America vs Billie Holiday

Andra Day as Billie in The United States vs. Billie Holiday has been nominated for an Oscar for the best actress category – Photo: indiewire

“Sometimes winning a war is worse than losing it,” said the colored singer Billie Holiday in her lifetime. Did the jazz legend say that after being dragged off stage by a bunch of policemen as soon as he sang Strange Fruits, “that damn song,” in Philadelphia in 1947?

During a peak year of the Black Lives Matter movement, two cinematic works about Billie Holiday were born. One documentary titled Billie and the other, a biographical film titled The United States vs. Billie Holiday, who plays Billie, Andra Day, has been nominated for an Oscar for the best actress category.

The film is as its name suggests, “the confrontation between America and Billie Holiday”, a key phrase she used in her 1956 memoir. America loves Billie Holiday as she hums soothing love songs. the point is that the sharp rock must also melt.

But it is still America that hates Billie Holiday when she sings Strange Fruits, which is to sing about “important things” – like the bloody history of blacks that whites want to turn into a blank sheet of paper. . And then, Billie Holiday was jailed for a year, ostensibly for drugs, but deep inside, because they wanted the mute.

But the bird still sings. In the best scene of the film, Billie Holiday is touring the American countryside, only to come across a bush, and on the other side, she catches a burning cross. in the fire, and nearby, the body of a black man was dangling from the tree like an “exotic fruit” in the southern wind, with human flesh warm amid the fragrant magnolia scent. Since then, other than death, nothing has stopped Billie Holiday from singing Strange Fruits anymore.

She stood on the stage singing the melody of the protest song, the camera nearly described her face for several minutes. Each eyebrow, each lip curl seemed to be exaggerated, making herself look like a ghost from the past returning to revenge. And price like The United States vs.

Billie Holiday keeps focusing on such uplifting music moments instead of the confusing description of a love affair between Billie and an FBI inspector working for those who want to destroy her, perhaps the movie is more attractive. much. Not that love was nothing interesting, but unfortunately, even in real life, she sings better than love, and Billie’s love music is better than her love life.

Between a movie where the script lacks emphasis like The United States vs. The United States. Billie Holiday, the most memorable things are anchored in music. This is the image of Billie Holiday singing the beautiful and sad Solitude in the trumpet of Louis Armstrong’s soul.

Or an image of the whole crowd standing up clapping when Billie appeared after leaving prison, saying “prison is fun” and teasing reporters and the “cops” with Ain’t Nobody Business, in Ain’t Nobody Business. There are statements like: “I swear I won’t call the police if I get beaten up by my father. If I do, it’s no one’s business.”

Like Billie said, the song is the answer to those who always ask her why she didn’t act like others for a simpler life, or why she kept singing. Don’t ask why you have to sing. That is her job, not anyone’s.

And although we still know that, but watching the movie, one cannot help but think of the famous poem from the early 20th century by poet Paul Laurence Dunbar: “I know why that captive bird sings. he was bruised and his chest ached, when he passed through the bars and was completely free It was not a song of rejoicing and a new joy, but a prayer from the bottom of his heart. Heaven. I know why the bird sings “.

Needless to say, we all know why Billie Holiday is singing.


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