Artists' Television Access

ATA @ SFPL: Mingus (screening at Noe Valley Library)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 6:30 pm, Free

A portrait of a genius in a moment of turmoil, this unpolished but dynamic documentary follows jazz bassist, composer and bandleader Charles Mingus on the eve of his November 1966 eviction from his Lower Manhattan sublet, which he’d hoped to turn into a music school.
A small crew of young New York filmmakers, energized by the immediacy of the era’s cinéma vérité filming innovations such as the use of smaller, more mobile cameras, visit Mingus at his loft.  With the power cut off and his possessions in disarray, an understandably ornery Mingus brandishes a shotgun, then tenderly plays with his daughter Carolyn. These scenes, as well as shots of the maestro out and about in Harlem and elsewhere, are intercut with future WOODSTOCK auteur Michael Wadleigh’s gorgeous chiaroscuro footage of an intimate performance with saxophonist John Gilmore & pianist Walter Bishop among more regular Mingus collaborators. Director Reichman’s sometimes combative relationship with his subject is not concealed in the editing process. Paul Arthur would later write that the film is “conscious of a voyeuristic undertow that other portrait films are at pains to disguise”.
Mingus’s mindset during this period might be summed up by a reworked version of Martin Niemöller’s famous quote, “one day they came and they took the communists, and I said nothing because I was not a communist…” playing on the soundtrack as he and his fourth wife Sue are shown at an anti-war protest. After the film shoot/eviction, the composer took a three-year hiatus from recording and performing. It’s hard to blame him. Thomas Reichman, 1968, 60 minutes.
Noe Valley Library : 451 Jersey St, San Francisco

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