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A party to remember

Posted at 5:13 PM on March 3, 2006 by Euan Kerr

I am going through a timewarp here. Not having cable, I had not actually seen any of Dave Chappelle's work when I stumbled into a ticket to see "Dave Chapelle's Block Party" when I was at the Toronto Film Festival.

I was kind of lukewarm about going. It was a 9 am screening, and it was billed as a "work in progress." I'd heard it was about a party and concert Chapelle threw before he decided to walk away from his hit TV show, but really I didn't know what the heck I was going to see.

When I got to the screening it was jammed, and from the opening scene the place was rocking.

You could categorize this film in so many ways: it's a documentary, a concert film, a stand-up comedy routine, a social commentary, and a little slice of history all rolled into one. Chapelle is the ringmaster as he invites people and performers to head to what he describes as the concert he's always wanted to see. He talks everyone, gently poking fun at them and himself, building an infectious vibe of joyous fun. I floated out of the theater afterwards feeling good about the world.

But that was more than 5 months ago, and the film is now finally coming out. The Maven went to see it earlier this week and we have been comparing notes as she bounces around on a similar happy cloud. She raves about how director Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") knits together the stars with the crowd, moving seamlessly from Erykah Badu to the teenage kids who can't believe their dumb luck to be there, then back to rapper Common, the Roots, and a reunion appearance of the Fugees.

Stephanie points out that concert movies can be a real bore as film-makers try to capture every moment of musical magic, a magic which fizzles all to often if you weren't actually there. Gondry keeps things moving, and we get to see real interaction behind the scenes. You even get to see John Legend, pre-fame (the movie was shot in 2004,) singing back-up. She also points out how Chapelle delicately touches on the real issues of race in this country, which is the bittersweet reality just under the surface of his comedy.

My timewarp is feeling the excitement building about the movie, but realizing that as what I saw was essentially unfinished, I have a new movie to see myself!

March 2006
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