Dir. Scott Smith, USA, 2017, 75 min.
Chasing the Blues is an excruciating comedy in the best sense, eliciting laughs from wickedly funny material and agonizing suspense. The humor works because the film’s conceit is so overwrought: An obsession over rare blues vinyl that mimics the hellhound-on-my-trail torment of the genre’s mythology while still paying homage to the form with original music by the Bones of JR Jones.
Grant Rosenmeyer and Ron Connor find an uproarious groove as rival collectors — Rosenmeyer as Alan Thomas, the earnest yet superficial white scholar, and Connor as Paul Bettis, the black aficionado with a cunning streak — mining tropes surrounding cultural appropriation and authenticity in late-1980s Chicago. Anna Maria Horsford provides a sparkling take on Mrs. Walker, the warm and occasionally ribald widow who holds the prized disc sought by the two collectors. Thomas and Bettis’ quest takes them to a dark place and, eventually, prison. Ta-da! Another blues trope. Their release 20 years later looks like an opportunity for redemption at first, but of course they’re stuck in the same cursed cycle. Jon Lovitz, the most recognizable name in the cast, bookends the story as a crepuscularly corrupt Louisiana bureaucrat turned self-storage operator.
Chasing the Blues screens April 24 at 1:30 p.m. at Aperture 2 and on April 25 at 8 p.m. at Hanesbrands Theatre. Producer Aria Razza attends both screenings.