MARTIN SCORSESE PRESENTS THE BLUES
Executive producer Martin Scorsese presents a series of seven films on the blues, six of which (without the Clint Eastwood directed film) are released in Australia in cinemas prior to a DVD release, and in conjunction with a 5-disc CD collection containing 116 tracks. Each film is directed by a different filmmaker, taking their own slant on the blues and its history, through the many great artists who have cemented the traditions of the blues. Not merely historical overviews or straight documentaries of the blues, these films aim to celebrate and promote the diverse impressions and influences blues music has exerted on artistic and musical forms of expression around the world.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It was about 2 am when I lay down on the floor on a blanket in my friend's tiny flat in outer London, and he played me some John Lee Hooker. I was 17 and I was hooked. The blues 'came to git me' and they've done git me ever since. So I'm writing with bias, as a lover of the blues, keen to dig into its deep melancholy at the same time as into its jive with life. The blues is what you want it to be; we all hear the same music, but it's what only you yourself feel. And that can be up, down, sideways or out.
What this historic series of films demonstrates beyond doubt is the diversity of the blues, with a musical and emotional thread that links it all together: personal experience, private pain, and sheer musical pleasure. Aching with longing for freedom, for love, for private peace, or shouting for sheer joy, it's all recognisable as the highs and lows of human experience.
And don't think it's all American: Mike Figgis delves into the UK blues scene (Red White and Blues), with some rare footage that is riveting.
Nor should you think these films are all much the same, except for the music. Wim Wenders' film, for example, is narrated by Laurence Fishburne, and begins with the launch of Voyager in 1977 and space footage. The link? The Voyager's sound recording of messages and music from earth - including the 1927 recording of Blind Willie Johnson singing Dark Was the Night.
Often raw, sometimes lyrical and always engaging, the films not only document the blues, they each capture essential aspects of why the music, how the music and what the music means. Adding meaning to the music are the real lives, the jokes, the anecdotes and the tragedies of the musicians who create this music. That's what reaches us.
Archival footage and contemporary material fuse into a seminal experience. As Martin Scorsese rightly says of this collection, "If you already know the blues, then maybe these selections will give you a reason to go back to it. And if you've never heard the blues, and you're coming across it for the first time, I can promise you this: Your life is about to change for the better."
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MARTIN SCORSESE PRESENTS THE BLUES (G/PG/M)
CAST: Features dozens of blues artists from John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Ali Farka Toure, Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, B B King, Howlin' Wolf, Blind Willie Johnson etc etc to Bo Diddley, Lucinda Williams and Bessie Smith etc etc
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese (Feel Like Going Home), Wim Wenders (The Soul of a Man), Mike Figgis (Red White and Blues), Marc Levin (Godfathers and Sons), Richard Pearce The Road to Memphis), Charles Burnett (Warming by the Devil's Fire)
RUNNING TIME: 85 - 95 minutes each (approx)
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney May 13; Melbourne June 10; Brisbane July 8, Adelaide July 22; Perth tba; followed by regional dates through 2004.