Tonight, Portland’s Reel Music Festival 31 has 4 - count them - 4 amazing offerings, including a double-feature of sorts, a look at an inspirational club from South Central LA, and another Hitchcock silent film accompanied by local musicians. Plus, the next week brings us The National, a local animator, and so many other incredible films that honor music.
At the Mission Theater, “Approximately Nels Cline” (US, 2013) screens tonight, October 18, at 6:30 pm. This short features Nels Cline, lead guitarist of Wilco, along with the Nels Cline Singers’ Scott Amendola and Devin Hoff, and special guests Carla Kihlstedt, Ron Miles, Yuka Honda, Ben Goldberg, and Matthias Bossi. Check out the beautiful blend of vocal and instrumental harmonics in the trailer (to the left of this article).
Following this short, at 7:15 pm tonight, is “Born in Chicago,” (US, 2013), showing how rock and roll included heart and soul as musicians like Paul Butterfield and Steve Miller visited the South Side clubs in the 1960s and absorbed the music of the legendary blues musicians like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy (coming to Portland’s Roseland theater with the amazing young artist Quinn Sullivan on November 2). The amalgamation of styles showed up, of course, in the music of Canned Heat and Janis Joplin. You’ll see Dylan, Keith Richards, Eric Burden, Jack White and others in this incredible look at Chicago’s contribution to electrified blues and rock-and-roll.
Both "Approximately Nels Cline” and “Born in Chicago” can be seen for the price of one ticket (the $6 to $9 range).
Following this double-feature at the Mission Theater (and requiring a separate admission) tonight at 9:00 pm is “Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn” (US, 2011), a look at a South Central LA blues club that was opened from 1957 until 2007. This legendary club was another place to catch the classic blues musicians, from BB King to T-Bone Walker. So many musicians,from Ray Bailey to Keb’ Mo’, reminisce on the importance of this club, not only influencing the development of the blues but bringing this classically American form of music to an appreciative audience.
While jazz and blues are being celebrated at the Mission Theater tonight, at the Whitsell at 8:00 pm another silent Hitchcock film is screening, “The Ring” (UK, 1927). In this film, the ring refers to both a boxing ring and a wedding ring. There is a love triangle in a fairground setting, and two of the three are boxers. When you watch this early film of Hitchcock, you will see the beginnings of his cinematic stylings that appeared in his later more developed films. Tara Jane O’Neil is providing the live musical accompaniment to “The Ring.”
Tomorrow, October 19, offers 5 incredible selections, from jazz to funk, rock to the music of Brazil.
Beginning at 3:00 pm at the Mission Theater, “Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker” (Norway, 1989) plays. He is one of my favorite jazz musicians, so I can’t recommend this film more highly. It covers Parker’s life from his early years in Kansas City, his successes in New York and on the West Coast, and his later creative years before his untimely young death. He was influenced by the greats (Count Basie, Buster Smith), and also influential to other incredible musicians (Dizzy Gillespie, John Lewis). Parker collaborated with other stars, like Chet Baker and Thelonius Monk, and one can only wonder about the music we lost with his death in his mid-30s. I recommend that those who have not seen Clint Eastwood’s “Bird” (US, 1988), featuring Forest Whitaker as Charlie Parker. This film is sponsored by Sponsored by KMHD.
Also at the Mission Theater on October 19, but at 7:00 pm, is “Finding the Funk” (US, 2013). My favorite funk (also rock and soul) band was Sly and the Family Stone. In fact, I have to attach a link to them from Woodstock that has a special meaning to me. Here is the link. Anyway, “Finding the Funk” shows how this colorful joyous music developed from jazz and the influences of James Brown, and then went on to become a style all its own. Can you NOT tap your foot while watching this film?
Sat, October 19 at 4:30 pm at the Whitsell, one can see “Songs,” (Brazil, 2012), a film that features people from Cariacas in Rio de Janeiro. Each person talks about his or her favorite song and then sings it to the camera. This documentary shows how significant music is in the life of people and how - at times - only music can express what’s going on inside people’s hearts and souls.
Then, the same night at 8:30 at the Mission Theater, it’s back to soul and the blues. In “Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker” (US, 2013), the piano great James Booker is featured. Dr. John called him “the best black, gay, one-eyed, junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.” Step into New Orleans and watch and listen to this documentary about a man who offered, in his own words, “old soul with new wrinkles.”
Over at the Whitsell, you can enjoy music and a look at The National. Tom Berninger, band member, brother of lead singer Matt Berninger, and director of this documentary, “Mistaken for Strangers” (US, 2013), introduces his film Saturday evening, Oct. 19, at 7:00 pm. This film is a behind-the-scenes look at the band from a true insider. For anyone who just saw them perform at Edgefield this past September 21 (great show!), here’s another chance to catch the band in an up-close-and-personal way. Enjoy!
At the Whitsell on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 7:00 pm, catch another Hitchcock silent film. Watching Hitchcock’s “Downhill” (UK, 1927) makes one really appreciate those who restore old films. This classic shows how Hitchcock was a true visionary in his early filmmaking. His shooting style creates a sense of dread, from his use of close-ups, super imposed shots, high contrast black-and-white imagery, but then also the use of low light and blurred shots. Live musical accompaniment is by Gideon Freudmann.
Portland musician, animator and filmmaker Alexis Gideon will introduce at the Whitsell his own work “Video Musics III: Floating Oceans” (US, 2012) on Monday, Oct. 21 at 7:00 pm. This creative work centers on a dinner party, and is filled with amazing stop-motion animation, clever use of sounds and music, and amazing synchronization of movement and beats. Check out this trailer on Vimeo. I have done a tiny bit of stop-motion work so I am incredibly impressed with this piece of art and all of the time-consuming work and brilliance that went into it.
At the Mission Theater, on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 7:00 pm, see “Brothers Hypnotic” (US, 2013). Again we are visiting Chicago’s South Side. My first reaction about these brothers is “Wow.” This trailer gives a hint about why. Other than in the Marsalis family, I am unaware of any family with such an abundance of creativity. Their father is jazz musician Phil Cohran, so there’s something to be said about a musical gene, isn’t there? I would love to see them perform live, and this documentary, following the brothers from their early years til now, is the next best thing.
At the Whitsell on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 7:00 pm is “The Great Flood” (US, 2012), a story that dates back to a terrible flooding of the Mississippi River in 1927. 27,000 square miles along this river were flooded. Would one think that a natural disaster would result in the development of early blues, R&B, rock and jazz? This film blends archival film with guitarist Bill Frisell’s music to take us right to the disaster and see its effects on the lands and the people.
At the Mission Theater at 9:00 pm also on Tuesday, Oct. 22 is “Mean Streets” (US, 1972). Scorsese’s film in the Reel Music Festival? Yes. This film not only brought more attention to De Niro, Keitel and Scorsese, it also had a great soundtrack, including Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Rolling Stones), Be My Baby (The Ronettes), I Met Him On A Sunday (The Shirelles), and I Looked Away (Eric Clapton) - along with some wonderful Italian classical music. So, check it out at listen for the variety of tunes that are used to supplement this drama.
Finally, at the Whitsell on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 8:00 pm check out Hitchcock’s “Champagne” (UK, 1928). This is another early Hitchcock silent film, a comedy of sorts. The story centers on a frivolous young woman from a millionaire family. Her father wants to teach her a lesson so he tells her he’s gone bankrupt, thinking it will change her lifestyle as a flapper. There are interesting camera techniques, including a shot through the bottom of a champagne glass and the use of swaying camera movements that once again show Hitchcock’s early creative ideas as a filmmaker. Live music of The Bill Marsh Ensemble accompanies this film.
As you can see, then, this second week of the Reel Music Festival 31 (through October 22) offers drama, comedy, history, animation, incredible musical documentaries, and several introductions of films by the filmmakers themselves. Next week, I will review the final 3 films (screening Oct. 25-27) - all Hitchcock films accompanied by live local musicians.
As noted above, 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!
Sources: Northwest Film Center website