3 posts categorized "Music"

May 01, 2018


A-poem-is-a-naked-personLes Blank’s mind-bending filmic document of music legend Leon Russell is a rare anthropological social study wrapped in the post-Watergate culture of [roughly] 1973 Oklahoma. Not one to distance himself from interacting fully with the people around him, Blank creates a living and breathing document that is at once beautiful, dirty, inspiring, and cynical.

Scantily clad hippie chicks, river people, locals, and members of Leon Russell’s band receive ample screentime between Russell’s energetic concerts, recording sessions, and interviews. Jim Franklin, the artist hired to decorate Russell’s swimming pool, provides sharp social commentary though his surreal painting and in an especially gripping scene involving his pet boa constrictor and a baby chicken.

Leon Russell

Criterion’s 2K digital restoration reveals the magic in Les Blank’s free-form approach to his subject matter. Although the film’s producers (Leon Russell and Denny Cordell) disapproved of Blank’s determinedly cinema vérité movie so much that they refused to release it, “A Poem Is A Naked Person” is a one-of-a kind masterpiece that draws the viewer into its wild musically-influenced ride.

Leon Russell

Not only is Leon Russell’s legacy as one of American music’s most vibrant composers and performers savored here, so too is Les Blank’s intuitive genius as a filmmaker of grit, soul, and heart. This is one artistic historic filmic record that stands. Dig baby, dig. 

Poem is Naked

Not rated. 90 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves) 

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June 18, 2011


Passione As realized though its emotionally charged music, John Turturro's soulful cinematic celebration of young and old Neapolitan culture is an energetic labor of love that intoxicates. Sexy, charismatic, and imbued with a warts-and-all sensibility, "Passione" presents a series of live music performance set pieces staged in public places throughout the Italian city of Naples. Pietra Montecorvino, Angela Luce, Raiz, Peppe Barra, and Max Casella are a few of the local musicians who contribute haunting storytelling songs indigenous to the town situated between two volcanoes. The soundtrack is powerful. Polyrhythms and soaring melodies carry you away. Dancers move with an unbridled sensuality. Lust drips with every hypnotic beat.

Turturro narrates and appears on screen periodically as a historical tour guide around a city that means a lot to him. His overflowing excitement about Naples is contagious. The actor-turned-filmmaker tells us, "There are places you go and once is enough. Then, there's Napoli." You couldn't hope for a better immersive armchair vacation to "one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world." If you want passion, "Passione" has plenty to share.

Rated. 90 mins. (A) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)

January 17, 2008


Runnin' down a dreamTo celebrate the 30th anniversary of his life in rock ‘n’ roll, Tom Petty proposed to director Peter Bogdanovich ("Paper Moon") that he make a definitive documentary covering the history of the band. The result is a comprehensive account of Petty’s significant rise in music from humble beginnings in Gainesville, Florida where his first band Mudcrutch developed the sound that would get the band signed to a record label albeit under the singer/songwriter’s name.

With full access to Petty’s personal archives and interviews with Petty and members of his mostly loyal band, Bogdanovich combines live concert footage to give a candid understanding of Petty as a performer and a creative artist. Of special interest is footage of Petty and his band during their two-year stint as Bob Dylan’s backing band, and Petty’s collaboration with the Traveling Wilburys that included Roy Orbison and George Harrison.

Tom Petty

Although frequently taken for granted, Tom Petty has had more hits than Bruce Springsteen and stands as one of America’s finest rock ‘n’ roll stars. This movie is like ice cream; you just can’t get enough. The film premiered at the 2007 New York Film Festival where it drew an admiring crowd of critics.

Not Rated, 238 mins. (A) (Five Stars)

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