Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2022 7:32 am 
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OLIVER MURRAY: RONNIE'S (2021) - SAN FRANCISCO MOSTLY BRITISH FESTIVAL MAR. 10-17, 2022

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RONNIE SCOTT IN RONNIE'S

All about Ronnie...There's so much to tell*

Jazz fans who attend San Francisco's March 2022 version of the Mostly British festival will not want to miss Ronnie's, a documentary film about Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, the world-famous London venue, which also tells a lot about the man who co-founded it and was its leading light for 37 years, from its opening in 1959 till his death in 1996.

It's important to know that Ronnie was a Jewish kid from the East End of London and that he was also a serous musician himself, a saxophone player for whom performing on his instrument was essential to his well being and sense of self. The club was the first to be run by a fellow musician, which meant a lot to jazz while infuriating competitors. We also learn how rich and wild London's Soho section was back in the Fifties, and how the club fed off the vibrant New York jazz scene of that time.

As Ronnie and his co-manager say in an interview, one of many included here, so many jazz players performed there it's easier to say who didn't than who did. They mention Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker. The film of course includes clips of some of the greats performing at the London venue including Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Ben Webster, Van Morrison, Chet Baker and Ella Fitzgerald. As always one wishes some of the clips had been allowed to play out longer. But that would have been hard, because this is an immense film about a time, a place, an art form, and a man - which finally winds up delving deeply into Ronnie Scott's complex personality as well as the club's history. Scott was bipolar and suffered from periods of crippling depression, exacerbated when circumstances forced him to stop playing his instrument. Alcohol was not a help. The latter part of the film grows sad, but there is still a rich glow from the sense conveyed of a musical renaissance and one of its signature platforms.

The film is a rich tapestry, conventional enough in its visuals, but highly informative and atmospheric, mostly using voiceover with skillfully interwoven testimony whose speakers are identified by rapid-fire inter-titles - largely avoiding the distracting monotony of talking heads. Ronnie's is a doc the provides a lot to chew on. A truly evocative and exciting film for jazz fans.

For more details, see the BFI review by Nick James in Sight and Sound from the time of the film's London release.

Ronnie's, 103 mins., opened in London Oct. 23, 2020. It showed in DOC NYC Nov. 11, 2020 and at Winston-Salem, North Carolina (RiveRun) May 15, 2021. Limited US release Feb. 11, 1011. Screened for this review as part of San Francisco's Mostly British festival (Mar. 10-17, 2022). The film is also available online in the US now.
Showtime:
3:00 PM VOGUE THEATER, SAN FRANCISCO
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16, 2022

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*Hear Chris Connor sing her signature version of "All About Ronnie" HERE.

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ELLA FITZGERALD PERFORMING IN RONNIE'S

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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