Friday, August 15, 2008

DVD Under the Radar 15/08/08

One Take Volume 1 -
Alma Records' "One Take" series takes a group of jazz masters and throws them in the studio for a spontaneous session with no pre-planning to see what emerges. This was the first CD in the series - featuring Joey DeFrancesco, Guido Basso, Lorne Lofsky and Vito Rezza - and it's now appearing on DVD. The group runs through six jazz standards plus a tribute to Enrico Caruso. The interplay is great to watch as they discover each others' strengths and work through the tunes sans rehearsal, in only one take.

Sainkho NamtchylakFreedom Now (featuring William Parker and Hamid Drake)
A seven octave range, a shaved head, and a musical palette that includes avant-garde jazz and vocal performance, the Tuvan throat signing of her home country, and drum & bass makes Sainkho Namtchylak a unique and individual performer. This is her first DVD and in it she's ably supported by bassist William Parker and drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake. Beautiful stuff for the adventurous.

CJ7 (starring Stephen Chow) –
Stephen Chow draws so much on cartoons and silly comedy that him directing a children's film seemed inevitable. In the film, Chow definitely plays second fiddle to Jiao Xu, the young woman who plays his son in the film. The character follows a typical Chow arc, starting fairly self-centered and becoming a better person by the end of the film. It's a little of a letdown not to have Chow front and center, but with a performance as good as Jiao Xu's, I'm willing to go for the ride.

Films of Lech Majewski - Glass Lips; Garden of Earthly Delights; The Gospel According to Harry; The Roe's Room -

Four reissues this week from Kino Video of Polish filmmaker Lech Majewski's experimental vision of the world. I haven't seen any of them - and if the number of ratings on IMDB are any indication, hardly anyone has - but their descriptions sound fascinating. Majewski seems to work in the areas of the surreal and the absurd with a gift for startling imagery. If I were you - and of course I'm not, but if I were - I'd start with the English-language The Gospel According to Harry, which stars Viggo Mortenson, and work forward from there. But I'm big on chronology and I like Mortenson. Going strictly on their descriptions, his latest film, Glass Lips, which consists of 33 short films strung together into a single film, sounds pretty fascinating as well: "Banished to an asylum, a traumatized young poet relives his tormented childhood in a cascade of wordless images and tableaux." Explore.

Irina Palm - Marianne Faithfull stars as a woman who takes on work in a sex shop to pay for an operation to save the life of her grandson. A story like this can be done with intelligence and class or it can be a sordid mess, and this definitely qualifies as the former. Faithfull brings a gravity to the performance that's riveting and totally believable. Probably has something to do not just with her own troubles in her life, but also with the theatrical nature of some of the performances of her musical career - Kurt Weill is as good a primer for this type of role as anything I can think of in musical theater.

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