Daily Archives: February 13, 2018

Eleven Treasures of Jazz Performance on DVD

Commissioned and published by DVD Beaver in 2007. Last year [2015], Ehsan Khoshbakht and I put together sidebar for Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Italy, “Jazz Goes to the Movies,” and then a reconfigured version of this a few months later at the Festival on Wheels in Ankara, Turkey, which led both of us to revisit many of these titles and releases.  — J.R.

blackandtan

DudleyMurphybook

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of jazz films — documentary records of particular jazz performances and narrative films that incorporate jazz in some fashion, in their soundtrack scores and/or in their stories. But in some cases, identifying which films belong in which category is simply a matter of personal taste. Consider, for instance, Black and Tan and St. Louis Blues, two landmark jazz shorts directed in 1929 by Dudley Murphy —- a fascinating figure who straddled the avant-garde and the mainstream, having both collaborated with Fernand Léger on Ballet mécanique and Paul Robeson on The Emperor Jones and directed several Hollywood pictures, and who’s been receiving some belated recognition lately thanks to Susan B. Delson’s excellent biography, Dudley Murphy: Hollywood’s Wild Card (University of Minnesota Press, 2006). I would argue that Black and Tan, which stars Duke Ellington, is important chiefly as a narrative film, whereas St.Read more »

Looking Back in Anger [STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH]

From the Chicago Reader (February 27, 2004).

On February 12, 2018, Ken Jacobs sent me the following email:

Dear Jonathan,

I first came upon writing on STAR SPANGLED TO DEATH a week ago.  Sorry.
Appreciate what you had to say except, naturally, for your take on my Muslim comment.  So I must’ve failed to make clear my despising of all religions with their bloody track records.  I go so far as to consider the to-do about Nazis overblown: a momentary political organization that, employing Ford up-to-date industrial methods, accomplished the actual near-fulfillment/”final solution” to 2 000 years of strenuous Christian degradation, torture and outright slaughter of Jews.  “Race” had just been invented maybe a century earlier but murdering Jews was an enduring Christian project.  (Nor were Nazis killing any other “race”.)  A fact to remember about WW2: Christians murdered Jews.  A land war coupled to a religious “war” and the war they were allowed to win by USA as long as they could keep costing the Soviets.  Don’t get me started….
I’m remembering one line in the film about “a bedtime story gone amok”.  That is my take on these force-fed beliefs given helpless children wired up to believe, needing to believe if they’re to survive (“no, you can’t run into traffic”).  

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