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The Eddy Review 2020 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
The most famous, borderline self-parodic maxim about jazz, usually attributed to Miles Davis, tells us mystically that it is more about the notes you don’t play than the notes you do. But the first two Damien Chazelle-directed episodes of instantly captivating Netflix limited series “The Eddy,” seem to play all the notes – with the filmmaking taking over and filling in seamlessly where the music, all performed and recorded live, leaves off. The personal and professional struggles of a small band of musicians, clustered around the eponymous club (an elegantly scruffy, deconstructed space in one of the less touristed arrondissements of contemporary Paris) bleed into and out from the music they play. This makes the show feel like one sinuous, continuous jazz number, with collective stretches of harmony and melody unraveling into its separate characters’ solo, free-form instrumentation, before coalescing again, in an ongoing rush of composition and improvisation that follows the unpredictable, speed-up, slow-down rhythms of life itself.
The “Ugh, Chazelle Gets Jazz So Wrong” contingent who piled on to “La La Land” may have a tough time reconciling that dogma with his establishing episodes of the show (I can’t be sure, never having been one of them), both of which were shown as a series premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. Then again, perhaps true, deep-cut jazz aficionados will find faults invisible to lesser devotees: I can make no claims about my own jazz expertise either. But I can say that any fan of filmic storytelling with even a passing appreciation of this complex, historic, storied musical genre will find the two artforms intersecting and interacting in thrillingly inventive ways here. In the long history of movies and shows about music, there really has been little that has achieved as blissful a parity between the two elements as “The Eddy” does, especially in its quite astonishing first episode.
That installment begins in media res during a night at The Eddy. In one of the show’s signature long, nervy handheld following shots (the 16mm cinematography, from DP Eric Gautier, is appropriately restless and responsive throughout, never sacrificing the real for the pretty) we’re introduced to the space and the people at work in it. It’s a salutary example of delivering a preposterous amount of backstory with minimal exposition as genial, energetic co-owner Farid (a raffish Tahar Rahim) talks to his worried, chain-smoking American expat business partner Elliot (the ever-brilliant André Holland). With both men slipping easily between accented English and accented French, Farid tries to bluff out Elliot’s concerns about the size of the house, the quality of the band’s performance and the club’s finances, finally letting him know that a local label owner is in the house that night. Seeing him leave, Elliot follows him, and they have a little exchange that establishes that it’s only the Blue-Note-alum Elliot’s own reluctance to play with the band he leads that is stopping them being signed. Elliot goes back in, as the band, fronted by vocalist, Maya (Joanna Kulig, more earthily real here than in her dazzling, mercurial turn in “Cold War“) Elliot’s still-hurting recent ex, wrap up the song that’s been playing the whole time.
One of the gentler subversions of this immediately immersive opening is that where often the first track in a music movie is a kind of overture, that presents the highlights of forthcoming attractions in as impressive and engaging a way as possible, Elliot declares their performance “shit,” Maya’s singing “tired” and, judging by the depressive mood backstage afterwards, the band – trumpet, sax, double-bass, piano and drums – seems to agree. As the episode – over an hour in length – progresses, the relationship between each of the characters and their talent becomes as fraught as any of the interpersonal drama.
Which is not to say there’s a lack of that. Farid is popular, close to Elliot and has a loving, sexed-up relationship with his girlfriend and the mother of his kids Amira (Leila Bekhti). But he is also downplaying the gravity of the club’s financial troubles. Maya’s bitterness over her breakup with Elliot has made her unreliable, and at this exact moment, Elliot’s troubled daughter Julie (Amandla Stenberg) arrives on a visit from New York, where she lives with her mother (Melissa George). When a shocking tragedy occurs, she decides to stay with her dad, who is also, in casual moments, working on a new song.
There’s seldom been a more convincing portrait of how a song can evolve from a simple few notes into a showstopper: the way composition can happen in fits and starts, with one collaborator suggesting a key change and another challenging a lyric and so on. Even so, it is life itself that ignites this ballad into a torch song for the departed, which is what the finished version also called “The Eddy” finally becomes. When it is played through at the end of the first episode it is little less than electrifying, retrospectively confirming Elliot’s assertion that the band were better than their perfectly good opening number, completing the episode’s musical arc, and stating, in the smokiest, sultriest saddest way possible, the show’s central thesis: far above technical expertise or even compositional genius, it is life, experience and emotion that, in music, makes the difference between good and great.
The second episode is less perfectly balanced, but compelling in a whole new way as Julia takes center stage – and if the woefully underseen “The Hate U Give” confirmed Stenberg as a massively charismatic ascendant star, “The Eddy” proves her chops as an actress of daring, as she delivers a performance that goes to some very dark, provocative and unlikeable places without compromise. Julie enrolls at a school but soon starts skipping out, hanging with Sim (Adil Dehbi), a French-Algerian rapper who works as a barman in The Eddy. But her history of damage and addiction refuses to stay bottled up, leading to a devastating relapse that sees her trawling the seediest areas of Paris (the street-level locations give the show a crackle of authenticity throughout) while her increasingly frantic father searches for her.
It’s deeply involving but if anything, Episode 2 suffers in contrast to the first for having less music, and becoming a slightly more conventionally gritty drama instead. Set to debut on Netflix in May, the whole show, which is eight episodes in total, each focussing on a different character, was developed by writer Jack Thorne and co-creator Alan Poul (who directs two of the later episodes, as do directors Houda Benyamina and Laila Marrakchi) from the stellar suite of featured songs, written by Jagged Little Pill producer Glen Ballard. And it’s when it leans into that fascinating, cart-before-the-horse approach that the show really sets itself apart, creating an equivalence between the music and the drama that vibrates and resonates the way the deepest bassline does, a contact high that you feel in the pit of your stomach. It means that after just two episodes, you may well be hooked on “The Eddy,” addicted to the melodies and dissonances of all the notes it plays, and all the notes it does not.
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