Hot Docs review: Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool

Stanley Nelson's intricate doc portrait fascinatingly delves into the jazz legend's relationships with women

MILES DAVIS: THE BIRTH OF THE COOL (Stanley Nelson, U.S./UK). 113 Minutes. Rating: NNNNN

The first few minutes into Stanley Nelson’s Miles Davis doc may feel like a standard look at the legendary jazz musician’s life, but the remaining are not. The Emmy Award-winning director received access to never-before-seen footage and rare outtakes from Davis’s close friends and family archives.

There are new interviews with his children, but most fascinating is his partners – including first wife, Frances Taylor (who died six months ago), French singer/actor Juliette Gréco and his final partner, Jo Gelbard – discussing the relationships they had with him. It becomes clear that Davis, known for being a genius and an abuser, was deeply influenced every step of his career by the women he loved.

Birth Of The Cool is also one of the rare Davis docs that moves past the mythological grimacing-rebel mystique to show a Davis who was sensitive, prone to depression, terrified of vulnerability and beautiful when he smiled. It’s an important film for any Davis or jazz fan wanting to see an intricate portrait of a visionary who changed the face of music. 

May 1, 8:45 pm, Hot Docs Cinema May 3, 10 am, Hot Docs Cinema May 4, 6:45 pm, TIFF 1

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