Does anybody still remember what Dr. Leary said about “set” and “setting”? Seeing movies at critics’ screenings isn’t always the best way to do them justice, and I distinctly remember sitting at the MGM screening room on Park Avenue sometime after lunch and feeling underwhelmed by Dave Chappelle’s concert movie. The sound wasn’t turned up enough, people were scribbling notes instead of at least bopping their heads to the beats, and I wasn’t exactly in a party mood, either. Both the music and the comedy left me dissatisfied at the time.

Cut to: Friday night, a few drinks, and the volume cranked good & proper. Suddenly, the jokes crack me up and the tunes hit me right in that sweet spot. The Roots, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, the Fugees–are you kidding? I’m not much of a fan of Michel Gondry’s fiction films, but there’s no doubt the man knows how to direct music, and Chappelle effortlessly combines silly hijinx with slyly concealed sentiment. He clearly threw this party as a present to himself, to the hometown Ohio folks he invited to Brooklyn, and whoever else happened to luck into the free show–a generous, inspiring celebration that went right over my head the first time around.

Block Party. Michel Gondry, 2005. ****

The trailer:

The Fugees, “Killing Me Softly”: