Some notes I took along the way:

Day 2 opens with them looking thru Beatles fan magazines

Michael L-H is kinda an ass

Cutting between 1966+69 on “Rock & Roll Music” at end of day 4 is great

Mal is round-headed guy who plays anvil on Maxwell’s

We know that it’s magic to spend time with the Beatles, but episode two presses its luck, showing us different views of a flowerpot while John and Paul argue near a hidden mic

Peter Sellers shows up after The Magic Christian sets arrive

Reminiscing on their India trip, discussing the footage, which we get to see

Michael and Glyn are credited with the roof idea

Jackson has overbaked everything since Frighteners

Soon before the concert, John simply sings the setlist, wow

During the concert the movie thinks we want to hear everything the teenaged chinstrap-chewing pigs say, but we’d like to hear the music please

Problems with the crowd interviews on the street: British people are boring, and clearly Beatlemania is over

Beatlemania is back on in our house, though.

Aspirational Post-Beatles Media To-Do List

The Magic Christian (1969)
– Ringo: Beaucoups of Blues (1970)
– George: All Things Must Pass (1970)
– John/Yoko: Plastic Ono Band (1970) + Imagine (1971)
– Paul: McCartney (1970) + Linda/Ram (1971) + Wings/Wild Life (1971)
The Concert for Bangladesh (1972)
Concert for George (2003)
– Beatles Anthology (1995)
– Beatles Love (2006)
Rock and Roll Circus (1968)
How I Won the War (1967)
The Last Waltz (1978)
Jimi Plays Monterey (1967)
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011)

After the Prince movie, I went back to Criterion for more music docs and gave Deep Blues (1992) a shot. Looking for blues guys playing music, but we got the guy from Eurythmics shopping for voodoo stuff in Memphis. Might give it another shot sometime since RL Burnside’s in the cast and Glenn Kenny recommends it, but for now we switched from blues to jazz.

Opening credits over beautiful shots of reflections in wavy water, already a good sign. An outdoor festival, single stage I think. Since it’s mostly in broad daylight, they’re able to shoot audience member antics, which often involve impractical hats, and there’s a boat race happening in the same town in case the editors need a visual shift. Cutaway skits of a portable jazz band traveling around town, in a car, to an amusement park, houses, a rooftop. Just a perfect lesson in how to make a music doc in an engaging way, codirected by fashion photographer Stern and filmmaker Avakian, whose brother George was the fest’s music producer.

The music itself – well, my idea of “jazz” has been warped by last month’s Big Ears fest, so it took some time to get into the 1950’s groove. As with Big Ears, there’s also a non-jazz headliner in Chuck Berry. A toothy, confident scat-singing white woman almost derails it (this was Anita O’Day – apparently John Cameron Mitchell is a fan), but things pick up nicely, culminating with night sets by Louis Armstrong and Summer of Soul fave Mahalia Jackson.

Ethan Hawke appears in none of these movies, rather he was interviewed on Criterion to chat about movies in general and about each of these picks, so I watched every minute of that and then went on a Hawke-approved viewing spree.


The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1968, Les Blank)

Blank is one of my faves because the photography is grainy but good, the songs and stories play out in full, and he cuts the picture to whatever catches his interest. Hopkins is a versatile player. I see Hawke’s point about watching this to really understand the blues. It kinda worked but I’m still not past the “all the songs sound the same” phase. I’ll get back to those Bear Family comps, maybe.


The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972, John Huston)

That makes two in a row set in Texas. Paul Newman goes to the lawless part of the state, brags about being a bank robber, is robbed and nearly killed… Victoria Principal (TV’s Dallas) brings him a gun, he returns to the bar and kills all the men, then instates himself as sheriff and hires the next group of guys to wander in (five failed outlaws) as marshals.

I love that the story is partly narrated by dead men who passed through. Grizzly Adams (our director) isn’t permitted to die in town so he moves on, leaving his bear behind. The ensuing musical montage to an Andy Williams song is better than the Raindrops Keep Falling scene, because it’s about Newman and Principal playing with a bear. The only threat to Newman’s authority is Bad Bob The Albino (Stacy Keach) who is killed immediately, until attorney Roddy McDowall turns out to have been playing the long game, getting elected mayor and turning the tables on the power structure. After 20 years in exile, Bean returns to round up the gang (and grown daughter Jacqueline Bisset who doesn’t seem to mind having been abandoned for two decades) and stage a fight to the death between the wild west old-timers and modern society’s highly flammable oil-well town. Ethan says that everyone now admits the postscript ending is bad, in which Bean’s actress idol Ava Gardner arrives in town too late and only gets to meet Ned Beatty. Roy Bean was a real guy who often shows up fictionalized on screen – he’s been played by Walter Brennan, Andy Griffith, Tom Skerritt, and returning to the legend with a casting promotion, Ned Beatty.


Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson (1976, Robert Altman)

Judge Roy Bean was mostly set in 1890’s, we’re in 1880’s now, with a nightmare font on the opening titles. Sadly, for our second revisionist comedy western we’ve left Texas (set in Wyoming, filmed in Canada) but we’ve still got Paul Newman, now with an aged Dude appearance as a famed cowboy running a wild west show. Major Kevin McCarthy delivers Sitting Bull to the show (interpreter Will Sampson of Cuckoo’s Nest does all the talking) but his role and attitude are mysterious. Meanwhile it’s the usual Altmanny bustle of activity (I’ve missed it), featuring sharpshooter Geraldine Chaplin taking aim at living target John Considine, producer Joel Grey handling a visit by President Cleveland and his new wife (Shelley Duvall!) and I’m afraid I didn’t buy Harvey Keitel, the same year as Taxi Driver, playing a meek flunky. Everyone gets uptight and embarrassed in turn, and in the end, the president refuses to hear Sitting Bull’s requests, and Newman roams his oversized quarters talking to ghosts (predating Secret Honor by eight years). This won (?!) the golden bear in Berlin, against Canoa and Small Change and The Man Who Fell to Earth.

We arrived late and tired on Thursday, skipping our planned first film (Where Are We Headed), instead opting for beer and food at Broadway Brewing, then apples and sausage and coffee at Cafe Berlin the next morning.

Lilas and Shery lead a metal band in Beirut. Formerly a couple, they still rock out together but Lilas (not out to her family) is with a new girl visiting from Syria. Movie looks good, sensitively made. The director says she didn’t set out to make a “rock doc,” but after the band infighting and breakup and makeup and the one gig with sad attendance at a Glastonbury side stage, that’s what she made. Includes footage of the port explosion, which was the focus of another T/F movie (Octopus). Opening band Living Hour played us some mostly-light slowcore.

Opens with Lydia’s kidnapping pervert child abuse story – I appreciate that childhood trauma lasts a couple minutes then we’re straight into NYC punk. But we spend maybe ten minutes on her music career, then follow her around just goofing off. I love how loose it is. I cringed when Richard Kern came up, but he seems kinda normal now. Weird how this movie explains the cycles of sexual abuse better than any scripted film ever has – and unlike those movies, this one’s got Jim Foetus, Donita Sparks, and a cartoon of Lydia pissing in a stairwell.

Speaking of Dance: Meredith Monk (1996 Douglas Rosenberg)

An absolute monologue, MM’s head against black, talking about her personal history and what she’s aiming for in her work. For those of us who don’t know her work and watched this program to find out, it’s boring – but the clips of her actual dance and vocal performance work are neat, aand much more exciting than the couple of CDs I’ve heard.

Meredith invents dabbing:


Max Richter’s Sleep (2019 Natalie Johns)

Los Angeles performance of an all-night composition during which the audience is allowed/encouraged to sleep. Neither composer nor audience speaks very well about what this is or what it means, the filmmaker going for artsy widescreen shots for whatever purpose, making the Meredith Monk doc less pretty but more informative. I slept through the middle section myself, which only seems appropriate. The audience applause after a ten hour performance feels well-earned, and the last 15 minutes is music as underscore while everyone raves about how much they love Max. Apparently the shots with heavy film grain were from previous Sleeps and provided by Richter’s collaborator Yulia Mahr.

The director, in Mubi:

What happens when we begin to dream all together? When we are vulnerable, together? Even as a documentarian of real life, I’d never actually filmed anyone falling asleep in front of the lens before. So one of the biggest challenges of the film would be to make it without disrupting its sleeping audience, who are, in Mahr and Richter’s words, “an extension of the work.”

The Flea of this movie is Jonathan Richman, who attended many VU shows and analyzed their vibrations. A terrifically assembled doc – instead of making me want to listen to the Velvet Underground at all, it made me feel like watching experimental film.

Edgar overusing “funny” stock footage, and it’s all people telling the band’s story chronologically with the music in background. Standard rock doc format, but I knew very little of their background and smiled through the whole thing – wonderful to see their visual history, all the promo stuff and album cover art outtakes.

The only good bit of analysis comes from Flea: “Something that’s always kind of confounded me in popular music is people’s inability to take humor seriously.” Ron says punk felt like an attack on what they were doing. They invented electro dance pop, and entered their current phase with 2002’s Lil Beethoven. The canceled Tati movie is covered, and the Tim Burton, but not the Guy Maddin Bergman – not even a Forbidden Room clip.

Hate-watched this Nightingales documentary on the plane, even though the Sparks doc was right there. Turns out this was made by a popular TV comedian named Stewart Lee, and half the movie (barely) covers the pre-Nightingales band The Prefects, then Nightingales mk I, then the hiatus and singer Robert Lloyd’s solo stuff, then Nightingales mk II. The other half is “hey everyone, it’s me, Stewart Lee, and I’m making this movie, look at me, making a movie.” He also laughs onscreen at his subjects’ quips even more than Scorsese did in Pretend It’s a City. Lee sits in a pub and gets Lloyd to tell a minor incident from his past career, then they repetitively, informally discuss the incident, then cut to someone else who was there at the time saying “oy, that’s not how I remember it,” repeat that formula ten times. Maybe five minutes of good music in the whole movie. Nightingales shared a member with The Fall, were heavily krautrock-inspired, went through a mid-80’s country phase – the band still seems worth checking out, too bad about the movie.

L-R: Pikachu, Lee, Lloyd:

“How do you want to be remembered? The film will leave a record of you.” Lloyd says his songs, which, yeah, are probably gonna outlast the doc. Unconfirmed whether Lee is wearing a GBV shirt in one scene, but I did spot a Waxahatchee poster. It’s perfect that Lee spends the whole movie comparing Lloyd to a King Kong statue that used to stand in the square, then when they track down the statue for an emotional finale, there’s rain on the camera lens. They cover Lloyd’s food writing gig, the fact that he makes more money from horse betting than from the band, and stage a table read of his mid-90’s failed TV pilot – I finally had to skip ahead during this part. When the closing credits hit I was writing down names of people who I’m mad at (turns out both directors have worked with Chris Morris), but the final scene under the credits was nice – a lipsynched music video, the only good scene.