The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents David Byrne’s American Utopia.
Deeply reflective and exceptionally high-spirited, David Byrne’s theatrical concert American Utopia stormed Broadway with the ex-Talking Head’s mix of iconic music and quirky ideas. With a collection of eleven talented musicians, singers, and dancers supporting him and informed by the work of James Baldwin, Janelle Monáe, Hugo Ball, and Kurt Schwitters, the show plucked at the connections between us and aimed to start making sense of it all. With director Spike Lee commemorating the show for the screen, David Byrne’s American Utopia transforms the stage production into an immersive, dynamic cinema experience that radiates with astounding performances, inventive contemporary dance, and political urgency. A clarion call for protest, compassion, and shared responsibility and a new masterpiece among concert films, David Byrne’s American Utopia is the life-affirming rock-doc arriving at precisely the right time, ready to burn down the house.
- 4K digital master, approved by director Spike Lee and David Byrne, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Start Making Sense, a roundtable conversation with Lee, Byrne, musician Janelle Monáe, and critic Ashley Clark
- One Fine Day, a new program of interviews with Lee, Byrne, and the film’s cast of performers
- Slippery People, a conversation between choreographer Annie-B Parson and cinematographer Ellen Kuras
- Remain in Light, an exploration of American Utopia stage design and its innovative lighting
- Promotional discussions featuring Lee and Byrne
- Meet the Band, introductory videos for the cast and crew
- Additional performance of “Hell You Talmbout”
- Trailer and teaser
- English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- PLUS: An essay by film critic Robert Daniels
The second day of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival leaned into bad behaviour, mostly by men, mostly among (supposed) friends. The program started light with Brent Hodge’s Who Let The Dogs Out (2019), an MMC! favourite of this year’s Calgary Underground Film Festival. Hodge, Alberta-born and in attendance at the SFFF, has found a niche with his self-described “comedy documentaries” like Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary (2018), I Am Chris Farley (2015), and A Brony Tale (2014), and Who Let The Dogs Out further confirms Hodge’s mastery of the subgenre. Devoted to the Baha Men’s 2000 hit “Who Let The Dogs Out,” its myriad authorship claims, and its various legal battles among friends and stranger alike, Hodge distills Ben Sisto’s eight-year exploration and three-hour lecture on the track into a tight, enthralling 62-minute doc. Sisto acts as the song’s scruffy biographer, travelling the world’s music studios, courtrooms, and high schools to trace the origin of the song’s ubiquitous catchphrase. This BOSUD (a “biopic of someone undeserving,” to use Dennis Bingham’s terminology) is a definite crowd-pleaser, being far more fascinating that its novelty subject matter should allow for. The SFFF was the last festival stop for Who Let The Dogs Out as it now transitions to cable and streaming platforms. Look for it on Crave in Canada!
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Jazz on a Summer’s Day.
In his sole effort in filmmaking, celebrated fashion photographer Bert Stern surveyed the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival to create a now-classic document of ’50s America and capture some of the most stunning images of live jazz ever brought to the silver screen, featuring performances by Louis Armstrong, Anita O’Day, Thelonius Monk, and Dinah Washington, as well as rock and roller Chuck Berry and gospel icon Mahalia Jackson. Stern, with assistance from editor and co-director Aram Avakian and jazz producer and musical director George Avakian, brings onscreen jazz music from smoky nightclubs to the colorfully sunny days of affluent Rhode Island, infusing these images with his distinctively clear and uncluttered aesthetic. Juxtapozing the Festival with footage of its audience, of life in and around Newport, and of the ongoing America’s Cup yacht races, Jazz on a Summer’s Day immortalizes the breezy cool of the era before it was overtaken by rock music and the tumultuous Sixties.
- New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New audio commentary featuring jazz and film critic Gary Giddins and radio host Tom Reney
- New introduction to the film by Giddins
- New interview with musician Keith Richards
- A Summer’s Day, an interactive documentary with director Bert Stern with additional scenes
- Jammin’ the Blues, photographer Gjon Mili’s 1944 short film with optional audio commentary by Giddins
- Selection of unreleased performances and footage
- Stills gallery, featuring the work of renowned photographer Bruce Davidson
- Optional captions identifying artists and song titles
- PLUS: An interview with Stern with John Guida and an essay by historian Arik Devens
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.
François Girard provides in this unconventional bio-pic a compelling and memorable exploration of Canadian musician Glenn Gould, arguably the 20th Century’s greatest classical pianist. Through thirty-two elegantly constructed vignettes mixing drama, documentary, animation, and avant-garde, Girard reveals glimpses of Gould as performer, recording artist, humorist, outdoorsman, speculator, recluse, and iconoclast. Taken together, Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould offers a prismatic understanding of Gould’s complex genius and his personal struggles without dispelling the enigmatic power of his legend.
Day 3 put generational conflict at the forefront of the SFFF and the kids were far from alright. It also marked the Festival’s greatest distance from the horror genre, moving into the rock-doc, the coming of age film, and whatever kind of trash bag meltdown The Greasy Strangler may be. That’s no criticism of Jim Hosking’s film; just a statement of fact. We’ll get to 2016’s most notorious film soon enough, but first things first…
When it comes to high culture respectability, Canada loves to hold up Glenn Gould, considered to arguably be the greatest concert pianist of his century. Made for the Documentary 60 TV series, Glenn Gould: Off the Record (Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroitor, 1959) and Glenn Gould: On the Record (Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroitor, 1959) offer a glimpse at the acclaimed musician in studio and out, although it hardly seems to matter. In both settings, the young Gould reveals himself as an affable and idiosyncratic personality equally at home with music as a theoretical construct as he is with music as an auditory experience. Directors-producers Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroitor once again appear in this retrospective, a testament to their tremendous activity within the NFB and the Documentary 60 series (working as directors and/or producers on at least a quarter of its episodes).
As per the NFB:
In this short documentary, Canadian concert pianist Glenn Gould enjoys a respite at his lakeside cottage. This is an aspect of Gould previously known only to the collie pacing beside him through the woods, the fishermen resting their oars to hear his piano, and fellow musicians like Franz Kraemer, with whom Gould talks of composition.
As per the NFB:
This short documentary follows Glenn Could to New York City. There, we see the renowned Canadian concert pianist kidding the cab driver, bantering with sound engineers at Columbia records, and then, alone with the piano, fastidiously recording Bach’s Italian Concerto.