Sunday, 4 October 2015

Ornette: Made in America

I've been dipping into Shirley Clarke's filmography over the last forthnight and this afternoon I watched Clarke's 1984 film Ornette: Made in America, a free-wheeling portrait of the great composer and jazzman Ornette Coleman. The film is set against the backdrop of a performance of Ornette's third stream orchestral work Skies of America accompanied by the Fort Worth symphony orchestra (pictured below), and flashes forwards and backwards thru various era's of Ornette's life (including some dramatic vignettes from Ornette's childhood). It's not a wholly successful film - some sequences treated with psychedelic and video effects date it quite badly, and at times the film is edited to within an inch of its life with dizzying flash cuts and strobe lighting. But the real meat and potatoes of the film, Ornette's extraordinary music, survives intact, and there's fantastic footage of man in performance with Prime Time and in conversation, revealing an incredible probing, radical intellect. The film also comes with a cameo appearance by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin at the opening of the arts centre the Caravan of Dream, with Burroughs reading a selection of texts from his books. After years of unavailability Ornette: Made in America is back in circulation again as a very fine DVD/Blu and is warmly recommended.

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