Dave [1993]

Few movies, documentary or otherwise, capture the relaxed exuberance of Dave Chappelle's Block Party. This is Chappelle's first project since his show on Comedy Central received so much popular and critical attention that he apparently had a psychological meltdown and fled to Africa to escape. You can still see a hint of weariness and wariness in his eyes--but even more you can see his relief to be launching a project that bears no expectations. Funded by his own money and free to all who attended, Chappelle set up a secret concert location in Brooklyn and pulled together a musical lineup of stellar acts, including Erykah Badu, Kanye West, Mos Def, Jill Scott, Common, the Roots, Dead Prez, and the reunion of the Fugees, all of whom give vibrant performances. But Block Party doesn't just capture the show; at least a third of the movie is Chappelle wandering around Brooklyn or the Ohio neighborhood where he lives and interacting with the people he meets, many of whom he gives free tickets for the show. These scenes, combined with footage of the performers rehearsing or just gassing around before the show, offer a sense that for Chappelle performing is just an extension of his everyday life; that he takes just as much pleasure from goofing around with one person as he does goofing around in front of hundreds or thousands. Putting together this event becomes a unique self-portrait as well as an experience that rejuvenated Chappelle. If you surrender to the vitality of the show and Chappelle's loose comic jazz, you may find it rejuvenating too. --Bret Fetzer

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