Shirley Clarke's frenetic documentary about multi-talented musician Ornette Coleman.
Shirley Clarke's frenetic documentary about multi-talented musician Ornette Coleman.
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An interesting marriage of subject and style-like Ornette Coleman's music, this is probably (possibly?) a bit of an acquired taste, shot in a stream-of-consciousness style that occasionally leans into stylistic flourishes such as wonky 80s matte lighting, slow motion, and computer effects straight out of reading rainbow that might allow some to dismiss it as not serious, but that, on the other hand, create a fascinating interplay between Ornette's life, his music, and the stories he's sharing with us in the film--a commentary that reminds us just what is possible when it comes to commentary, and how conventional most documentaries are, in spite of themselves.
After making her name by exploring forgotten outsiders, Shirley Clarke turns her camera on an unambiguous success story. I don't use the word "success" lightly - if the movie is to be believed, Coleman spends most of his life in the early 80s surrounded by quasi-sycophantic admirers tripping over themselves to tell him how brilliant he is. One guy at the beginning even calls him a symbol for America's system of free market enterprise (Tex might want to check his math on that one - it's hard for me to think of a less commercial artist than Coleman).
Clarke's filmmaking seems to stretch to fit her subject in Coleman, who did for jazz what Clarke did with film, exploding the…
This documentary helped me put into words the exact reason why I love jazz but can't be bothered to give classical music the time of day. Personally, I always tend to put the performer over the composer. It's not that I think technical proficiency is more important than good songwriting, what makes a true master is of course someone who excels at both, but just that I'm more interested in how an individual interprets and relates a piece of music as opposed to the quality of the construction of said piece. So obviously jazz, with its emphasis on players soloing and improvising, as opposed to classical, with its emphasis (I know, I'm generalizing) on huge faceless ensembles strictly recreating complex…
Fascinating and mostly successful attempt at absorbing an artist's style to pay tribute to him in an entirely different medium. Ornette Coleman's is an acquired taste, and to a layman (that's me, usually) it can sound completely atonal.
Clarke conveys this with an utterly gripping 40-minute sequence that introduces Coleman through his performances at high-toned tribute events and some conversations about topics he finds interesting. At points, she cuts rapidly between Coleman and another image, usually the light pattern that decorates his stage.
The documentary takes a quick turn after that, focusing on talking heads who explain Coleman's greatness. The choice of putting that last, when a typical documentary puts the experts up first, is bold, and it works. The digression into a space flight with superimposed images of Coleman on an exercise cycle... maybe doesn't work as much. But the totality is such a nice departure from a format that can be safe and formulaic.
The performances are of course amazing, and there are fascinating interview snippets throughout, but I found a lot of the interstitial bric-a-brac a bit trying - symbolic recreations of Ornette's childhood, Ornette standing portentously near neon lights, crappy 80s video effects, Ornette flying through space on an exercise bike (OK, that last bit I was cool with). Who am I, though, to begrudge Shirley Clarke of being free with her cinematic expression in a doc about Ornette freaking Coleman of all people? This film feels a bit slight, more a celebration of the artist than a documentary with anything in particular to say about him, but he's an artist worth any celebration you can throw at him and this doc does that fine.
it felt appropriate for today to be one of those cinephile days where you plan on watching one thing, then change your mind a couple times, before finally settling on a documentary you’ve been wanting to check out for a while. I had started something completely different, then an unfortunate reminder of real world events put me in the mood for something completely different, yet in line with what the national mood has felt like for years, but especially in the past few months.
and so it lands on this day...another day, more unrest. another act of violence, chaos, confusion, all attributing to a year that has felt like a continuous global (though uniquely American, “we’re number 1” indeed) downward…
Maratona em honra do centenário da grande Shirley Clarke filme #10.
Se eu estava buscando uma definição para o cinema de Clarke aqui ficou mais claro de maneira quase a não se achar possível, seu cinema éw o exato contraponto do free e avant-garde jazz de Coleman, ao mesmo tempo unindo improvisação com composição inusitada na forma de sua edição. É isso, melhor do que tá não fica, talvez o suprassumo dos filmes sobre jazzistas.
if only all filmmakers knew that films about artists are supposed to represent that artists influence on the world — through the actual filmmaking. anyone else who made this would not have succeeded. John told me this is his favorite Shirley Clarke.
Shirley Clarke strives to cinematically reflect the music of Ornette Coleman to fairly mind-blowing effect and as a result the film manages to be coherent, abstract, poignant and playful in its unorthodox approach to a fascinating individual.
Events flash back, forward and all over the place, but it's a performance with the Fort Worth Philharmonic Orchestra that provides the backbone of the film. Clarke then inserts dramatised interludes of Ornette Coleman during his youth in Fort Worth, archive footage of his performances, fly on the wall moments capturing conversations with friends and then straight forward interviews to camera. Then of course there are the more unusual moments with otherworldly visual effects and scattershot editing that probably do the most to…
Yes! I wish all music documentaries were like this. It gives you a sense of Coleman's music and attitude without being the least bit "educational".
I would have loved to see more footage from the 60s and 70s. Actually I wish there were one of these documentaries for every decade he was active, but I'll take what I can get.
Hadn't heard of Shirley Clarke before this, I'm definitely interested in checking out more of her stuff featured on the Criterion Channel.
Ornette was one of the most innovative musicians on this planet (one of my favorite jazz musicians as well) and Clarke tries to embark on a filmmaking journey similar to Coleman's expressive, freeform playing style. While succeeding in chaos and personality Made in America unfortunately doesn't really own up to the standard of its subject in terms of substance.
Totally niche. It helps a lot I think to be familiar with Ornette Colman's music/philosophy and knowing a little about Clarke's directorial style doest hurt either.
I dug it a lot, it's definitely the perfect marriage of form and content with film getting it's own bit of free jazz treatment. I'm not sure it would be a particularly good introduction to either the artist or the movement but as a document on one of Jazz's absolute masters it's worth seeking out, especially for fans (like myself).
Jazz on film. Felt less like a documentary and more like a music video of mixed tape by one artist.
I’ve heard bits and pieces of free jazz before, but I never really knew what I was listening to. In seeing this documentary about Ornette Coleman I feel that my understanding of it’s place in American culture is better grounded. This particular documentary is directed by Shirley Clarke with a style that seems to be mimicking the free jazz movement. I’m reluctant to try and talk about what free Jazz is only because I’m a neophyte on the subject. I don’t think a documentary film is the most adequate of ways of educating one self with such a defining style of music. Instead I placated myself with just following the mans story and his struggles. He was born in Fort…
Is anyone talking about the last ten minutes? That was the craziest last ten minutes of any documentary I've ever seen and thats not an exaggeration (I also haven't seen that many documentaries)
The type of doc where the movie doesn’t quite live up to the subject. Ornette is one of the greatest artists of all time, difficult to capture by conventional means.
a god among men
Beautiful. It isn’t a linear narrative so much as it is rhizomatic, creating a path through Ornette’s life that shows how the different phases of his art and life interact with each other. It at times feels almost as though you’re watching memories, the way a specific sequence triggers a travel backward through time. The editing is incredible and, above all, it’s a hopeful movie. It treats Ornette with a sort of wide-eyed wonder, fully accepting and believing in his artistic vision, and it allows for his hopefulness as an innovative artist. Some just really incredible sequences in this.
cool but the editing gives me migraine
It finally happened.
I have finally seen a documentary that fully captures the artist BY EMULATING THEIR ART and not doing some stale fucking talking head bullshit.
Shirley Clarke is the same lady who directed the somewhat brilliant, definitely exploitative Portrait of Jason, and she brings that same storm of structural, formal, and editorial innovation to this to capture Ornette Coleman in all his facets flawlessly.
The footage of Ornette from the 60s was great, especially when he’s talking to his son, superdrummer Denardo, but all of this is so, so wonderful.
I also think the little boy they had represent young child Ornette is ADORABLE.
If you love jazz, you have to see this ASAP.
What can a documentary do with an archive? In the traditional style, the documentary seeks to extrapolate meaning from it, whether that be merely chronological, cultural, personal, historical, etc. In Ornette: Made in America, the documentary form interprets the archive. It overlays elusive and indeterminate structures onto footage. Vérité footage from 1968 becomes smashed against a contemporaneous concert against a dramatization against a slightly previous interview. Edits occur so quickly, often jumping between two images, that the duration of scenes feels unnaturally long — the actual rhythm of things becomes unreal. Information is often isolated from other bits of information. Instead of forming a cohesive picture of Ornette, we see repetitions, deferrals, stutters, matches, mismatches, jumps forward and back and…
Ya like jazz?
features one of the most beautiful sequences i have ever seen, as well as some crazy impressive film splicing. my gosh.
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