(This is the latest in a series of arts-related videos that appear in this space each Monday and Wednesday.)
Tony Palmer, Julian Bream: A Life on the Road. A vivid extended profile of the great British classical guitarist, who does most of the talking and proves himself in the process to be both highly intelligent and deeply thoughtful about his art. Originally published in 1983 and now forgotten, it’s one of the most readable books ever written about a performing artist (TT).
Julian Bream: My Favorite Albums (Sony, ten CDs). A stupendously economical way to acquire ten of Bream’s finest albums for RCA (it costs less than $30). Included are his classic recordings of Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, and a pair of Bach lute suites, together with shorter pieces by Albéniz, Berkeley, Dowland, Granados, Roussel, Tárrega, and Villa-Lobos. If you aren’t familiar with his playing, start here and revel (TT).
Ray Charles, Brother Ray: The Genius (Frémeaux, three CDs). An exceptionally well-chosen, well-annotated, and wide-ranging French anthology of Charles’ 1949-1960 recordings, originally issued in 2011 and now available as an import, that puts his formidable musical achievements in crystal-clear historical perspective (TT).
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. This 1943 film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is a complex, near-epic study of the English national character, cunningly disguised as a wartime propaganda flick. Roger Livesey is breathtakingly good as a quintessential “old boy” who can’t come to grips with how World War II has changed his beloved country. Colonel Blimp is one of David Mamet’s favorite movies, and when you see the Criterion Collection’s beautifully restored home-video version, you’ll understand why (TT).
Louis Kaufman, A Fiddler’s Tale: How Hollywood and Vivaldi Discovered Me. The utterly charming autobiography of the Hollywood-based violinist who played on the soundtracks of Gone With the Wind and Psycho, made the very first recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, performed with Aaron Copland, Darius Milhaud, and Francis Poulenc, bought the first oil painting ever sold by Milton Avery, and was by all accounts one of the nicest people who ever lived. His story is as fascinating as it is improbable–but every word is true (TT).
Living in Oblivion. Mrs. T and I recently treated ourselves to a viewing of Tom DiCillo’s prize-winning low-budget 1995 indie flick about the making of (what else?) a low-budget indie flick. Two decades later, it remains one of the funniest and most knowing screen comedies ever made, with wonderfully well-judged performances by Steve Buscemi and Catherine Keener. Whit Stillman loves it, and so will you (TT).
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. I only just got around to reading this Pulitzer-winning 2010 study of the Great Migration, in which Wilkerson talked to and looked at the complicated lives of three of the countless southern blacks who moved north in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s to escape the nightmare of racism in the Deep South. It’s not so much a piece of formal scholarship as an exercise in historically informed storytelling, but on that level it’s a really remarkable piece of work, written with immense sensitivity and packed with a wealth of telling, near-novelistic detail. For once, the subtitle is no exaggeration: this really is an epic story (TT).
Big Bill Broonzy, These Blues Are Doggin’ Me (Living Era). An astutely chosen anthology of twenty-six recordings made between 1930 and 1951 by the influential Chicago blues singer-songwriter (he wrote “Key to the Highway”) who was embraced in later life by the nascent folk-music movement. If you don’t know Broonzy’s music, this is a good way to get started. Concise but informative liner notes by Digby Fairweather (TT).
Outsourced. I only just caught up with this sweet, smart clash-of-cultures romcom about an uptight novelty salesman (Josh Hamilton) who is sent from Seattle to India to ride herd on the employees of an underperforming call center. Naturally he falls in love with one of them (Ayesha Dharker), but nothing else about this indie flick, which makes its points with a lovely lightness of touch, is predictable. Directed and co-written by John Jeffcoat, Outsourced failed to make a splash on its original release in 2006, but it deserves to be as well known as Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero, with which it has much in common. If you liked one, you’ll like the other (TT).