Words of wisdom from the big guns of rap
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