Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wild Combination: A Portrait Of Arthur Russell (2008) review

Wild Combination: A Portrait Of Arthur Russell (2008)

The Metrograph in NYC is currently running a series:

Dim All The Lights: Disco And The Movies

which unfortunately ends tonight, though there will be a couple films that will have additional screenings, including this one.  Fortunately I got to see a few of the screenings, plus I am catching one last one tonight. 

Arthur Russell is a man I knew a little bit about, and when I say a little bit, I would say probably about .01% of what was in the movie.  I knew his name, I knew that he played cello, I knew he did some avant garde work, and I knew that he made a couple disco records, including one under the group name Dinosaur L.  That was about it.  When I saw this documentary on him was playing, I saw this as an opportunity to learn more about him. 

Documentaries can be amazing for a few reasons.  One, if you already know the subject it can be both entertaining and a perfect opportunity to learn more about something you love, which is exactly what happened when I watched the De Palma documentary recently.  If you know virtually nothing about the subject it is like taking a speed class without having to memorize anything for a test.  This past year or so I saw a documentary called Not Film, which was about a movie called Film, and its director, Samuel Beckett.  Being that I knew nothing at all about Samuel Beckett, and had watched Film only moments before, it was a pretty amazing literary lesson. 

The documentary opens with Arthur's parents talking about his childhood and how he was raised, and some of the issues he suffered from.  It then follows him to San Francisco where he met famed poet Allen Ginsberg, then off to NYC where he made his home.  I won't spoil the journey by giving you any more details of his life, but we do hear about all of his collaborations, bands, music, and changes in his life. 

The film is shot beautifully, and mostly chronologically, and covers a wide spectrum of his life and music.  There are many performances of his in the film, both audio and video, of all of his styles of music.  It s a very comprehensive documentary, which is something I look for when it comes to subjects I know little about.  It is also very poignant and touching, and shows you both a NYC that barely exists anymore, and the kind of person who used to live here but could never survive here nowadays. 

Keep in mind, this is a documentary on the man and his music, and his music was far from just disco, it covered many bases, and no matter what kind of music you are a fan of you could find some of his to fit your tastes, unless of course you have no soul.  I was very pleased I got to see this documentary on this man, and will be seeking out more music from him in the future.

8 out of 10 stars.

Location : The Metrograph, theater 1, NYC
Date and time : Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 at 7:30 PM
Format : DCP
Audience : At least 60 people, audience was moved and enjoyed it a lot