Music at the Movies

Let’s get loud

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I may have mentioned a time or 20 that music is what makes the world go ’round for a certain sector of this area’s entertainment-seeking masses. Generally speaking, when one is looking to take in some music around these parts, one naturally seeks out one of our plentiful music venues, or perhaps a record shop for those musical needs that cannot be met by live music.

But music happens in more places and formats than just those mentioned above.

Last week, I touched on some of the many cinematic offerings that are part of the Pickford Film Center’s Doctober, a month-long documentary festival taking place there. However, given the sheer volume of films (somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 documentaries before the month is out), it was impossible to do them all justice. And, since so many of the documentaries being shown there deal with subjects musical in nature, it seems they merit some extra attention.

Taking into consideration Bellingham’s aforementioned passion for all matters musical, it makes a certain amount of sense that a goodly amount of Doctober films would pertain to music. And it makes even more sense if you know PFC program director and Doctober brain trust, Michael Falter, who is as passionate a music fan as any I’ve ever met. In my years as a PFC projectionist I’ve experienced this passion in many of its forms—from his booking of live music at the PFC to his management of the music in the lobby at the theater—and the music-heavy Doctober lineup is just its latest manifestation.

The musical portion of Doctober kicks off with a story that is stereotypical in the world of rock ’n’ roll: A band, ahead of its time, toils in obscurity, cranking out power-pop gems that are critically acclaimed but heard by too few, and eventually breaks up. The band in question is Memphis’ Big Star, and what would follow would be tragedy, death—and a recent resurgence in both musical circles and popular culture that has proved both the forward-thinking nature of their music and its subsequent influence on many who would follow. Their story is detailed in Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, which shows Oct. 4 and 5 at the PFC.

While Big Star may have toiled in obscurity for much of their careers, the next Doctober subject is well-known the world over. That subject would be the Beatles, and their world as seen by someone who had an intimate, wholly unique view of it, Beatles secretary and fan-club maven, Freda Kelly. In Good Ol’ Freda, which shows Oct. 11-13, Kelly tells her story for the first time, and if you think there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to this most legendary of bands, this documentary is likely to surprise and delight you.

A couple of Doctober films tickle my personal musical fancy, the first one to show being The Otherside, which happens Oct. 12 at the PFC. The film details the Seattle hip-hop scene, what makes it typical and what makes it unique, and it could not be timelier given the explosive success of Macklemore (yes, he does appear in the doc, along with a host of other, lesser-known Northwest hip-hop luminaries). See the movie, and then head to the Wild Buffalo to witness Seattle hip-hop in action in the form of Sol, who will perform there that night in conjunction with this Doctober showing.

The other music-related Doctober film that’s got me in a dither is Muscle Shoals, which takes place just after midmonth, on Oct. 18 (mark your calendars). If you’re unfamiliar with the place and it’s musical legacy, Muscle Shoals is a tiny Alabama town of just 13,000 where artists have been coming for decades seeking the “Muscle Shoals sound” particular to this unlikely geographic locale. Along with helping to birth Southern rock, everyone from Aretha Franklin to Mick Jagger to Bono have sought out the crazy magic that can only be found in Muscle Shoals. The story of the town and its famous music studios is at least as compelling as the music it has spawned.

After that comes a documentary about a man—Doc Pomus—whose name might not be at the forefront of your personal music encyclopedia, but his songs almost certainly are. Paralyzed by polio, Pomus got his start as a blues singer before turning his talents to songwriting—which ended up being the smartest choice of his life. By the end of his life, Pomus would be responsible for penning some of early rock ’n’ roll’s biggest hits, such as “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment,” and “Viva Las Vegas.” The documentary about his extraordinary life, A.K.A. Doc Pomus, shows Oct. 27 at the PFC.

Only one music documentary gets a full week’s run during Doctober, likely because Oscar-winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Stop Making Sense) is the man responsible for it. Called Enzo Avitable Music Life, it details the story of its titular subject, a prolific world musician and singer/songwriter, set against a backdrop of Avitable’s home in Naples. It’s an intimate look at an extraordinary man, created by an insightful, music-obsessed director. It’s run at the PFC begins the last week of Doctober, on Oct. 25.

Keep in mind that I’m not suggesting you eschew your normal musical pursuits in order to fully experience Doctober in all its sonic majesty. But if you’re looking to augment those pursuits with activities both entertaining and educational, there’s worse ways to do it than in a state-of-the-art movie theater with equally state-of-the-art surround sound. Music at the movies never sounded so good.

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