All Dolled Up (2005)

Based around lo-fi backstage and onstage video of the Dolls in their heyday playing grungy NY punk clubs, also a local news report. It’s all archival, with plenty of hanging out – scenes and songs fade out abruptly. Primary source footage of artists is inherently interesting but when the cameraperson follows them on a trip to San Francisco, there are whole minutes of aimless filler.

New York Doll (2005)

This one plays more like a standard rock doc – famous talking heads tell us the Dolls were important, then the filmmakers follow bassist Arthur Kane, now working part-time at a Mormon library, en route to the big reunion shows curated by lifelong fan Morrissey. There’s some tension (moments before going onstage Johansen antagonizes Arthur over the church) but largely plays like an advertisement, feel-good story of a forgotten man getting to re-live his rock & roll youth, with a twist ending (Arthur dies of cancer days after the gig). But the most shocking thing in the movie was learning that the golden key society of hotel concierges from The Grand Budapest Hotel really exists.

Personality Crisis: One Night Only (2022)

Like with his George Harrison doc, Scorsese pulls together the previous sources – we see Morrissey bits from the Arthur Kane movie and stage footage from the archival doc. This is built around a live performance in a small club – David admits that his cabaret show is for his friends, and a wider audience wouldn’t understand it, and I didn’t, but the song “Totalitarian State” was good. Between live songs the movie nicely roams across art-related topics: Harry Smith stories, love of opera, song title inspirations. David says “intelligent ridiculousness” appeals to him, and I can get behind that.

Heuermann’s second of three(?) Zorn movies contains some gems. Zorn credits Carl Stalling’s cartoon scores with teaching him new forms. He explains the rules of Cobra to its participants, which would’ve been useful for me to see a year ago. We sit in on a remaster of the Morricone album, and catch JZ’s enlightening interactions with the musicians during a rehearsal.

But the movie is also tediously about making the movie, about Claudia’s struggles to book an interview with Zorn, and questioning what the movie will be and how to piece it together, including footage of audience screenings of scenes we watched earlier. It returns to re-enactments of the director first hearing the Naked City record and getting into this kind of music, but these meta-elements feel like filler, because all we learn about Claudia is she likes Zorn’s music and is making a doc about him… two things that were pretty easily assumed going in.

Feels like an outtakes shuffle of pre- and early-Beatles stories with long lingers on old photos and scraps of George solo songs, then finds its footing as the Beatles start losing theirs, around the 1hr mark as drugs turn to meditation and Ravi Shankar and the gurus enter the picture. As he uses clips from the Get Back sessions and the Concert for Bangladesh, my Beatles movies are starting to eat each other. Conclusions: George was a beautiful man, and Yoko didn’t break up the Beatles – Eric Clapton did.

Jimi Plays Monterey (1967/1986, Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus)

Ten minutes of intro fluff and and opening title painting before the performance starts, but once it gets there, it’s as good as the boomers promised it would be. Lighting the guitar on fire gave us a terrific poster image, didn’t do much else. This was the band’s U.S. debut, having made their career in England.

“Speed painter” Denny Dent:

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1973/1979, Pennebaker)

Unexpectedly, we hear Wendy Carlos music before Bowie. Low-detail blur, the light not high enough to make a proper film. Great singing, sometimes some nice guitar. Fun scene when we see a big guitar solo after Bowie leaves the stage, then rewind to another camera following Bowie through a costume change as the solo plays again. I love the idea of Bowie, and was hoping that blasting this movie through the soundbar and pretending I was at his career-peak concert would help me enjoy the music, but the costumes beat the songs. “White Light/White Heat” was cool at least!

An upsetting movie to watch after Tina’s death. It recounts how she had a bad life with Ike, then divorced him but the press kept saying “haha where’s Ike” so she did an interview to say Ike was abusive, so the media wanted to know “HOW abusive” so she wrote down her life story about the bad times with Ike, so the media wanted her to talk about Ike more, then they made a feature film, and Tina sat at the Venice premiere next to Angela Bassett saying she hasn’t seen the movie and doesn’t want to, and just wants everyone to leave her alone about Ike already. Funny that Tina was initially as unenthused about her signature solo song as I am, complaining that it’s not her kind of music. Barely a glimpse of her superior work in Tommy and Thunderdome.

One-Tenth of a Millimeter Apart (2021, Wong Kar-wai)

Making a Wong film out of outtakes fom other Wong films. It’s a cute idea – pushes its egg-metaphor too much, but gives us some scenes that I honestly can’t recall if/how they existed in the source features since I don’t watch his movies often enough.

Wandering (2021, Tsai Ming-liang)

A woman walks through Tsai’s installation, watching a scene from each of the eight Walker films, alone except when the director appears at the end, transfixed by his own footage of Lee in a bath. A nice introduction and/or culmination to the slow monk project, with some new-to-me scenes, including a non-Lee monk in a white void.

Redemption (2013, Miguel Gomes)

Four sections of archive footage illustrating narrated letters from the past. The end credits is where things get exciting, revealing the narrators and the letter writers (Maren Ade reading Angela Merkel!) then immediately revealing that all the letters were made-up. Per Vadim Rizov in Filmmaker, the letters are by “some of contemporary Europe’s least-liked leaders,” and the end result “a sympathetic but also fundamentally facile experiment.”

Dead Flash (2021, Bertrand Mandico)

A scrapbook for Mandico completists – rushes and backgrounds with a mood-music mixtape. Extended shots of a multiple-stabbed dude, a double-dicked light-up crystal statue, the usual. Then the second half is ape-people as model and photographer (both played by Elina Löwensohn) in split screen with dialogue (“I want you to magnify this dirty memory”).

Fellow Mandico completist Gianni helps spot the source films on lboxd:

Outtakes from previous shorts (Extazus, Niemand, A Rebours and HuyswomansHuyswomans is reproposed integrally) plus a brand-new short film about two anthropomorphic monkeys … the outtakes of Extazus have been released separately in a dvd box-set – Ultra Pulpe et autre chairs – with the title of A Black Sunset Upon a Violet Desert.

bonus shorts from Criterion Channel:

Dream City (1983, Ulysses Jenkins)

Music and theater performances and other assorted stuff, mixed together with muddy sound recording and early video chroma effects.

Black Journal: Alice Coltrane (1970, Stan Lathan)

Short, effective doc portrait on Alice at home and playing music. Beyond a few photographs previously seen, this is now everything I know about Alice.

And we got access to that animation streaming site that I already forgot the name of, and watched two of this year’s oscar-nominated shorts that I already forgot the name of.

The artistic life of Bowie. Good interview bits, ok visuals – Morgen’s free-association clips of computer graphics and classic film clips don’t usually work for me (the Sparks doc was more coherent). Surprisingly the interview segments were better than the concerts, and both have horrible lighting.

Failed folk musician goes decades without realizing his records became a bootleg sensation in South Africa, flies there for massive concerts then returns to his humble Detroit life. “It remains too strange to be true.” Archive footage, some of it just vintage mood stuff, bit of rotoscoping, some fun jump cuts. Repetition or rambling in the interviews is preferable to the dodgy dialogue editing we usually get in these things. This won an oscar (vs. three govt/military stories and an AIDS activism doc) and Rodriguez has now played a bunch of live shows, for which he hopefully got paid, since he’s getting nothing from the oscars or those album sales.

Couldn’t You Wait (2013, Seth Pomeroy)

I finally got over my terror of watching this, thinking it would be too sad. Contains some of the stories I’ve long wanted to hear – Albini recording them at no cost, why/how they changed labels. Pomeroy does a great job editing the live and studio material together, and includes a feature-length “Live Worm” compilation of concert songs. I’m only halfway through the other extras – it’s a treasure trove. “If you cant get into Silkworm then God hates you and you’re an asshole.”

The Concert for Bangladesh (1972, Saul Swimmer)

Continuing my post-Get Back solo Beatle explorations (albums played so far: Ringo x1, John x2, Paul x3 and All Things Must Pass). My 2003 AVI file often looks better than the HD Peter Jackson movie, hmmm. George introduces Ravi Shanker, pleading with the crowd to follow along (it’s “a little more serious than our music”), then tears through some “All Things” hits. Billy Preston and Ringo and Leon Russell get vocal turns. “While My Guitar” and “Here Comes the Sun,” a four-song Bob Dylan feature, then a couple closing numbers. Happy to discover it’s another one of the great concert films.

George, Bob, Leon:

Ravi and company:

This Much I Know to Be True (2022, Andrew Dominik)

Dominik repeats his One More Time With Feeling feat of having each song be visually distinct, maybe more impressive here since he’s got a limited toolkit in a single location and keeps showing us the tools (lights, dolly tracks) yet somehow surprising us within the moment. Another difference is that I already loved “Skeleton Tree” before watching the previous movie, while this one revealed the beauty of “Ghosteen” and “Carnage.”