As noted in an earlier post, 2014 is shaping up to be the year of the jazz movie.
To be sure, the films involved are small, indie titles rather than major Hollywood productions.
The drama “Whiplash” and the Clark Terry documentary “Keep On Keepin’ On,” however, are garnering positive reviews and even some Oscar buzz. The year’s third film set in the jazz world may not quite reach those heights but has earned its share of attention on the festival circuit.
Directed by Jeff Preiss, “Low Down” is based on Amy-Jo Albany’s memoir about growing up the daughter of the bebop pianist Joe Albany. It opens November 14 in Northern California. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times’ review.
This movie is a stream of recollections, but the late-afternoon-light grain of its Super 16-millimeter camerawork and the gestures of warmth between its characters perhaps say more than any rise-and-fall might.
Albany played with Lester Young and Charlie Parker, but his career was sidetracked by a heroin addiction, and he died at 63. Mr. Preiss, who shot the Chet Baker documentary “Let’s Get Lost” and made the experimental home-movie pastiche “Stop,” hews to the perspective of Amy, who lived with her father in a Los Angeles flophouse and tagged along to gigs. Mr. Preiss and the cinematographer, Christopher Blauvelt, recognize the value of showing time spent together, even if it’s between neglectful, sudden absences for jail, travel or a fix.
Elle Fanning plays Amy-Jo with less verve than she displayed in her comparable role as a radical’s daughter in “Ginger & Rosa.” But John Hawkes, who resembles Joe Albany, and Glenn Close, as Amy-Jo’s grandmother and sometime foster mother, are strong and subtle forces (and a compelling dual study themselves). The music scene is rounded out by a vivid supporting cast.
“Low Down” stumbles into the pitfalls of both addiction narratives and observer-style autobiography, even if Ms. Albany’s memoir suggests even rougher times. But it still catches in-between moments of closeness that aren’t always seen or heard.
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