The intimacy of the setting makes the tension exponentially more palpable and extreme.

As was the case with Denzel Washington’s Fences, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom very much feels like a stage play that has been translated as a feature, but that ultimately proves an advantage for George C. Wolfe. It’s not precisely a bottle story, as there is action that happens outside the recording studio, and characters do sometimes come and go, but it most definitely has the intensifying atmosphere of a bottle story, and that’s what’s key. It’s already literally wicked hot in the recording studio at the start of the film, but the temperature metaphorically continues to rise throughout, and you feel the energy as its ready to hit a boiling point and explode. It’s impressively orchestrated, and leaves you winded in the aftermath.

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