July 30, 2016

THE SHAPE OF DOCS TO COME:

THIS 1960 JAZZ FILM SHAPED CONCERT DOCUMENTARIES AS WE KNOW THEM (Philip Eil, 7/30/16, Vice)

Bert Stern was a legendary photographer whose images, like the iconic Egyptian-pyramid ad for Smirnoff and the poster photo for Stanley Kubrick's Lolita, helped spur advertising's "creative revolution" in the 1960s. But he was more than just an "Original Mad Man," as one 2011 documentary dubbed him. He was also a magazine photographer who shot Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Kate Moss, and, most famously, Marilyn Monroe, in the nude, weeks before her death. His iconic LA session with Monroe is known as "The Last Sitting."

And so it makes sense that Stern's lone feature film, the documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day, which he shot at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, feels like an alluring advertisement or a live-action magazine spread. The colors are vibrant: bright red lipstick, white sailboats slicing through blue water, gleaming saxophones and trumpets. And the scenes are hypnotic: a 31-year-old Chuck Berry stomping across the stage during "Sweet Little Sixteen," showing off hip-swiveling moves that clearly inspired Elvis Presley; Anita O'Day singing "Sweet Georgia Brown" while dressed immaculately in a black evening gown, white gloves, and a feather-festooned hat. "There is not a moment that, freeze framed, would not be an absolutely stunning still picture," the film critic Judith Crist once said of the film. The Chicago Reader calls it "probably the best feature-length jazz concert movie ever made."

And yet the film seems half-forgotten. You won't find it on best-musical-documentary lists by Vulture, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, the Telegraph, or The Village Voice. TIME once called it an "overlooked" summer movie. For whatever reason, Jazz on a Summer's Day feels left out of a canon that includes Woodstock, Monterey Pop, Gimme Shelter, The Last Waltz, Wattstax, and Stop Making Sense.

This is a shame. Because the 1960 film precedes--and, in many ways, paved the way for--those later documentaries. 



Posted by at July 30, 2016 8:31 AM

  

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