Sundance 2020: Sylvie’s Love

For anyone versed in black American cinema, the characters in Sylvie’s Love must seem distinctly anti-Tyler Perry.

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They look good and are photographed in lighting that makes their skin desirable. Above all, the story isn’t marked by the improbable destruction of a black woman at the hands of a good-looking black man.

Not that there isn’t a good-looking man in Eugene Ashe’s film. There is and he’s played by Nnamdi Asomugha, who, along with almost everyone else, puts on clothes that seem specifically tailored for his frame, even when his character isn’t quite the rich sort.

Well, in seeking extra income, perhaps to keep affording those outfits, his character, the jazz musician Robert, applies for a job at a record store. The store owner’s daughter, Sylvie, is minding the place when he comes in and she tells him they aren’t really looking for someone. But the store owner gives Robert the job anyway.

Clearly, something would happen between Robert and Sylvie. It’s a bit complicated as Sylvie has a man who’s off to war. Also: the Sylvie’s mum isn’t in support: she cares very much about the class difference.

But love conquers all, doesn’t it?

Not really. The lovers are separated. Robert goes abroad for a gig with his band. And Sylvie’s head is back to where her mother believes it should be. The film begins to seem like a black version of the Oscar winner La La Land. But there is another act coming.

The outfits in Sylvie’s Love are its most attention-grabbing feature. The 1950s were particularly fashionable it seems. The suits recalls that other film of extremely good-looking fashion, The Cotton Club. If it was sentient, Declan Quinn’s camera might be in love with those clothes.

At Sundance Ashe spoke about wanting to pay tribute to the style of the 1950s and 1960s. His film could only have been done by a man whose conception of love might also be a throwback to those days. At one point, the man and woman have different trajectories: while he is obviously stuck as Motown becomes the dominant sound, effectively killing any hope of none but the most fortunate jazz act becoming successful, the lady reaches very close to the highest reaches of a career that can only get better.

This is normally a recipe for disaster and the lady beside me had been talking about the doomed nature of this configuration. Her argument was such a woman has surpassed her mate and would be unable to stay with him. It is a position very common on Twitter. Ashe seems to be hopeful, or maybe oblivious. His film might begin as anti-Tyler Perry but you might leave thinking it is anti-A Star is Born.Sundance 2020: Sylvie’s Love

For anyone versed in black American cinema, the characters in Sylvie’s Love must seem distinctly anti-Tyler Perry.

They look good and are photographed in lighting that makes their skin desirable. Above all, the story isn’t marked by the improbable destruction of a black woman at the hands of a good-looking black man.

Not that there isn’t a good-looking man in Eugene Ashe’s film. There is and he’s played by Nnamdi Asomugha, who, along with almost everyone else, puts on clothes that seem specifically tailored for his frame, even when his character isn’t quite the rich sort.

Well, in seeking extra income, perhaps to keep affording those outfits, his character, the jazz musician Robert, applies for a job at a record store. The store owner’s daughter, Sylvie, is minding the place when he comes in and she tells him they aren’t really looking for someone. But the store owner gives Robert the job anyway.

Clearly, something would happen between Robert and Sylvie. It’s a bit complicated as Sylvie has a man who’s off to war. Also: the Sylvie’s mum isn’t in support: she cares very much about the class difference.

But love conquers all, doesn’t it?

Not really. The lovers are separated. Robert goes abroad for a gig with his band. And Sylvie’s head is back to where her mother believes it should be. The film begins to seem like a black version of the Oscar winner La La Land. But there is another act coming.

The outfits in Sylvie’s Love are its most attention-grabbing feature. The 1950s were particularly fashionable it seems. The suits recalls that other film of extremely good-looking fashion, The Cotton Club. If it was sentient, Declan Quinn’s camera might be in love with those clothes.

At Sundance Ashe spoke about wanting to pay tribute to the style of the 1950s and 1960s. His film could only have been done by a man whose conception of love might also be a throwback to those days. At one point, the man and woman have different trajectories: while he is obviously stuck as Motown becomes the dominant sound, effectively killing any hope of none but the most fortunate jazz act becoming successful, the lady reaches very close to the highest reaches of a career that can only get better.

This is normally a recipe for disaster and the lady beside me had been talking about the doomed nature of this configuration. Her argument was such a woman has surpassed her mate and would be unable to stay with him. It is a position very common on Twitter. Ashe seems to be hopeful, or maybe oblivious. His film might begin as anti-Tyler Perry but you might leave thinking it is anti-A Star is Born.

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