Wednesday, 13 April 2011
Jazz on Film
As part of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, from 4 to 13 June the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) presents Jazz on Film. From the frenetic drum rhythms of a Korean shaman to the modernist doodles of a vanguard animation studio to one of the 20th century's most influential musicians, the program celebrates the unexpected twists and turns of jazz when it joins forces with the moving image.
Chico & Rita
In its Australian premiere, Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way (2010) pays tribute to one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century, Dave Brubeck. A film made to honour the jazz master on his 90th birthday, the documentary explores Brubeck's formative years before examining the impact of his ground breaking 1959 album, Time Out, celebrated for its use of unusual time signatures.
Directed by Bruce Ricker, the film includes interviews with Bill Cosby, George Lucas, Yo Yo Ma and executive producer Clint Eastwood. It also includes footage of Dave Brubeck performing at the legendary Newport Jazz Festival as well as previously unreleased archival film and photographs.
A country known for its vibrant Jazz scene, Cuba's rich cultural and musical history is brought to life in the animated feature film Chico & Rita (2010). Scored by Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés, the soundtrack also includes music from Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie, and Freedy Cole.
Set in 1948 at a Havana nightclub, the ambitious jazz pianist and serial womaniser Chico sets his eye on the accomplished and beautiful songstress Rita. Their tumultuous relationship is captured through key moments in jazz history (referencing Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Latin percussionist Chano Pozo) as Chico and Rita travel from Havana to New York and Las Vegas, experiencing career and relationship highs and lows.
In Intangible Asset No. 82 (2009), documentary filmmaker Emma Franz traces the steps of Australian drummer, Simon Barker, as he makes his 17th trip to South Korea in the hope of tracking down Korean shaman, Kim Seok Chul. After hearing the shaman's intricate drumming on a rare recording, Barker is convinced he has heard one of the world's finest improvisers and sets out to meet and learn from the man that South Korea has formally declared its 82nd Intangible Asset.
Hailed by multi-Grammy Award winner Yo Yo Ma as "a profound and moving film," Barker faces many obstacles during his search but his journey is ultimately one of incredible spiritual and emotional depth. Exploring music's ability to inspire and transform, Intangible Asset No.82 was highly acclaimed by critics winning Best Documentary at the 2009 Durban International Film Festival and a 2009 AFI Award for Best Sound in Documentary.
Directed by Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and sound-tracked by free Jazz master Don Cherry is the 1973 film The Holy Mountain. Jodorowsky himself stars as a thieving alchemist seeking spiritual enlightenment while journeying to the top of the holy mountain. Along the way he's joined by a team of disciples symbolising each of the planets in the solar system, each with their own unique story to tell.
A film championed by Dennis Hopper and Marilyn Manson, The Holy Mountain holds a special place in cult film history. Featuring frogs in armour, crucifixes made from painted bread and lizards re-enacting the conquest of Mexico, Jodorowsky claims his spiritual adviser encouraged him to take LSD for research purposes during pre-production.
From the exhibition Jazz Score, curated by New York's Museum of Modern Art, comes a selection of short films in Animated Jazz Shorts from the Hubley Studio. Featuring the works of pioneering animators John and Faith Hubley, who began their careers at Disney and worked within the strict confines of the Hollywood studio system before breaking away and setting up Storyboard Studios (now The Hubley Studio) in 1955.
Taking a more liberal and unconventional approach to animation, they developed a distinctive style that saw their characters change shape, size or colour at a whim. Collaborating with some of the biggest names in jazz including Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald, the Hubley's highly stylised animations evoked the work of modernist painters such as Picasso, Mirò and Mattisse.
ACMI Film Programmer Spiro Economopoulos says, "This year's Jazz on Film program celebrates the unexpected places that these two ever evolving mediums, when brought together, can take the viewer - these are films that will intrigue, entertain and inspire audiences."
Praise for Dave Brubeck: In his own Sweet Way:
"...an affectionate distillation of his life, times and music." - Lucy Mangan, The Guardian (UK)
Praise for Chico & Rita:
"One of the best fictional films ever made about jazz." - Gary Giddins, Film Comment
Praise for Intangible Asset No.82:
"[Intangible Asset No. 82] blew my mind away. It takes the viewers on the journey, involving them more and more. I found it quite fabulous, moving and unexpected." - Paul LePetit, The Sunday Telegraph (AU)
Praise for The Holy Mountain:
".a dazzling, rambling, often incoherent satire on consumerism, militarism and the exploitation of third world cultures by the West. It unfurls like a hallucinogenic daydream." - Matt Zoller Seitz, The New York Times
As part of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, Jazz on Film screens at ACMI at Federation Square in Melbourne from 4 to 13 June, 2011. For program information and session times please visit www.acmi.net.au
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