Moved Like a Mountain by Blue Like Jazz

April 16, 2012

Even though the writers and directors and actors don’t know me, Blue Like Jazz (the movie!) takes my entire life story of falling-away-from and back-to-faith and packs it into two hours of screen time and two semesters of rebellious soul-searching debauchery at Reed College in Oregon.

Writer Donald Miller (who is an alt-rock boy-version of Anne Lamott or Mary Karr) and Jesusy-grunge-rocker-turned-film director Steven Taylor (not to be confused with Steven Tyler or several other people with the same name) have collaborated to create an authentic celluloid memoir and arthouse filmic calling card for the post-counterculture joy and hope of the emerging church.

Blue Like Jazz chronicles the coming-of-age of an intelligent nonconformist falling from faith and wrestling with truth and temptation. Blue Like Jazz is the inverse of  a flick like Saved which uses humor and love to look at kids being atheist, sexually active, or queer at an arch-fundamentalist Christian high-school. Blue Like Jazz flips the script and sends an emotionally vulnerable and questioning Christian into the throbbing drum machine of the secular anti-Jesus, the beer-and-recreational buzz-soaked campus where DIY-everything and far-left performance-art flashmobs are only part of a philosophically deep and politically ponderous hedonism.

Not dissimilar from all the DIY-grassroots hilarity and politically-left righteousness that seals the sexy appeal of places like Reed (okay, I went to Antioch in Yellow Springs for about a year in 86-87), Blue Like Jazz itself is the beneficiary of a DIY-movement. The closing credits list names and names of people who helped fund the project via Kickstarter.com. What a statement of community that is!

Blue Like Jazz should make fundamentalists and fringe freaks equally uncomfortable— because with blistering indy-rock dramedy it bites back both at far-right hypocrites and at leftish existential heathens. But mostly, Blue Like Jazz might move you, even if you don’t identify so severely and seriously and eerily as I do. It surely moved me like a mountain as it moved to me to weep—first at the folly of worshiping at the altar of a juicy trinity of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll and finally at the folly of the cross and following faith to find Jesus a second time on the other side of the hangover.

I laughed hard and cried hard at all the versions of myself that I found in Miller’s altered-for-screen versions of himself. Here’s hoping this doesn’t get too pigeonholed as only-fit for high-school and college-age youth-group outings. This movie is meant to mean more to more kinds of people, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. —Andrew William Smith, editor

http://www.bluelikejazzthemovie.com