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Volume 6, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN: 1751-4193
  • E-ISSN: 1751-4207



How is jazz filmed? This article argues that jazz criticism has prioritized the musical and historical authenticity of jazz films, but has neglected the ways in which film style creates and comments upon scenes of improvisation. How do films about jazz negotiate the ‘now’ of diegetic improvisation and the ‘then’ of the recorded, edited event? Analysis of mise-en-scéne, camera movement and the performance of actors are argued to be essential to an understanding of narrative fiction film’s depiction of improvisatory processes. Through close readings of two sequences in Young Man with a Horn (1950) by Curtiz and Round Midnight (1986a) by Tavernier, and by looking at past attempts to analyse these films, I suggest that we need a more refined understanding of what ‘improvisation’ means on film. By attending to the formal properties of film, criticism can discard tired debates around representation and authenticity.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): film; improvisation; jazz; mise-en-scène; performance; temporality
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