Words of wis­dom from the big guns of rap

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

FOR VIEW­ERS of a cer­tain age, Ice-T’s di­rec­to­rial de­but her­alds the mother of all Prous­tian rushes. Gather around in hushed awe as Ice-T, one-time ar­chi­tect of gangsta rap, drops in on the hiph­operati for a se­ries of lively and il­lu­mi­nat­ing chin­wags.

Old school ti­tans Chuck D, Ice Cube and Dr Dre are set be­side younger pre­tenders. Ice-T keeps the con­ceit tight. Where does rap come from? Why doesn’t rap, the most global of all mu­si­cal forms, get the re­spect ac­corded blues or jazz? Why lay down beats at all?

Some­thing from Noth­ing: The Art of Rap or­gan­ises the an­swers to these queries into ge­o­graph­i­cal sense. El­e­gant shots of Detroit’s


aban­doned in­dus­trial pow­er­houses, gleam­ing and win­dow­less in the sun, speak more suc­cinctly than any pot­ted so­cioe­co­nomic-minded voiceover could.

Away from these grand cin­e­matic pil­low shots, the film is mostly con­cerned with the cre­ative process. Mar­vel as Snoop mar­vels at Ice-T’s use of “Adi­das” in­stead of “sneak­ers” in the sem­i­nal 6’n the Mornin’. Eminem dis­cusses his com­pli­cated rhyming style. Grand­mas­ter Caz sits down and writes a rap be­fore our very eyes.

This is a fas­ci­nat­ing por­trait of brain­storm­ing and cre­ativ­ity in ac­tion. An ar­ray of talk­ing heads pro­vides an im­pres­sive ar­ray of freestyles. Each freestyle brings its own in­sight: rap al­ter­na­tively emerges look­ing math­e­matic, po­etic, and pre­cise.

Par­tic­i­pants are less guarded than we might ex­pect: who knew Kayne West was so hum­ble or that Eminem was so open? Dr Dre duly turns up to rep­re­sent him­self and the late Tu­pac.

A his­tor­i­cal frame­work emerges (KRS-One dis­cusses rap’s evo­lu­tion from slav­ery), al­though there’s lit­tle of the neat, lin­ear chronol­ogy we’ve come to ex­pect from mu­sic doc­u­men­taries. Ice-T’s por­trait is rarely con­cerned with dates and firsts, but with the heat of the coal­face. There’s some­thing charm­ing about watch­ing rap­pers from all gen­er­a­tions rap back their favourite lyrics, the line that got them started, or the phrase that made them a house­hold name.

Do we need to tell you there’s a killer sound­track? Or that this is a timely an­ti­dote to the re­cent, un­for­tu­nate out­break of rap bash­ing? Or that the pro­duc­ers have the power to bust a cap in your ass if you don’t hurry along to the cinema? AN­OTHER DAY, an­other French movie star­ring Kristin Scott Thomas. No British per­son has so con­cerned him­self or her­self with Gal­lic af­fairs since Ho­ra­tio Nel­son. Her lat­est pic­ture is a taut, some­what one-di­men­sional cham­ber piece deal­ing with a class of Stockholm Syn­drome.

It’s a re­lief to see Scott Thomas break­ing free from the con­ven­tional bour­geois dra­mas she so of­ten in­hab­its. But, even at a par­si­mo­nious 81 min­utes, In Your Hands feels over-ex­tended.

We be­gin with KST emerg­ing into a grimy street and mak­ing her way mis­er­ably home to an up­mar­ket, ster­ile apart­ment. Not­ing that the star is wear­ing an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally dowdy ensem­ble of T-shirt and com­bat trousers, we cor­rectly as­sume that some­thing aw­ful is afoot.

Sure enough, it tran­spires that the pro­tag­o­nist, an ob­ste­tri­cian, has just es­caped af­ter be­ing kid­napped by a dis­turbed in­di­vid­ual. The film then flashes back to tell the story of her con­fine­ment, be­fore re­turn­ing to de­liver a fi­nal down­beat book­end.

Lola Doil­lon’s film, re­leased nearly two years ago in its na­tive ter­ri­tory, hangs per­ilously upon the slip­pery re­la­tion­ship be­tween ag­i­tated cap­tor and cool, dis­tanced vic­tim. There are the mak­ings of a de­cent two-handed play in the sce­nario. Scott Thomas does a good job of al­low­ing cracks to grad­u­ally show in her stiff de­meanour. Pio Mar­maï is dis­turbingly dis­traught as the dam­aged ag­gres­sor.

Un­for­tu­nately, the film’s reve­la­tions are never suf­fi­ciently jolt­ing. Most view­ers will, within min­utes, have de­duced the kid­nap­per’s mo­ti­va­tions. The grad­ual drift to­wards mu­tual un­der­stand­ing feels a bit forced and more than a lit­tle im­plau­si­ble. These are the sorts of things that hap­pen in movies. Real life is rarely quite so de­ter­mined by neat story arcs.

That said, In Your Hands does have real emo­tional pur­chase. The leads fling them­selves so en­thu­si­as­ti­cally into their roles that it proves hard not be car­ried along by the melo­drama. It will cer­tainly do well enough un­til the French next wel­come KST into their lives.

Talk to me: Dr Dre lays it out for Ice-T

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