There comes a time in the life of any creative artist, or maybe any ambitious careerist, when a wave of middle-aged tiredness brings an awful dilemma. Do you stop and give yourself a much-needed rest after which you will return stronger and fresher and more creative than ever? Or is surrendering to the tiredness a fatal mistake: an irreversible slide into ennui from which you will never return? Maybe submitting to inaction is a painful but necessary price to pay for the creative process – even if the creativity is at an end. Don Cheadle’s excellent movie about jazz musician Miles Davis places itself in the centre of just such a situation.
We find ourselves alongside Davis in his wilderness years, the burnout period of the mid to late 70s, when he was living as a virtual recluse in his New York apartment, not performing, living on advance payment cheques from Columbia Records that theoretically gave the company ownership of the private experimental recordings that Davis was supposedly working on. Davis spends his alone time nursing a serious case of mojo loss: brooding, painting, scowling, calling radio stations to complain about them playing the wrong Miles Davis records and hitting a boxer’s punchbag, shouting the rhythmic phrase: “Get it back!”