Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Film festival includes music-related movies

The 17th annual St. Louis International Film Festival, which begins this Thursday, November 13 and continues through Sunday, November 23, will feature St. Louis premieres of a number of recent music-related movies as well as an historic silent film with live musical accompaniment.

The fest's busiest day for cinema related to jazz and creative music looks to be next Sunday, November 16. At 3:00 p.m. that day at the St. Louis Art Museum Auditorium, the festival will screen The Inferno, a silent Italian film from 1911, with live musical accompaniment by Semi-Acoustic Noise Ensemble (S.A.N.E). It's the first full-length Italian film ever made, and is loosely based on Dante’s epic; this version was restored in 2004.

This event is co-sponsored with New Music Circle and represents the 22nd installment of the organization's Circle/Cinema series of films with live music. Longtime NMC board member and analog synth wizard/guitarist/bassist Mike Murphy is one of the principals in S.A.N.E., along with multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter tory z. starbuck (who, like e.e. cummings, prefers the lower case); starbuck's muse/cohort Venus Slick on synths; plus a couple of musicians I don't know, J. Bruce McLaughlin and Tony Engelhardt. Murphy, starbuck et al have done this sort of thing a number of times before, and I'd expect them to cook up something interesting for this outing, too.

(Full disclosure: While working as administrator for New Music Circle in the 1990s, I co-conceived the Circle/Cinema series, handled production chores for the first several installments, and also played keyboards in a couple of them. I've also worked with Murphy on several projects.)

At 7:00 p.m. that evening, the festival will show Throw Down Your Heart at Webster University's Winifred Moore Auditorium. The movie documents banjo player Bela Fleck's trip through Africa to explore the roots of his instrument and record an album. As mentioned in this previous post, Fleck will be bringing some of the musicians featured in the film to St. Louis in April for a concert at The Sheldon.

Then at 9:30 p.m. at the Tivoli in University City, it's Martino Unstrung, in which "neuropsychologist and author Paul Broks travels America in search of the soul of legendary jazz guitarist Pat Martino, who was brutally silenced by memory-stripping brain surgery to remove a tumor. Through the remarkable story of Martino’s difficult ascent from the depths of amnesia to the peak of artistry, Broks explores the nature of memory, self, creativity and the brain systems underlying personal identity, making some ground-breaking discoveries on the way."

To find out more about Martino Unstrung, you can check out the trailer in the embedded video window below, and a recent package of related stories from AllAboutJazz.com, including interviews with Martino, Broks and director Ian Knox, and a review of the DVD. As noted here, Martino will be in St. Louis February 18-21 to perform at Jazz at the Bistro.

In chronological order, the festival's other music-related films include:

12:00 p.m., Saturday, November 15 at the Tivoli
Song Sung Blue
, which tells "the inspiring and ultimately tragic love story of Lightning & Thunder, Mike and Claire Sardina, a Milwaukee husband-and-wife singing duo who pay tribute to the music of Neil Diamond."

4:30 p.m., Sunday, November 16 at the Tivoli
Number One With A Bullet
, which "explores the interrelationships between guns,poverty, drugs, hip-hop culture and cultural violence" via interviews with "record-company insiders, gun-shop owners, drug dealers, doctors, urban-community members and rap stars."

4:30 p.m., Tuesday, November 18 at Plaza Frontenac
Opera Jawa, an "all-dancing, all-singing gamelan musical epic" based on the Hindu epic “The Ramayana.” (This film will be shown again at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, November 19 at Plaza Frontenac.)

5:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 18 at the Tivoli
How it is with Phooie, "an intensely personal portrait" of Phil “Phooie” Steinberg, a 35-year veteran of the music industry who was forced to close his longtime record store, the Disc Connection, due to radical changes in the music business.

9:30 p.m., Tuesday, November 18 at the Tivoli
The Wrecking Crew, a documentary about the group of Los Angeles studio musicians who worked on recordings by producer Phil Spector and artists including the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, Frank Sinatra, the Monkees and countless others, performing on more No. 1 singles than the Beatles.

7:15 p.m., Wednesday November 19 at the Tivoli
Agile, Mobile, Hostile: A Year With Andre Williams, which deals with the life and personal troubles of R&B singer/songwriter Andre Williams, who's written and recorded a number of hits but also has struggled with "addiction, poverty, homelessness and the legal system."

1:00 p.m., Saturday, November 22 at the Tivoli
Summer Sun, Winter Moon, which was co-commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and documents the collaboration between composer Rob Kapilow and Darrell Robes Kipp, a Blackfeet Indian poet, on a symphony inspired by the Lewis and Clark expedition.

5:30 p.m., Saturday, November 22 at the Tivoli
As Slow as Possible, the story of a man slowly going blind from a chronic disease who travels from Canada to Halberstadt, Germany to hear the first note change in a 639-year-long automated organ performance of the John Cage composition “As Slow As Possible.”

For a complete festival schedule, see the SLIFF Web site.

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