Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ghettos and Gray Riviera

Two items of note that ran in this week's Indy: my review of the Frank Black/Black Francis show at SOhO and a review of the documentary Deep Water.
When Frank Black Talks, You Listen, Dammit.

Yes, the former Pixies frontman squints when he sings — even when he’s performing under his old moniker, Black Francis — but that doesn’t mean the man can’t hear you chitchatting when he’s explaining his top-notch new rock opera album, Bluefinger. The new tracks stand as a tribute to the life of the late Dutch musician Herman Brood, and Black sang them with a vigor that let the SOhO crowd know that each one carried emotional weight for him. Possibly because some in attendance were unfamiliar with his newer work, people seemed uninterested by Black’s between-song anecdotes and chose instead to talk among themselves. That’s the danger of performing in a crowded bar, of course, but this reviewer couldn’t help wondering if some of those talking truly realized that they were ignoring Frank Fucking Black.

While his delivery of the new material made the show, Black wisely opened with older work, including a reinterpretation of The Pixie’s “Wave of Mutilation,” which nearly verged on spoken word, but won the audience over nonetheless. The performance was marred somewhat by two early interruptions — one to question a certain
Independent photographer and another to rewrite lyrics he suddenly found objectionable — but once he blasted into Bluefinger’s “Tight Black Rubber,” Black seemed to hit his stride. A true high point would have to have been “She Took All the Money,” which Black identified as being “not about Nina Hagen, but she loomed close by.” (Hagen was once linked romantically to Brood.)

If one had to fault Black and his bandmates at all, it certainly wouldn’t be for the adept musicianship of drummer Jason Carter or bassist Dan Schmid. The absence of backup vocalist Violet Clark, however, left some of the
Bluefinger material lacking. Black himself bemoaned Clark’s absence (due to pregnancy) before “Angels Come to Comfort You.”

The show closed with more favorites, including the great “Motorway to Roswell,” which reminded everyone there why they loved Frank Black in the first place, and why it will no doubt be too long before he returns to town.
Sailing Into Death

As disastrous an idea as it was for amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst to compete in a 1968 solo sailing race around the world, it was a smart decision on the parts of directors Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell to adapt the story into the documentary Deep Water. The events that led Crowhurst to risk life and sanity in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race build not only into a gripping battle between man and the elements, but also a study into the psychology of bad choices and how those who make them deal with their consequences.

Osmond and Rothwell bind together interviews with Crowhurst's loved ones, footage Crowhurst himself took at sea, archive news footage and polished graphics with a level of care that perhaps Crowhurst himself should have taken before beginning his ill-fated odyssey. And while a film focusing entirely of a mad who made mistake after mistake could have easily infuriated viewers, the directors wisely spend time with those who enabled these mistakes to happen—most prominently Crowhurst's wife Clare, whose heartbreaking guilt serves as
Deep Water's emotional center.

The film treats Crowhurst respectfully, even in light of his decision to lie about his progress in the race. In the end, a fantastic voyage seems relatable and relevant. In addition to thematic ties to
Into the Wild (also in theaters now), Deep Water reminds viewers of man's place in nature and of the catastrophe that can follow when one cannot admit his errors — both themes never more painfully important than today.

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