Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Directed by Michel Gondry

> > Jul 2006

Dave Chappelle's Block Party - Directed by Michel Gondry
By James KeastSeptember 18, 2004 was, according to comedian Dave Chappelle, the greatest single day of his career; the Ohio native hosted an old school Brooklyn block party and invited various famous and influential friends to perform, all filmed by innovative pop filmmaker Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). When those friends include Kanye West, Common, the Roots, Mos Def, Dead Prez and a one-time-only reunited Fugees, one can see why Dave’s a little effusive in his enthusiasm. Chronicling both the day and its preparations — including Chappelle’s trip to his home town, where he invites local non-luminaries to join him — is Gondry, the French filmmaker whose best known for coaxing artful mania from eccentric artists like Björk. As a concert film, it’s good; as a glimpse into Chappelle’s charming everyman, it’s fun; as a chronicle of a truly historic moment in hip-hop culture, it kind of misses the mark. Hiring Gondry may be good on paper, but documentary is the opposite of his artfully structured and planned visual strategy, and it’s clear that he knows little to nothing about hip-hop or the artists gathered on this day. To him, the fact that Lauren Hill shows up to do Fugees songs instead of her own solo stuff is about clearance rights, not one of the most historic (and unlikely) on-stage reunions in contemporary music. As such, he misses the narrative boat a little. But check it on DVD — with a half-hour-long "making of” and a chunk more footage from Dave in Ohio, this fleshes out exactly the elements that the feature is missing: discussing the historic musical implications, chronicling the difficulties of planning the production and the complications of shooting on the day that Hurricane Ivan hit NYC all provide key context. Turns out there was more going on that day in Brooklyn than we originally saw. Plus: extended music performances. (Focus/Alliance Atlantis)
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