Bohemian Rhapsody

22 Jan

Bohemian Rhapsody—directed by Dexter Fletcher. RockMusical. 2 hours 17 minutes Color 2018.
The Story: A rock quartet’s story, from the time its key player joins and launches them into their perilous popularity—and the band goes on.
I had never heard of this band, Queen, or of its lead singer, Freddie Mercury. So what was I faced with?

A band member whose vitality, talent, and imagination freed it into the brash, the ecstatic, the musically outré. A worthwhile type for a movie to focus on. In valor, like Lou Gehrig or Sergeant York, or Seabiscuit, a hero. We see the band fight one another, but also gather themselves around the fundamental wellspring of music whose boldness Mercury releases in them. He gives them a chance, but they give him a chance. Without him, what?

The adventure of his business acumen and downrightness launches the band into huge venues—stadiums where he is able to charm and floor vast audiences with his volatile accessibility. He can seduce 1,000 fans into sing-alongs.

His genius was manifold. It also included a power of stage improvisation which you can see also in Mick Jaeger. His body was attuned to dance his singing. He played the piano on stage—often a grand. He had a voice of singular purity, range, and power. This was his strongest gift, and his ability to use it was Orphian. But the real gift was the ability to expose himself to his audiences in such a way as to include and also exceed exhibitionism. He laid himself out on the altar of his art like a sacrifice. He is a virtuoso of the rash. I watch a long documentary on Freddie Mercury and observe this.

In all this, Rami Malek is indistinguishable from the part he plays. He brings all of this to the screen. And also that mad peculiar gleam in his eye of challenge and fear which combine to make Malek so much like Mercury in his range and rejoicing.

The picture is beautifully written, directed, produced, costumed, set, and cast. There is no drama here. What there is is a gorgeous color palette which shifts and changes with chromolithographic aptness from moment to moment, scene to scene, beginning to end. The film is a tour through the high-spots and low-spots of human superabundance, and, as a documentary, from what I read about Mercury, it is accurate. Indeed, why would anyone feel the need to improve on such facts? There is no tension, no plot, no dramatic oppositions. Or there are too many for any single one of them to operate on us seriously.

But this does not matter. As I watch, I may not care for Freddy Mercury, but, boy, do I care about him! Lots of what I see and hear is alien and unfamiliar to me. Rock and Roll was never audible to my heart or my glands. But the film lies beyond that. For there is always in the life of the band, Queen, plenty to attend to, learn, and wonder on. Bohemian Rhapsody is by no means the last film word on the life of Queen or Mr. Mercury—but is is a banquet of them for all of us to delight in and digest.

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