Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ★★★★

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is above all a film about power dynamics.

Leeve is a trumpeter who dreams of having his own band, but lives in the shadow of his tormented past and his employer Ma Rainey. He tries to impose his version of the music that gives the film its title, considering himself a real artist different from his bandmates who just follow what they are told. In his quest for power he is subservient to the record company owner, mirroring his father in the episode in his life where he found himself most powerless when trying to defend his mother.

Ma Rainey is the last person you expect to have power in the 1920s: a black lesbian woman. But through her talent she imposes herself in all environments where she is present, in her shows only she can shine, in her band only her opinion matters, when recording her albums she does not give up in absolutely any detail, even Dussie is only with her because of her power.

And it is the version of Ma's music that prevails, by not giving up to any aspect of her creative process, she fails to empathize with Leeve. He's inspired by Ma in his quest for power (and even tries to steal her girlfriend), but in the end his efforts are in vain and he finds himself again in a situation where he has no power, and finally gives in to madness.

With great performances by Boseman, Davis and Turman, Ma Rainey's is a solid film with a relevant theme even after 100 years of its "occurrence".

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