SFFF Day 2 Report – Frenemies

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!

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Jazz on a Summer’s Day (Bert Stern, 1959)

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.

Disc Features:

  • 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
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An interview with Stern with John Guida and an essay by historian Arik Devens

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Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (Francois Girard, 1993)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.

criterion logoFrançois 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.

Disc Features:

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SFFF Day 3 Report – Youth in Revolt

saskatoon_fantastic_film_festivalDay 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…
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On and Off the Record!

NFBWhen 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.

Behind the Microphone

NFBFans of the Criterion Collection’s array of music documentaries will find a number of films by the National Film Board of Canada to appreciate. Presented here a pair of great shorts made by four of the NFB’s most prolific filmmakers that provide absorbing views on the artist, their work, and the business that surrounds them. From the zeitgeist that swarms around Paul Anka to the self-effacing ruminations of Leonard Cohen, Lonely Boy (Wolf Koenig and Roman Kroitor, 1962) and Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr. Leonard Cohen (Don Owen and Donald Brittain, 1965) are captivating portraits of two popular Canadian performers.

As per the NFB:

This short film portrays the story of singer Paul Anka, who rose from obscurity to become the idol of millions of adolescent fans around the world. Taking a candid look at both sides of the footlights, this film examines the marketing machine behind a generation of pop singers. Interviews with Anka and his manager reveal their perspective on the industry.

As per the NFB:

This informal black-and-white portrait of Leonard Cohen shows him at age 30 on a visit to his hometown of Montreal, where the poet, novelist and songwriter comes “to renew his neurotic affiliations.” He reads his poetry to an enthusiastic crowd, strolls the streets of the city, relaxes in his three-dollar-a-night hotel room and even takes a bath.