I’d been wondering, from the vast universe of books and music, which to discuss next when I saw this great movie. First let’s start with music. An experience I had as a promoter, one that adds excitement to the work, is bringing in artists you have never even seen live. In fact, sometimes, in that pre-internet time, I hadn’t even heard their records. Now YouTube has everything, for free. Anyways, it adds a bit of a gamble, an incipient addiction I never fully engaged in, gambling that is. Occasionally, you are truly rewarded. Mose Allison was one such act.
Later, I realized this was a common feeling among promoters and club owners everywhere, this reverence for Mose. I didn’t want to pay what his agent was asking, knowing the date would lose money, and eventually the agent relented and I got a date. I was in Northern Michigan and the scene was young and I had a budget to follow. One aspect of the budget was I did want to rent a top notch piano for him. I walked in the backdoor as Mose was doing a sound check, and he looked up, I pointed at the piano and mouthed, “Is that ok?” and, not breaking stride, playing away, he said, in impeccable hipster, “Immaculate baby”. Maybe you had to be there, but his presence, quiet yet really powerful, was truly and authentically too cool for school. The theatre held 280 and I had two shows. If I remember correctly the first show had over 100 attend but the second only 60 or so. Mose played 2 hours, for each show. That’s when you get to the character of an artist. He could have shorted the second set but the people who did pay and attend are fans and he gave them a full-out night. Lest I state the obvious, that’s a bit over 4 hours of music not to count the earlier sound check of about an hour. And he was so good! He slayed, he killed, he laid them out in the aisles! Who woulda guessed? And then he hung with us late into the night. And this is a witty, witty social commentator and satirist woven throughout superb musical artistry. If you don’t know Mose, it’s possibly because his records never fully captured his grace-filled power. That’s a challenge for some artists. And, of course, corporate radio never played his music, truth teller that he is. And at 86, he’s recently retired from the road. So you can’t see him live anymore. I recommend his records highly! So where’s that leave us on the movie front?
Words and Pictures, with Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, has some bluster, but it also has some of that tender power in it. I love all kinds of movies–gangster, crooked cops, samurai, b sci-fi, comedies of all stripes, action-adventure, you-name-it. The ones that are nearest and dearest now are the quieter tender movies. That is where life really resides, in the splendor of a bird’s song and the beauty of a sun rise. Tender Mercies, Fearless w/ Jeff Bridges, Resurrection (from the 70’s-Ellen Burstyn), Breaking Away, Local Hero, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Philomena, Hellboy (hey-it’s a love story), The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Intouchables, Never Cry Wolf, Wonder Boys, King of Hearts, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and many more.
The thing about movies is they are fun, they entertain, which I want. And yet…..to me, it’s more important, that art illuminates in ways that expand the Mind’s ability to understand that straight linear thought can’t. That’s what art offers us, and what W & P discusses. And what it does, over a number of topics that are (mostly) successfully woven together. And I just love that! Oh yeah, and by the way, an alcoholic enters recovery. And I really love that! So it’s win-win and then more wins! I’ve said enough, I’m going to leave it at that. The movie has my synapses firing taking me beyond my capacity to critique. I will say it does do the best job I have seen yet of explaining the drawbacks of our smartphone/iPad/social media tech world. It’s not perfect, most movies aren’t, but I hope you enjoy it.