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Miles Davis: Dingo

This 1990 Australian film is cut from the same melodramatic cloth used by Hollywood for such jazz weepies as Young Man with a Horn. There is, of course, a moment of epiphany. Here, a boy (John “Dingo” Anderson) hears a jazz trumpeter, Billy Cross (Miles Davis), in an impromptu concert on a dusty outback landing strip. Why Cross would be performing for a handful of kids under a broiling Australian sun is never made clear. At any rate, the young protagonist now has, like Steve Martin in The Jerk, “a special purpose.”

As he attains adulthood, as well as a wife and family, Dingo’s playing is confined to dance gigs with congenial but musically-challenged mates. Ultimately, his dream of playing with Billy is realized when a series of improbable circumstances takes him to Paris. Here, depending on your viewpoint, the film becomes either life-affirming or a soap opera. Against all odds, Dingo and Cross find a cosmic connection and philosophize about life into the wee hours of the morning. It’s the kind of liberal schmaltz that Stanley Kramer served up regularly in such fare as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Still, there are moments of poignancy for anyone who’s had movie-tweaked dreams of playing with the big boys. Also, this is Miles’ only dramatic film role. As with Dexter Gordon, one can’t help but wonder, what if…? Colin Friels makes a good run at the jazz-tormented Dingo. There’s also an engaging score by Michel Legrand-and, of course, Miles and such L.A. heavies as Chuck Findley, Ray Brown, Marty Krystall and Kei Akagi.

Originally Published