Looking for Miles

My Times feature [£] on “Miles Ahead”. I can’t say I enjoyed the film, although I can see why Don Cheadle wanted to avoid making the usual dull, reverential kind of biopic. His performance as “The Prince of Darkness” really is mesmerising. It’s the plot that leaves you feeling queasy:

How accurate is the film? Did Davis really go around firing guns in record company offices or swooping around New York like the lead in a blaxploitation caper? Much of the storyline — the journalist, the tape, the guns — belongs in the realm of fiction. Faced with the problem of how to present Davis’s life to a modern audience for whom jazz is as alien as a baroque concerto, Cheadle has taken the sensationalist route.

In his defence, the Davis who appears on screen isn’t a million miles from the image he liked to present of himself. He did after all pose as a gun-toting wiseguy on the cover of one of his 1980s albums, You’re Under Arrest. And in his brash, often crass, expletive-spattered autobiography — published a couple of years before his death in 1991 — he proudly recounts how he made a guest appearance in the crime series Miami Vice, playing a pimp and dope dealer. (Aware that he was open to charges of entrenching a racial stereotype, he tried to head off critics, somewhat unconvincingly, by claiming that he played his character as “a kind of businessman.”)

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Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: www.facebook.com/clive.davis.10 Instagram: clivephotos
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