible the Miles Davis biopic could make its debut in the south of France?

This is pure conjecture, but it makes more sense by the minute, especially when you consider the unique relationship between the jazz legend and the country.

Miles Davis’ adventures in France are well documented in books and magazine articles and on various musical recordings, so I won’t delve too deep into the specifics.

I will, however, point out two Miles Davis projects I enjoy, both with a decidedly French twist.

The first being the album “Miles Davis in Europe,” which was recorded live in France at the Festival Mondial, du Jazz Antibes Miles Davis in 1963. Alongside tenor saxophonist George Coleman, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams the album is wonderful; my favorite track is the ballad “I Thought About You.”

The second item is film-related. It’s 1957 and Miles Davis has ventured off to France for a tour and recorded the soundtrack for the film “Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud” — otherwise known as “Elevator to the Gallows,” directed by Louis Malle and starring Jeanne Moreau.

In doing some research I happened upon what seems to be an academic study about Miles Davis, Louis Malle and Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud titled “A Jazz Film of Collaborative Integrity.”

Based on the URL it appears to be from Cornell University, but I am unsure of the date. There is a video component so it cannot be too old.

The essay provides some wonderful information about Davis’ involvement with the film, including this snippet of conversation Davis shared with friend Quincy Troupe about his time in France.

Then I went to Paris again to play as a guest soloist for a few weeks. And it was during this trip that I met French filmmaker Louis Malle through Juliette Greco. He Told me he had always loved my music and that he wanted me to write the musical score for his new film, L’Ascenseur pour l’echafaud. I agreed to do it and it was a great learning experience, because I had never written a music score for a film before. I would look at the rushes of the film and get musical ideas to write down. Since it was about a murder and was supposed to be a suspense movie, I used this old, gloomy, dark building where I had the musicians play.

I thought it would give the music atmosphere, and it did. …When I got back to New York in December 1957, I was ready to move forward with my music again. I asked Red to come back, and he did. When I heard Monk’s gig at Five Spot was ending, I called Trane and told him I wanted him back, and he said, “Okay.” Man, when this happened, I knew some real great musical shit was about to go down; I could feel it in my bones. And it happened. It went all the way down. (Troupe, 217-222.)

While researching photos I ran across this image – a statue of Miles Davis by by Niki de Saint-Phalle outside the Hotel Negresco (on the Promenade des Anglais on the Baie des Anges) in Nice, France.

Miles Davis had a special relationship with France and is, no doubt, part of the country’s musical and artistic foundation.

The thought of a Miles Davis biopic premiering in Cannes feels right. It feels like an event!

I have no idea when the film will be completed, but wouldn’t it just be wonderful if the Miles Davis biopic were to debut in the French Riviera at the glitzy Cannes Film Festival?

I think the ol’ jazz legend would get a big thrill out of it….


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