If youíve ever bad-mouthed Ken Burnsís documentary style of still-photo montages, this is the film to make you eat your words. Director Mike Dibb, working with Miles biographer Ian Carr, struggled for years to get this film made for British television. There isnít, it turns out, a lot of Miles Davis footage out there, so Dibb and Carr wind up shifting from talking heads to Burns-style panning of some of the most beat-up old album covers youíve ever seen ó or at least seen in a movie.
But what a bunch of talking heads! Thereís Milesís high-school girlfriend, who became his first wife and the mother of his first three children. Thereís his French girlfriend ("Miles didnít love women ó he loved sex!"), daughter Cheryl, ballet-dancer wife Frances, producers Bob Weinstock and George Avakian, collaborators and colleagues Clark Terry, Gil Evans, John McLaughlin, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, and on and on ó even a bit of Miles himself. Itís a rough-looking film, and there are no major revelations, but there is a lot of fascinating Miles talk, so itís never dull. And the limited performance footage is used effectively, especially a famous 1959 TV show of Miles and Evans performing with a large orchestra. Itís more for jazz fans than movie fans, but The Miles Davis Story is significant as the only full-length documentary on the subject.