The team up between Chappelle and Michel Gondry still feels like magic

There are hangout movies and then there are hangout movies. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party is a hangout movie in the truest sense. It’s about a guy setting out to execute a daylong hang with his friends and random strangers. Is it possible to experience FOMO 15+ years after the fact? Chappelle and director Michel Gondry prove, definitively, that the answer is yes. But, Block Party is about more than watching famous people having a great time. It’s about the communities we grow up in, the communities we make for ourselves. Most importantly, it’s about people and the joy of human connection. To top it all off, it comes with a killer soundtrack.

Right from the beginning, there’s an undeniable energy to Block Party. That alchemy comes from the right people coming together at the right time. The movie was filmed in the summer of 2004, when Chappelle was arguably at the height of his popularity. This was before he walked away from his juggernaut sketch show Chappelle’s Show and disappeared for a while. Gondry was coming off the release of the critically acclaimed instant classic Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Many of the featured musicians were already stars or well on their way. Most performed on Chappelle’s Show at some point. Even though the film is remarkably laid back, it’s also electric to see so many operating at or near the peak of their powers.

Block Party would be a great time even if it was just a concert film. The heart of the film comes from watching Chappelle go around personally inviting people to the show. Sometimes the people are random, like the waiter who freestyles for Dave and people Dave sees while out and about. Other invitees include people Dave has sought out, like the woman who sold him his daily pack of smokes. The juxtaposition of the regular folks and celebrities helps break down the barrier between the two. This is highlighted in a quick, lovely shot where one of Dave’s guests, the Central State University Marching Band plays the opening notes of Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” while Ye looks on with a smile. It’s a moment of connection between people who only just met, one of many instances throughout Block Party. People just enjoying and appreciating the presence of others, it’s a wonderful thing to watch.

The sense of camaraderie is felt all around the film. Of course, it’s in the audience where everyone’s excited about whatever they’re about to see. But Gondry transcends the line between audience and performer, constantly cutting to shots from the stage view where we can see the faces in the crowd and the other musicians on and off stage. And everyone is always smiling. There’s just so much joy in Block Party and that’s what I keep coming back to. Whether the performer is someone on the rise (like Kanye was at this time) or already established (like The Roots, Common, or Talib Kweli) or living legends (like Dead Prez and The Fugees), the excitement is palpable.

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party is a good time machine, insulated from everything beyond the scope of this specific event. It’s a time capsule, in the same way that any recording or photograph is a time capsule. The difference here is that Chappelle and Gondry seem to know that, and all of their energy has gone into making this one day as memorable as possible for themselves, the musicians, the attendees, and viewers at home. They were absolutely right. Now, courtesy of Mill Creek, the movie finally has a quality hi-def release to help preserve it. The disc doesn’t have any special features, but it doesn’t really need any. Commentaries or bonus scenes or retrospective interviews would only taint it.

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party is available on Blu-ray via Mill Creek Entertainment

Previous post Make it a Double: SPIRAL & DARK INTRUDER
Next post Two Cents Comes Out to Play With THE WARRIORS