Populist Picks/Rob Patterson

Audio-Visual Offerings

Movie: The Killing of John Lennon — I remember well, with chills, when the news bulletin interrupted late night TV to announce that John Lennon had been shot, 14 blocks from where I sat in my living room. I knew then he was dead, murdered by some crazy pathetic bastard. I never met Lennon, but it was an honor to know that he lived in my neighborhood, where he was respected by local residents who also largely left him alone to live his life as just another New Yorker, albeit one who escaped the prison of Beatlemania for the most part, only to have his freedom and life robbed by a maniacal loser. This independent film, which uses his killer’s own words and the actual locations, could as easily be titled “The Madness of Mark David Chapman.” It quite effectively uses the art and techniques of cinema to get inside the twisted head of Lennon’s murderer, and though not an easy movie to watch—even more so for me, as it depicts Chapman fixating on Lennon due to a book of photographs of him by my friend Bob Gruen, also a friend of the slain Beatle—it’s a notable and quite effective piece of filmmaking, now playing in a limited theatrical run and, as I saw it, on my cable provider’s On Demand service. If you loved Lennon or even cared at all about a musician who changed my life and a good part of the rest of the times I grew up in if not the world, see it, hard as it may be to watch, now or when it comes out on DVD.

Movie DVD: Girl 27 — This documentary by journalist David Stenn uncovers a Hollywood scandal of the 1937 rape of an under-aged chorus girl buried by MGM for seven decades. The tale of how Patricia Clarkson was smeared in the press is made all that much more powerful by Stenn locating Clarkson 65 years later and persuading her to talk on camera about the shattering effect it had on her life. Though is some ways flawed as a movie, the film shows the venality and hypocrisy of the powerful Hollywood studio system and makes potent feminist points about male dominated culture and rape that are moving and evocative.

Music DVD: Liberación: The Songs of the New Cuban Underground — The flip side of Buena Vista Social Club as former INXS manager Chris Murphy discovers the music made by the proverbial sons and daughters of Cuba’s veteran musicians in Santiago de Cuba. It might have been a far better document if the film delivered more about the people who make the music and those who listen to it and the life they live instead of using music video style imagery, as beautiful and telling as some of it is, to accompany the music. But the deep, sexy and danceable grooves of the Reggaton music—a combination of Jamaican dancehall and American hip-hop—created by young Cubans are utterly infectious, as is the sheer joy that the music brings to the creators and fans in poverty-stricken and politically repressed Santiago de Cuba.

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2008

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