Each year, the Northwest Film Center sponsors an amazing festival that celebrates music and film, and this year there is the wonderful inclusion of Hitchcock's early silent films accompanied by live performances of Portland musicians. So much music is included, from rock and roll to folk, blues to jazz, soul to funk, and let's not forget punk. Most films screen at the Whitsell Auditorium in the Portland Art Museum with additional screenings at the Mission Theater.
Here is a summary of the first seven days. Within the next week, I will post reviews of "Lisztmania" (UK, 1975), "The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle" (UK, 1975), and "Magical Mystery Tour Revisited" (UK, 2012).
Tonight, Oct. 11, at 6:45 pm, the festival opens with "Muscle Shoals" (US, 2013), the incredible story of an Alabama town that is the heart of the inspirational music of Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, the Staples Singers, and later Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones, and other well-respected musicians. This documentary is a 2013 official selection of the Sundance Film Festival. "There are certain places where there is a feel of energy," the town of Muscle Shoals. Check out this film and learn about one of the important soundtracks of our American lives, the Muscle Shoals Sound.
Then, also tonight, Oct. 11 at 9:00 pm, is "The Punk Singer" (US 2013). This documentary focuses on the lead singer of Bikini Kill and then the band Le Tigre, Kathleen Hanna. She was central in the 1990s riot grrl movement, and was significant as a feminist and an activist. This film premiered at the 2013 SXSW festival, and includes interviews with Joan Jett, Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker, and Kathleen Hanna's husband (and Beastie Boy) Adam Horowitz.
Saturday, Oct. 12, at 2:00 pm features "The Savoy King: Chick Webb and The Music That Changed America" (US, 2012). Baltimore-born Webb, afflicted with many health problems, ran off to New York City as a 16-year-old. Talented beyond belief, he was instrumental in forming a band that played at Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, one of the few places during those times where blacks and whites could socialize and enjoy the developing and unique American "swing." The documentary delves into his history and the music of those extraordinary musical and social times.
Then, at 9:00 pm on Oct. 12, the first of "The Hitchcock 9," accompanied by live music, screens. These nine films are all of Alfred Hitchcock's remaining early silent films, and all nine are scored in this festival and played by local musicians. The first to screen is "Blackmail" (UK, 1929), Hitchcock's very first film. It is about a woman who is blackmailed after she is seen killing a man, whom she killed in self-defense. Musical accompaniment is by 3 Leg Torso and special guest Mark Orton. Special admission is $15 general, and $10 Silver Screen Club members.
On Sun, Oct. 13 at 7:00 pm, Hitchcock's "The Lodger" (UK, 1927) plays. Hitchcock called this his "first true Hitchcock movie." The story is based on a mysterious man who may be responsible for a series of murders. The live music is by David Goldblatt and Superjazzers. Again, special admission: $15 general, $10 Silver Screen Club members.
Also screening on Sunday, Oct. 13 at 7:00 pm, but at The Mission Theater at 1624 NW Glisan, is "This Ain't No Mouse Music!" (US, 2013). This documentary follows Chris Strachwitz, a German immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1947 and fell in love with American folk music and its roots - jazz from New Orleans, American blues, zydeco, Cajun, Tex-Mex and more. He founded Arhoolie Records and brought this authentic music to broader audiences. Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, and others contribute to this story.
"Charles Lloyd: Arrows into Infinity" (US, 2012) screens Monday, Oct. 13 at 7:00 pm, also at the Mission Theater at 1624 NW Glisan. What happened to Charles Lloyd, a popular jazz musician of the 1960s, after "Forest Flower" became a crossover hit? He left the limelight and lived in seclusion at Big Sur. This film explores why, what he did, and how he returned. This film is co-directed by his wife Dorothy Darr, who is also a painter. This documentary explores his collaborations with The Beach Boys, Charles Bukowski and others. Interviews are included from Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, and Jason Moran. Dorothy Darr will be at the theater to introduce the film.
At 7:00 pm on Tuesday, Oct. 15, "Sing Me the Songs that Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle" (US, 2012) screens. This Canadian folk singer, who died in 2010, is the mother of musicians Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright. Lian Luson, the director of "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man," put together this documentary using home movie footage, family interviews, and concert footage. It includes interviews with Jimmy Fallon, Emmylou Harris, and Norah Jones.
Imagine "Magical Mystery Tour Revisited" (UK 2012) all these years later! When released in 1967, the film had mostly negative reviews. How does a look at this film 46 years later affect one's perceptions of it, and the times in which it was released? For those old enough to remember this controversy, as well as fans of the band, be sure to catch this film. It includes interviews with the remaining Beatles along with Peter Fonda, Terry Gilliam, Martin Scorsese, and others. It screens at the Mission Theater at 1624 NW Glisan on Wed, Oct. 16 at 7:00 pm.
Also on Oct. 16, but at 8:00 pm, is Hitchcock's "The Farmer's Wife" (UK, 1928), the story of a widowed farmer who is trying to find a new wife with the help of his housekeeper. It has comical elements, but is shot as a thriller. The musical accompaniment is by Reed Wallsmith with Battle Hymns and Gardens. Like the other "Hitchcock 9," costs are $15 for general admission or $10 for Silver Screen Club members.
Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 8:30 pm, is a special night for Portlanders. "Made in Portland: Selections from the Portland Music Video Festival" features the collaborations between the musicians and filmmakers of Portland and other parts of the country. PMVF director Dustin Morrow put together this 80-minute program that highlights videos from this year's festival. It includes videos by Portland filmmakers Stefan Nadelman, Alicia J. Rose, and Daniel Fickle. There is music by the Portland bands Mean Jeans, Sallie Ford, Lost Lander, and the Portland Cello Project. And more! This special program is screening at the Mission Theater at 1624 NW Glisan.
"The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle" (UK, 1980) screens on Thursday, Oct. 17 at 7:00 pm. Directed by Julien Temple ("Absolute Beginners"), this is a hilarious mock documentary about the Sex Pistols from the point of view of Malcolm McLaren, the band's manager. It includes live footage of the Pistols along with animation. It spoofs McLaren's arrogant view that he was the creative force in the band and the reason for its success.
Also on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 9:00 pm is Ken Russell's "Lisztomania" (UK, 1975), a peculiar look at the life of Franz Liszt (Roger Daltrey) as a pop star of his time, including screaming female fans and serial romances. Ringo Starr is the pope, and Liszt's friend Richard Wagner (Paul Nicholas) is the commander of an army of children. There's even a Nazi Frankenstein in this bizarre film that came out a year after Russell's "Tommy."
As you can see, then, the first week of the Reel Music Festival 31 offers hilarity, drama, insight into important but unknown gems of the music world, and a look at the local film and video scene. Most screenings are at the Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Avenue, but several are at the Mission Theater (1624 NW Glisan), as noted.
*Ticket prices vary. For films without the live music, tickets range from $6 to $9 and can be purchased at the theaters a half hour prior to screening times or online at the website for the Northwest Film Center.
*A book of ten tickets can be purchased online for $50.
*A series pass is available for $95 (or $50 for Silver Screen Club Members) and includes admission to any Hitchcock 9 film screening.
*A single ticket to any of the Hitchcock 9 films is $15 (or $10 for Silver Screen Club Members).
Support for this festival comes from Music Millennium, Willamette Week, Oregon Music News, KINK.fm, MusicFestNW, All Classical Portland, KIND Healthy Snacks, KZME, Walker, KMHD, PDX Pipeline, Yelp!, Portland Radio Project, and PosterChild McMenamins. In addition, there are individual sponsors for some of the films, including Day & Koch, LLP, and the Portland Jazz Festival. Enjoy!