Embark on a blues journey with 7 directors

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Embark on a blues journey with 7 directors

The American movie director Martin Scorsese once said, “If I could have played guitar, I never would have become a filmmaker.”
His movies were his ticket to fame, but his passion for music lingered. And that passion eventually helped create “The Blues,” a documentary series by seven directors that takes viewers on a journey to the source of the blues. The series will be shown in its entirety from today through Sunday at Seoul Art Cinema in northern Seoul. The schedule is at www.seoulselection.com/events.html.
Born of the spirituals and work songs in the late 19th century United States, the music was an emotional release for African-Americans who continued to struggle for their dignity long after their emancipation. The songs displayed their spirit of agony and grief and formed the bedrock of American musical history, later giving birth to styles like jazz, country, rock and hip-hop.
The seven directors each cook up the music onscreen in their unique styles. Mr. Scorsese, also a producer of the series, features a number of live blues performances in “Feel Like Going Home.” He also takes a journey to find the source of the music, from the Mississippi River over to West Africa, making this film into a road trip.
Charles Burnett, a director originally from Vicksburg, Mississippi, with a background as a professional trumpeter, based the film “Warming by the Devil’s Fire” on a childhood story. With fictional and real-life stories melded together, “Warming” describes a 1950s family feud between a mother who can’t live without the blues and a gospel-loving grandmother who considers the blues to be the music of devil.
“The Road to Memphis” by Richard Pearce is an homage to Memphis, the city of the blues. The director retraces the life of B.B. King, the celebrated blues musician and a Memphis native, featuring many of his live performances in the film.
Wim Wenders, a German-born movie director known for his love of music, as evident in “Buena Vista Social Club,” presents “The Soul of a Man,” about his three beloved blues musicians. Remaining true to his reputation as a music-savvy filmmaker, Mr. Wenders orchestrates music performances as well as rare documentary footage to create as fine a guide to the blues as any.
Marc Levin, another blues-loving director, is second to none in his admiration for the music. He says his life was transformed when he heard the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s music at age 15. His “Godfathers and Sons” carries viewers to the world of Chicago blues, rich in exclusive performance clips by celebrated performers.
If you remember the bewitching song “Angel Eyes” from “Leaving Las Vegas,” then you’ll appreciate the film director Mike Figgis’s sense of music. In “Red, White and Blues,” he presents his love for the blues through interviews and impromptu performance clips of musicians like Tom Jones and Van Morrison.
Clint Eastwood, who has by now freed himself from his cowboy persona, presents “Piano Blues.” As the title indicates, this film focuses on the origin of piano blues. Mr. Eastwood, who calls the blues a part of his life, is also a fine pianist who wrote his own music for films such as “Mystic River.”
This feast of music is available for 6,000 won ($5) per screening, offering a nice getaway from the lingering summer heat.


by Chun Su-jin

Seoul Art Cinema is best reached from Anguk station, subway line No. 3, exit 1. For more information, call (02) 720-9782 or visit www.cinematheque.seoul.kr (Korean only).

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