Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (June 18, 1987)
Thursday, June 18, 1987
Filmmaker Mugge transcends 'rockumentary' irrelevance
By Chris McCubbin
Robert Mugge makes films about
musicians and the music they make.
Mugge's films are far, far beyond simple
concert films, yet they never descend
to "rockumentary" business and ir
relevance. Mugge's films are stunningly
simple, multi-dimensional portraits of
Three films of Robert Mugge are
showing this week Thursday through
Sunday at the Sheldon Film Theatre in
conjunction with the Flatwater Festival.
Mugge will be present to discuss his
work at the Friday and Saturday
Mugge, who dropped out of film
school, began making documentaries
as a relatively inexpensive way of
getting himself the exposure necessary
to break into the mass market as a
writerdirector, but an early film about
cult musician Sun Ra, "Sun Ra, a Joyful
Noise," brought him to the attention of
Britain's Channel 4, an experimental
T.V. channel devoted to minority pro
gramming in the broadest possible
Channel 4 offered to completely
bankroll Mugge's next film, an almost
unbelievable opportunity for an indepen
dent documentary filmmaker. Mugge
made three films for Channel 4 before
more venturing into the chancy realm
of independent film production.
The films being shown in conjunction
with the Flatwater Festival are "Black
Wax," featuring political singer, song
writer poet and humorist Gil Scott
Heron; "Gospel According to Al Green,"
about the 70s soul superstar turned
fundamentalist preacher; and "Saxo
phone Colossus" about jazz superstar
Sonny Rollins. Mugge's reggae film
"Cool Runnings," was shown last week
at the Sheldon and his "The Return of
Ruben Blades" was shown last year.
"Black Wax" is more distant than
Mugge's other films. Mugge never even
tries to get behind Scott-Heron's public
persona to show the man beneath.
Perhaps there is no one else. Maybe
Scott-Heron is so convicted by the need
for social change that no Scott-Heron
ever emerges except the wry but angry
At any rate, there is certainly enough
substance in Scott-Heron's public per
sona to merit a whole movie's attention.
Scott-Heron's clear, carribbean-fla-vored
songs, his deliberately accessible
poems, his monologues, with their
Lenny Bruce-like air of calm desperation
all add up to a clear indictment of the
injustice, repression and hopelessness
he sees all around him, giving lie to the
myth of the American way.
Mugge finds Scott-Heron the perfect '
settings for his observations. It can be
as simple as following Scott-Heron
along the bank of the Potomic with a
boom box on his shoulder as he sings
"Washington D.C." in unison with him
self. It can be as wierdly surreal as
sending Scott-Heron into a wax museum
to recite "Whitey On The Moon" beneath
a floating, flat-waving Neil Armstrong,
or to stand between John Wayne and
"Ronnie Ray-gun" to introduce "B
Movie," a version of the U.S.A. today as
a cheap western, too absurd to be real.
"Gospel According To Al Green," in
contrast is the intensely personal story
of Al Green's conversion to fundamen
talism and how the pressures of stardom
eventually forced him to give up secular
Remember family or" friends
with Special Occasion,
Get Well or Memorial cards.
WE'RE FIGHTING FOR
American Hear 4
Association , :
music entirely, using the profits from
his singing career to buy a church in
California, which he now pastors.
Green, who made such early 70s hits
as the "Lets Stay Together," and "Tired
of Being Alone," comes off as a paradox,
he has all the earmarks of the gently
slick hustler that has become the
stereotype of the pentecostal preacher
but at the same time the facts show
that giving up his soul career must
have caused an astronomical drop in
The music is the best evidence of
Green's sincereity. Green has a trans
cendantly beautiful voice. Whatever
the spiritual motivations or financial
repercussions of Al Green's change of
heart, Green the gospel singer is much
more the artist than Green the 70s
The last half of the movie is mostly a
record of one of Green's sermons at his
church. Green goes from speaking to
chanting to singing during his ecstati
cally improvised service. His arch
angel's voice grows and grows as he
stalks the front of the church, sweat
soaking through his shirt, then his
coat. The whole sequence is a miracul
ous definition of the American gospel
"Saxophone Colossus" shows us
Sonny Rollins, who has been called the
most brilliant improvisationist in jazz.
Rollins emerges as a simple, somewhat
mystical man who is completely ab
sorbed in his music. Although the film
is slightly flawed by a plattoon of jazz
critics, who Mugge mysteriously seems
to feel are necessary to justify Rollins'
music, this film is the most complete
and rounded portrait of the lot.
Mugge's films are often called "the
thinking man's alternative to pop video."
This is a blithe and misleading char
acterization, but it does gain some
support in "Saxophone Colossus,"
where Mugge demonstrates his genius
for discovering perfect visual images to
accompany music. Mugge records the
debut performance of Rollins' "Con
certo For Tenor Saxophone and Orches
tra," in Tokyo, juxtaposing clips of the
concert with images from the neon
signs that dominate the Ginza shopping
district. The effect is stunning.
"Black Wax" will show at 7 and 9
p.m. Thursday. "Gospel According to Al
Green" shows at 7:45 p.m. Friday and
9:30 p.m. Sunday. "Saxophone Colossus"
shows at 7:45 p.m. Saturday and 7:30
p.m. Sunday. Admission is $4.
, -' v;' , f , i 'Vf if ; fV-i hA V f ' Y U u ,'
A a v i A i V J' t '
V 4t i
, l 'A k. A
l j A,
'ii' I y f '' t'!!- yv
; I ' I f A I Ji u"
i a t A I if p i a n
f v H V I i I;
JUNIOR & MISSES
ONE & TWO-PIECE SWIMWEAR
(Junior & Misses 5-14) VALUES $24-52
FT (M WM.I WUH H A
VISNIEZIA v) lORI:NZA
" " ninT p. ifNiT top ni PAnArjnp
SESIQT a iml TOP CLEARAnCE
(S-M-L) VALUES $20-34
QA idJ J energie
kJl U I CURRANTS
NOVELTY & GARfwIENT-VVASHED
SHIRTS & PANTS
(S-M-L) VALUES $18-24
COTTON & COTTON-BLEND
SWEATERS (S-m-L) values S12-18
energie s?OR EGO others
Incredible Savings On All Your Favorites!
(S-M-L) VALUES S20-23
(S-M-L) VALUES S16-20
(S-M-L) VALUES S10-12
DESIGNER AND NAME BRAND FASHIONS FOR LESS!!
48lh S Hwy 2
0 cDsOoQa 00 Q; 0 camax)
Powered by Open ONI