Albums as Doc Launchpads

Unfortunately, illness kept Brian Wilson from showing up the Lobero on Friday night as planned, for the world premiere of the documentary Going Home, about the making of his recent album, That Lucky Old Son. Then again, we were surprised to hear he might show up at all, let alone be involved in an onstage Q&A. No matter: the Wilson mystique was, and remains, intact. Director George Dougherty's film, while sometimes feeling like an extended EPK project or a VH1 special sans the dark stuff, has conjured up a fascinating slice of Wilson's life-both now, creatively vibrant at 65-as well as a historical long view of this great American musician.
Dougherty began the project accidentally, initially intending just to shoot some studio footage of the studio work for the new Wilson song cycle, and it grew into a full-fledged documentary from there.
Any Wilson fan could appreciate the film, fortified by insider scenes of Wilson's intuitive genius and full of valuable insights on the man and the myth, from band mates and celebrity friends (including Mickey Dolenz and Billy Bob Thornton) in the Lobero lent an extra layer of fascination in that Wilson and his ace band performed the whole song cycle in concert on this stage last fall. Hearing Wilson's skilled and obviously admiring bandmates wax eloquently about the boss is inspiring, and the passion conveyed shows in their empathetic playing.
In a post-screening Q&A, Dougherty and longtime Beach Boys and Wilson musician Jeffrey Foskett shed more light on the phenom that is Brian Wilson, including the factoid that he submitted his instrumental track "Pet Sounds" for the James Bond flick Thunderball. Alas, the song didn't make the grade, although the masterpiece album Pet Sounds did make the grade as one of the greatest pop projects ever.
A similar but much stronger film-as a film-in the festival line-up was Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, in which director Bestor Cram does an expert job portraying the circumstances surrounding Cash's classic live recording at Folsom in 1968. The film's focus goes far and wide, as well, from the watershed moment in Cash's career to life in prison and the remarkable subplot of musician inmate Glen Sherley, whose song Cash performed on the album and who Cash managed to have sprung and open for his concerts, before the demons arrived. Commentaries from Rosanne Cash and Marty Stuart are especially illuminating and well-spoken.
Only at a film festival dept:. Two (count 'em) films from Kazakhstan showed up at the festival this year, following last year's screening of the impressive Kazakh epic Mongol. The two this year couldn't be more different from each other: Tulpan, one of the star attractions of the SBIFF program, is a coolly compelling bit of folkloric cinema following the highs and lows of a sheepherding family on the bleak landscape of the steppes; Racketeer is a cool, anti-heroic gangster flick about the life of extortionist thugs in the urban jungle of Kazakhstan.
In a Q&A after the screening, the screenwriter was asked if he was influenced by American directors, and he mentioned Scorsese (naturally), DePalma, and David (Se7en, Fight Club) Fincher. Two hours later at the Arlington, up State Street several blocks, Fincher himself was holding forth as the festival's "director in residence" at a tribute. After an introductory montage of clips from his films, Fincher said "it's interesting seeing them back to back. I wonder I should be in therapy."

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