Sunday, September 30, 2018

Not really a review of Fire Music (2018) New York Film Festival 2018

I have been pondering if and how to review FIRE MUSIC since I saw it. Part of it is I don't have a great deal to say about it, and part of it is the fact that during the Q&A that followed the first New York Film Festival screening it was revealed that the film is going to be changed and lengthened to add more material because more funding came in (see the Q&A below).

FIRE MUSIC is Tom Surgal's look at avant garde or Free Jazz. This is the sort of wild and crazy improvisational free form jazz where all of the musicians can be playing their own harmonies at the same time. For some it it noise for others it is bliss. It is a forcible wrestling with the music to see where it can go. The film highlights  the music of Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman,Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy, Sam Rivers and others.

I think fans, such as those that made up the audience at the New York Film Festival, and who have a fuller appreciation of the form and the people who play it are going to love it deeply. This is a film with all the right people telling the right stories since I could see people around me reacting as if Surgal got it all right  for the person in the know.

This poses a problem in that the film is an attempt to bring the music to a wider audience and win converts  but I'm not sure, at least in it's present form, if it is going to make converts of a lot of people because If you don't know a great deal you may feel a little at sea, which is how I felt at times.

To be honest I like the film but I don't love it. While I like jazz and have some understanding of the history and the styles, I am not verse in Free Jazz and I often felt lost watching the film because I simply didn't have enough background to make all the necessary connections. I could appreciate the music and what was being said but past a certain level, I was completely lost. Frankly as a novice I was overwhelmed.

Please don't let me frighten you away from seeing FIRE MUSIC. As it stands it is a good, if way too short (it only runs 70 minutes), look at the music. It is a film that has been made with love by people who care deeply for what they are showing us. It's clear that any problems with the film come from Surgal and his team knowing their material so well that they seem to have not really allowed a way in for those unfamiliar with it to experience their joy. They assume we are all on their level, which some, myself included, are not.

That said, I would gladly see promised later longer now cut of the film since it's clear that Surgal is onto something.

As for fans of jazz and free jazz or avant garde jazz it is an absolute must.

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