Blue Giant

Tagline : Witness the origin of the next great jazz legend.

Runtime : 120 mins

Genre : Animation Drama Music

Vote Rating : 8.2/10

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Plot : High school student Dai Miyamoto has his life is turned upside down the day he discovers jazz. Picking up a saxophone and leaving his sleepy hometown for the bustling nightclubs of Tokyo, Dai will find that the life of a professional musician isn’t for the faint of heart, as he must confront what it truly means to be great.

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I very nearly didn't make the 30-mile schlep to my local Cineworld to watch this film but I'm really glad I did. It's not about a whale, no. It's about the aspirational saxophonist "Dai" who heads to Tokyo with dreams of taking over the world. He arrives, unannounced, on the doorstep of his friend "Tamada" looking for a bed for a few days. Needless to say, that few days turns out to be a bit longer and their friendship starts to strain a bit (the visitor snores!). "Dai" visits a small bar and meets the jazz-loving owner "Akiko" who sends him to a live venue where he encounters the pianist "Sawabe" whom he tries to convince to form a band. They are both eighteen but the latter man has been playing for about fourteen years longer than his new friend, so is a little sceptical! That doesn't last long once he hears him play and they soon decide they need a drummer to keep both from straying into the uncontrollable territory that can be improv jazz! Well, it turns out that his "landlord" isn't half bad at beating time with a stick on a Coke can - but can he up his game and turn this duo into a trio good enough to play at the city's most prestigious club - "So Blue"? The story itself is a bit predicable, with a few temper tantrums, frustrations and fallings out but it does illustrate well just how athletic these musicians must be to perform. Hands are covered in calluses and bruises, the sax takes quite a toll on the breathing and at times it's touch and go as to whether they can make it out of the starting block. There's nothing easy about the task they have set themselves nor the dedication and sacrifices it will take to achieve (or not) their goal. The animation itself it a little hit and miss, the CGI works much less well that the hand drawn scenes, but what really works here is the synchronisation with the musicians and that can be really immersive at times. If you are a fan of this genre of music, then you are in for a treat of Coltrane, Stitt et al. The saxophone (Tomoaki Baba), piano (Hiromi Uehara) and drums (Shun Ishiwaka) are unafraid to start off timidly and (especially the drummer) very rough around the edges, but as the story develops and they improve and become more confident, so do their performances until a tragedy tinged denouement that really does get the toes tapping. I'd have to say - there is no point in watching this is if this style of rambling, meandering and frankly rather musically self-indulgent performance doesn't appeal to you, but the powerful mix of frenetically syncopated animation and music I found really quite compelling. Sure, it's a bit long - but it's well worth a watch.

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