Northwest Film Center’s Reel Music Festival: Sounds on screen

Live at Preservation Hall: Louisiana Fairytale screens October 11 / Image via NW Film Center

With so much stirring music streaming from Oregon stages this month, it may seem tantalizing, even cruel to note that the Northwest Film Center’s always fascinating Reel Music Festival boasts a potpourri of films of special interest to fans of classical, postclassical, jazz and world music. The rock flicks, including documentaries about Mott the Hoople, the Doors, Fugazi, Foo Fighters, the incomparable Richard Thompson (who’s playing in Oregon soon), and more look pretty sweet, too.

I caught Saturday’s screening (sponsored by Portland’s excellent jazz station, KMHD) of The Last of the Blue Devils (a tribute to the great Kansas City jazz /R&B pioneers like Count Basie, Joe Turner and the rest) and a film about Cab Calloway that I hope will eventually be expanded to a full-length documentary. The David Byrne film should delight anyone who caught his amazing concert at Portland’s Schnitzer Concert Hall last year, one of the best concerts I’ve ever experienced, while the Portland jazz films and the Elliott Smith documentary should entice those interested in under-chronicled Oregon arts history. If, like me,  you still fondly recall the Oregon Bach Festival’s magnificent production of Chinese-American composer Tan Dun’s Water Passion some years back, the Tea film should put the Art back in tea parties. Here are some highlights, with all copy and images cribbed shamelessly from the film center’s website. Films are shown at the Whitsell Auditorium at the Portland Art Museum (1219 SW Park Avenue) unless otherwise noted; tickets are $9 for general admission; $8 for PAM members, students, and seniors; and $6 for Friends of the film center.

And speaking of music on film, anyone who’s not catching the Filmusik series at Portland Hollywood’s Theater, which pairs original, homegrown music with classic or cheesy old films is missing out one of the best outlets for new Oregon sounds. The next installment features Portland instrumental duo Sallo’s original soundtrack for the 1911 Russian classic, The Cameraman’s Revenge. One of the first works of stop motion animation, director Vladislaw Starewicz’s pioneering film used (presumably non-Equity) dead insects to chronicle a love triangle. A century later, it’s still utterly compelling. And you can see it on October 14 at the Hollywood.

OAW’s 2011 Reel Music Picks

Sunday October 9 at 3:30 pm

STRAVINSKY: ONCE AT A BORDER

DIRECTOR: TONY PALMER

GREAT BRITAIN, 1982

Made at the request of the Stravinsky Estate to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s birth, Palmer’s highly-praised film celebrates one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. Stravinsky’s three surviving children talk about their father, alongside contributions from the late Madame Vera Stravinsky, Robert Craft, Marie Rambert, George Balanchine, Benny Goodman, Serge Lifar, Jean Cocteau, Serge Diaghilev’s secretary, Vaslav Nijinsky’s daughter, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s granddaughter, Nadia Boulanger, Georges Auric, and many friends and colleagues. Also included in the film are important performances: “Les Noces,” heard here for the first time in its original scoring; “Petrushka,” specially recreated for the film by the Bolshoi Ballet in its 1911 choreography; “The Rite of Spring”; “The Rake’s Progress”; “The Symphony of Psalms”; and much more. “A wholly wonderful film … much of this portrait is a like a miraculous image, filled with the sense of Stravinsky as man and musician, above all as Russian.”—Paul Griffiths. (166 mins.)

Sponsored by All Classical FM.

 

Sunday October 9  at 8:30 pm

FRANK ZAPPA: PHASE TWO—THE BIG NOTE

DIRECTOR: FRANK SCHEFFER

NETHERLANDS, 2002

Ever seen Frank Zappa without facial hair, playing bicycle spokes on “The Steve Allen Show” in the early ’60s? You can, in Scheffer’s compelling, comprehensive overview of Zappa’s unique achievements, peppered with mesmerizing historical footage and full of surprises. With performances by the Ensemble Modern and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, “pronouncements” by Zappa himself, and interviews with Edgar Varèse, Pierre Boulez, Captain Beefheart, Ian Underwood, George Duke, Haskell Wexler, Gail and Dweezil Zappa, and more. (90 mins.)

*Location: McMenamins Mission Theater, 1624 NW Glisan (21+ only, please)

Sponsored by KBOO Radio and Musicfest NW. With community support from Voodoo Doughnut.

 

Monday October 10 at 7 pm

BENDA BILILI!

DIRECTOR: RENAUD BARRET, FLORENT DE LA TULLAYE

FRANCE, 2010

Barret and de la Tullaye’s film follows the band’s remarkable fairy tale journey from the streets of Kinshasa, Congo, to become international stars. “Benda Bilili” means “see beyond” in Congolese, a phrase which has profound meaning for this group of musicians which includes five paraplegics and an able-bodied teenager who makes music from a tin can connected to a stick with a piece of nylon. They sing about life on the streets, suffering from polio, sleeping on cardboard, and riding around on customized Mad Max-style tricycles. Fantastic music and remarkable characters make this an uplifting and unforgettable story of dream come reality. (86 mins.)

Sponsored by KBOO Radio.

 

Tuesday October 11  at 7 pm

LIVE AT PRESERVATION HALL: LOUISIANA FAIRYTALE

DIRECTOR: DANNY CLINCH

US, 2011

For fifty years, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has played at home and on tour around the world to keep the traditions of New Orleans jazz alive. Along the way, they have brought in collaborators of all musical stripes to play, honor, and reinterpret America’s first true art form. LOUISIANA FAIRYTALE documents their collaboration with American rock band My Morning Jacket, showing a legendary group of New Orleans musicians passing on traditions and inspiring a new generation, and featuring an intimate performance by both bands in the French Quarter’s historic Preservation Hall. (69 mins.)

 

Tuesday October 11 (following LIVE AT PRESERVATION HALL: LOUISIANA FAIRYTALE)

THE DEVIL’S BOX

DIRECTOR: JASON HAMMOND

US, 2011

Some of the most acclaimed musicians in the country share their dedication and drive as they introduce us to a unique American art form—Texas-style fiddling. Follow five contestants who compete in the renowned Fiddlers’ Frolics and meet the lively characters who inhabit this extended family of passionate musicians. (91 mins.)

 

Tuesday October 11 at 7 pm

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW: PORTLAND MUSIC VIDEOS

DIRECTOR: VARIOUS; CURATED BY ALICIA J. ROSE WITH ASSISTANCE BY SARA LUND

VISITING ARTISTS—The Pacific Northwest has been home to some of the most influential musicians in the world, and the music videos made to represent them have been equally important. This program includes a hand-picked selection of vintage and current music video offerings created by a host of talented directors and animators who call Portland home. This program includes Red Fang’s “Wires,” directed by Whitey McConnaughy; Menomena’s “Evil Bee,” directed by Stefan Nadelman; Eluvium’s “The Motion Makes Me Last,” directed by Matt McCormick; Mirah’s “Low Self Control,” featuring Tender Forever and directed by Aubree Bernier-Clarke and Christopher Doulgeris; and the world premiere of Talkdemonic’s “City Sleep,” directed by Alicia J. Rose. (120 mins.)

THEN:
Nirvana, “Seasons In The Sun” — Lance Bangs
Unwound, “Scarlette” — Zak Margolis
Hazel, “Day-Glo” — Russell Bates
Melvins, “Hooch” — Chel White
Sleater Kinney, “Get Up” — Miranda July
Elliot Smith, “Lucky Three” — Jem Cohen

NOW:
Talkdemonic, “City Sleep” — Alicia J. Rose (Premiere)
Guidance Counselor, “Brooklyn” – Jordan Kinley, Tyler Kohlhoff (Premiere)
AgesandAges, “Souvenir” – Hayley Young (Premiere)
Menomena, “Evil Bee” — Stefan Nadelman
Fleet Foxes, “Mykonos” — Sean Pecknold
Modest Mouse, “Whale Song” — Nando Costa
TJO, “A Vertiginous One” — Zak Margolis
Eluvium, “The Motion Makes Me Last” — Matt McCormick
Decemberists, “Soldiering Life” — Dennis Fitzgerald & Greg Brown
DCFC, “Talking Like Turnstiles” — Lance Bangs
Red Fang, “Wires” — Whitey McConnaughy
Mirah, “Low Self Control” — Aubree Bernier-Clarke
Sallie Ford, “I Swear” — Matthew Ross

*Location: McMenamins Mission Theater, 1624 NW Glisan (21+ only, please)

Several of the videos’ directors and musicians will be in attendance.

Sponsored by opbmusic.org, Oregon Music News, and Musicfest NW.

 

Wednesday October 12 at 9 pm

RIDE, RISE, ROAR

DIRECTOR: HILLMAN CURTIS

US, 2010

As the frontman for Talking Heads, David Byrne was the primary focus of one of the best concert films ever, STOP MAKING SENSE. Now a solo artist, Byrne steps in front of the camera again for Hillman Curtis’ documentary of the tour following Byrne’s album-length collaboration with Brian Eno, “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.” A clever combination of on-stage energy—the band is accompanied by a trio of avant-garde dancers—and intimate interviews with key performers, the film reveals Byrne’s meticulous creative process and the joyous, kinetic results. (87 mins.)

*Location: McMenamins Mission Theater, 1624 NW Glisan (21+ only, please)

Sponsored by opbmusic.org.

 

Thursday October 13 at 7 pm

VINYL: THE ALTERNATE TAKE

DIRECTOR: ALAN ZWEIG

CANADA, 2010

Zweig’s original VINYL (2000) asked the sometimes embarrassing question, “Why collect stacks of records when you don’t have time to hear them?” Experiencing conflicting emotions over his own vinyl habit, he, in Woody Allen/Andy Rooney-esque fashion, interviewed other disturbed packrats, touring dingy, record-packed apartments in search of explanations for the compulsions of possessed discophiles (you know who you are). Comprised of unseen interviews, outtakes, and footage that simply wouldn’t fit into VINYL, Zweig dedicates this new cut to the people who couldn’t get enough of the first film and to “critics who complained the original wasn’t really about record collecting.” Interviewed obsessives include film directors Atom Egoyan, Bruce McDonald, and Guy Maddin. (96 mins.)

Join us after the film for a panel discussion with local record aficionados from Music Millennium, Mississippi Records, Exiled Records, and more.

 

Thursday October 13 at 9 pm

RICHARD THOMPSON: SOLITARY LIFE

DIRECTOR: PAUL BERNAYS

GREAT BRITAIN, 2003

In the 1960s, while still a teenager, Richard Thompson wrote generation-defining songs like “Meet on the Ledge.” As founder and member of Fairport Convention with then-wife Linda, and more recently as a solo artist, Thompson’s unique mix of rock and traditional folk music has been massively influential. Captured at home in London and Los Angeles and on tour in England, Bernays’ film mixes rare vintage footage with powerful performances of songs such as “The End of the Rainbow,” “A Heart Needs a Home,” “Solitary Life,” and “Kidzz.” With contributions from Billy Connolly, Bonnie Raitt, Harry Shearer, and the artist’s second wife Nancy Covey. “He’s a quiet guy. He’s almost an anorak, our Richard—you wouldn’t think he’s the guy with the guitar shaking the town!”—Billy Connolly. (60 mins.)

 

Saturday October 15 at 12:45 pm

TEA

DIRECTOR: FRANK SCHEFFER

NETHERLANDS, 2005

TEA is largely based on “Tea Opera” by New York-based Chinese composer Tan Dun, well-known for his Oscar-winning music for the film CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. In “Tea Opera,” the music of Tan Dun and the libretto by Xu Ying follow the old “Book of Tea,” in which tea is regarded as a metaphor for the right way of life. The philosophy behind it is that the combination of two apparently hostile elements—water and fire, both needed to prepare tea—can lead to something positive. Alongside the opera material, including conversations with Dun, Ying, and opera director Pierre Audi, Scheffer weaves breathtaking images of tea ceremonies, a Chinese puppet play, and stunning landscapes inspired by tea. (176 mins.)

Sponsored by Lan Su Chinese Garden and The Tao of Tea.

 

Saturday October 15 at 6:45 pm

MOZART’S SISTER

DIRECTOR: RENÉ FÉRET

FRANCE, 2010

Like her brother, Maria Anna Mozart was a musical prodigy ahead of her time, but tragically the 18th century wasn’t fair to women. In this fascinating, fanciful story centering on the other Mozart, 14-year-old “Nannerl,” an accomplished harpsichordist, singer, and violinist, lives in the shadow of her famous younger brother as they travel by coach from one royal court to the next, where the nobility marvel at young Wolfgang’s prodigious talent. As a girl, Nannerl is prohibited by her strict (but loving) father and by society from composing her own music, a restriction under which she chafes. With the encouragement of the handsome French Dauphin, she finds her own ways of challenging the established sexual and social order. Boasting stunning production values (filming took place at Versailles), ethereal music, and winning performances, the film is a treat for the eyes and the ears. (120 mins.)

Sponsored by All Classical FM.

 

Sunday October 16 at 2:30 pm

WHEN THE DRUM IS BEATING

DIRECTOR: WHITNEY DOW

US, 2011

A rhythmic meeting of music and history, WHEN THE DRUM IS BEATING interweaves the stories of Haiti and its most celebrated band, Septentrional. Founded in 1948 by Ulrick Pierre Louis, this rotating mix of Haiti’s finest musicians delivers a passionate mélange of traditional voodoo music and 20-piece Cuban big band rhythms. It’s the “Haitian people’s band” and it has outlasted all of the country’s dictators, political turmoil, natural disasters, and enduring poverty. In addition to a rich musical story, Dow offers a deep understanding of the survival of Haitian culture and a moving portrait of a people’s pride, resistance, despair, and rich artistic tradition. (85 mins.)

Sponsored by KBOO Radio.

 

Sunday October 16 at 4:45 pm

IN GOOD TIME: THE PIANO JAZZ OF MARIAN MCPARTLAND

DIRECTOR: HUEY

US, 2011

A native of England, Marian McPartland arrived in America in 1948 and established herself as a leading musician in the male-dominated jazz world. Now 93, McPartland tells her own story—as a musician, composer, and host of National Public Radio’s “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz”—through interviews filmed over four years, along with McPartland’s own harmonically rich compositions and piano improvisations. With Dr. Billy Taylor, Elvis Costello, Dave Brubeck, Diana Krall, Bill Frisell, Nnenna Freelon, Renee Rosnes, Dick Hyman, and many others. (90 mins.)

Sponsored by KMHD Jazz Radio.

 

Monday October 17 at 7 pm

OHS AND NWFC PRESENT: THE LOSERS’ CLUB

DIRECTOR: PIERRE OUELLETTE

US, 2003

VISITING ARTIST—Portland guitarists and bandleaders Jim Mesi and Steve Bradley became local legends in the ’70s Portland music scene. Mesi, who toured with B.B. King, cemented his position as a world-class blues guitar player, while Bradley became an anchor in the local club scene with his quirky songwriting and inventive rock and roll bands. Over the years, both artists have honed their musical visions to polished perfection, playing on virtually every stage in Portland. Ouellette affectionately explores the lives of these journeymen performers as they rock for audiences that inevitably change but always love them. (60 mins.)

Pierre Ouellette will introduce the film.

 

Monday October 17 (following OHS AND NWFC PRESENT: THE LOSERS’ CLUB)

WHEN STUMPTOWN WAS JUMPTOWN

DIRECTOR: SAMUEL ALLEN

US, 2005

VISITING ARTIST—The influx of African-American shipyard workers during World War II created a hungry audience for jazz and blues in Portland. That in turn led to a thriving club scene, regular appearances by all the musical luminaries of the era, and the emergence of top-flight local musicians who called Williams Avenue their home. Inspired by Portland historian Bob Dietsche’s lively book “Jumptown: The Golden Years of Portland Jazz, 1942-1957,” Adams uses stories told to him by Portland jazz artists “Sweet Baby James” Benton, Ray Horn, and Mel Brown, as well as author Dietsche, as he takes us on a search for the musical ghosts of an era when Portland was a 24/7 jazz oasis. (60 mins.)

Samuel Adams will introduce the film.

 

Monday October 17 (following WHEN STUMPTOWN WAS JUMPTOWN)

PEPPER’S POW-WOW

DIRECTOR: SANDRA OSAWA

US, 1996

For those who heard Portland tenor saxophonist Jim Pepper (1941–1992), he was an unforgettable jazz player. Of Kaw-Creek ancestry, Pepper was one of the innovators of jazz-rock fusion, a gifted composer who successfully melded Native American music with jazz, and an awesomely talented musician, equally at home playing a ballad or straight-up bebop. Seattle filmmaker Sandra Osawa’s fitting tribute traces Pepper’s life; his musical association with such famed collaborators as Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Bob Moses, Larry Coryell, and Charlie Haden; the impact of his songs such as “Wichi Tai To” and “Comin’ and Goin’”; and an astonishingly rich and diverse array of performances and recordings. (60 mins.)

Co-presented by the Oregon Historical Society, whose “Oregon Rocks!: A History of Popular Music in Oregon” exhibit runs August 26  – January 15, 2012.

Media sponsor: Oregon Music News.

 

Tuesday October 18 at 7 pm

WHO’S CRAZY? A.K.A. DAVID, CHARLIE, AND ORNETTE

DIRECTOR: DICK FONTAINE

GREAT BRITAIN, 1966

A meditation on freedom of expression with three avant-garde musicians under the leadership of composer and multi-instrumentalist Ornette Coleman. Capturing the trio over two days in Paris as they scored a Living Theatre project entitled “Who’s Crazy,” the film famously contains a complete, uninterrupted performance of “Sadness,” one of Coleman’s most memorable and enduring compositions. (30 mins.)

Sponsored by KMHD Jazz Radio.

 

Tuesday October 18 (following WHO’S CRAZY? A.K.A. DAVID, CHARLIE, AND ORNETTE)

WHO IS SONNY ROLLINS?

DIRECTOR: DICK FONTAINE

GREAT BRITAIN, 1968

A moving portrait of jazz great Sonny Rollins during his self-enforced exile from his audience in protest against the Vietnam War. Filmed playing with students in Harlem, in the countryside, and on the Williamsburg Bridge, Rollins’ melodic sense throughout the film is as probing and soulful as ever. (30 mins.)

 

Tuesday October 18 (following WHO IS SONNY ROLLINS?)

SOUND??

DIRECTOR: DICK FONTAINE

GREAT BRITAIN, 1967

Produced by Mike Hodges for the NEW TEMPO series, SOUND?? is a poetic journey from zoo to anechoic chamber in search of the limits of music with blind musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk and composer John Cage. An attempt to make films against conventional televisual rhetoric, NEW TEMPO began as a series of arguments around a single concept (drugs, expendability, celebrity, etc.) between the filmmakers and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, architect Cedric Price, and poet Al Alvarez. These discussions were later realized as films, with SOUND?? the first of Fontaine’s two contributions to the series. (30 mins.)

 

Saturday October 22 at 2 pm

VINICIUS

DIRECTOR: MIGUEL FARIA JR.

BRAZIL, 2005

Brazilian poet, playwright, critic, diplomat, composer, singer, and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980) was the internationally famous lyricist of the bossa nova classics “Garota de Ipanema” (“Girl from Ipanema”) and “Insensatez” (“How Insensitive”) and writer of the play on which the film BLACK ORPHEUS (1959) was based. His life story and musical history are told through archival images combined with interviews with members of his family, friends, partners, and new musical numbers with famous Brazilian singers. (121 mins.)

Sponsored by KMHD Jazz Radio.

 

Saturday October 22 at 4:45 pm

ZANZIBAR MUSIC CLUB

DIRECTOR: PHILIPPE GASNIER, PATRICE NEZAN

FRANCE, 2009

Given the exotic island nation’s place at the crossroads of the spice route, Taarab, the music of Zanzibar, reflects two millennia of cultural exchange between East and West. Shot in gorgeously evocative bright colors with an immediacy that makes you feel like you’re simply there, ZANZIBAR MUSIC CLUB is an invitation to explore a millenary Muslim culture where traditions are transmitted through music—to discover a world fed with Arabic tones, Latin rhythms, Indian melodies, and African drums. (85 mins.)

Sponsored by KBOO Radio.

 

Saturday October 22 at 7 pm

SING YOUR SONG

DIRECTOR: SUZANNE ROSTOCK

US, 2011

SING YOUR SONG blazes through the life of American singer and icon Harry Belafonte. Tracking not simply the arc of his music career but also the impassioned political and social activism that is his true legacy, Rostock weaves a complex, sweeping tale of a man whose life has symbolized so much of America in the 20th century. From McCarthyism to the civil rights movement, from the flush of musical success to the failure of his marriages, this intimate, frank story of a remarkable life provides a stirring call to action for others to follow in its wake. “To call this an epic might seem overblown, but it isn’t just the story of a man, but the story of a country and a century.”—Variety. (104 mins.)

 

Sunday October 23 at 5 pm

CHICO & RITA

DIRECTOR: JAVIER MARISCAL, FERNANDO TRUEBA

SPAIN/GREAT BRITAIN, 2010

Vibrant animation, passionate Latin storytelling, and music from the greatest period of creativity in Cuban-American jazz meld to chronicle the musical romance between Chico, a handsome piano player, and the beautiful Rita, an enchanting singer in 1948 Havana. Traversing the glamorous jazz clubs of New York City, Paris, Hollywood, and Las Vegas, with music orchestrated by Cuban pianist, bandleader, and composer Bebo Valdés, the film also features spirited re-recordings of standards by Nat King Cole, Charlie Parker, Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie, and more, from a range of contemporary singers such as Idania Valdés, Carlos Sarduy, Horacio Hernández, Rolando Luna, Germán Velazco, and Jorge Reyes. (90 mins.)

Sponsored by ASIFA Portland and Miracle Theatre Group.

Comments are closed.