Under the guiding vision of Martin Scorsese THE BLUES is a seven-part series of personal impressionistic films viewed through the lens of seven world-famous directors with a passion for the music. Charles Burnett, Clint Eastwood, Mike Figgis, Marc Levin, Richard Pearce, Martin Scorsese and Wim Wenders will capture the essence of the blues and delve into its global influence.
|Warming by the Devil's Fire|
This film boldly mixes fictional story-telling with documentary footage in a tale about a young boy's encounter with his family in Burnett's hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1955. It explores the musical tension between the hellhounds of the blues and heavenly gospel tunes.
Says Burnett: "The sound of the blues was a part of my environment that I took for granted; however, as years passed, the blues slowly emerged as an essential source of imagery, humor, irony, and insight that allows one to reflect on the human condition. I always wanted to do a story on the blues that not only reflected its nature, its content but also alludes to the form itself, in short, a story that gives you the impression of the blues"
Eastwood is fulfilling a long-time desire to delve into the history of the blues, particularly as expressed through the piano. Produced by Bruce Ricker, Eastwood's documentary will offer up rare footage of exciting historical performances by musicians including Art Tatum and Professor Longhair. Eastwood will also travel to film such living legends as Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Dr. John, and, if the circumstances are right, he may sit in for a song or two.
Says Eastwood: "The blues has always been part of my musical life and the piano has a special place, beginning when my mother brought home all of Fats Wallers' records. Also, music has always played a part in my movies. A piano blues documentary gives me a chance to make a film that is more directly connected to the subject of music than the features that I have been doing throughout my career."
|Red, White and Blues|
Figgis' film is a personal exploration of the British Invasion, when, in the early 60s, young lads such as Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger and John Mayall heard the sounds of the blues coming across the Atlantic and brought it back to America where it had been momentarily forgotten. Figgis himself was one of the scouts for this invasion; he was the horn section for Bryan Ferry's first band, The Gas Board. Through conversations and impromptu concerts with people as varied as Jagger, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Tom Jones and Figgis himself, who will play on some of the sessions, Figgis will recall that wonderful moment when kids from Liverpool and Manchester made the blues their own and set the stage for the universal embrace of the music.
Says Figgis: "I would like to find out why there was such an interest in this black music among Europeans... I would like to put together a group of these young musicians, augmenting the line-up with some younger talent as well, and have everyone get involved in a recording session of some blues standards."
|Godfathers and Sons|
Call them the Blues Brothers 2001 - in Marc Levin's lively verité-driven film, "Godfathers and Sons", hip-hop legend Chuck D (of Public Enemy) and Marshall Chess (son of Leonard Chess and heir to the Chess Records legacy) return to Chicago to explore the heyday of Chicago Blues as they unite to produce an album that attempts to bring veteran blues players together with contemporary hip-hop musicians such as Common and The Roots. Along with never-before-seen archival footage of Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, are original performances by Koko Taylor, Otis Rush, Magic Slim, Ike Turner and Sam Lay.
Says Levin: "This summer we were shooting Sam Lay and his band at the Chicago Blues Festival. They were playing Muddy Waters' classic, "I Got My Mojo Workin'" I closed my eyes and was transported back to when I was a 15 year old hanging in my buddy's basement listening to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band for the first time. My life was changed that day and 35 years later the music's still shakin' my soul. The feeling of that day in the basement is what I have set out to capture in this film."
|The Road to Memphis|
Memphis is a mythical crossroads town that gave birth not only to Elvis Presley, but to a legendary group of rhythm and blues musicians, including Howlin' Wolf, Otis Redding and the incomparable BB King. By following BB on the road, and using his extraordinary musical odyssey as the spine of the film, Richard Pearce pays tribute to the city that gave birth to a faster, slicker urban blues with original performances by some of Memphis' living legends (Bobby Bland, BB King, Ike Turner, James Cotton, Little Milton, Reverend Gatemouth Moore) and never-before-seen footage of Otis Redding and Howlin' Wolf.
Says Pearce: "A chance to celebrate one of the last truly indigenous American art forms, before it all but disappears, swallowed whole by the rock'n'roll generation it spawned. Hopefully we'll get there before it's too late."
|Feel Like Going Home|
Particularly interested in origin stories and the guitar, Martin Scorsese is directing the first film in the series. Wending its way from the banks of the Niger River in Mali, to the fields and juke joints of the Mississippi Delta, Scorsese's film traces the misty, half-mythical origins of the blues in a lyrical combination of original performances (including Ali Farka Touré, Salif Keita, Habib Koité, Taj Mahal, Corey Harris, Othar Turner) and rare archival footage.
Says Scorsese: "I've always felt an affinity for blues music - the culture of storytelling throuth music is incredibly fascinating and appealing to me, The blues have great emotional resonance and are the foundation for American popular music."
|The Soul of a Man|
Wim Wenders' film looks at the dramatic tension in the blues between the sacred and the profane by exploring the music and lives of three of his favorite blues artists: Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson, and J.B. Lenoir. Part history, part personal pilgrimage, the film tells the story of these lives in music through fictional reenactments, rare archival footage, first-person documentary sequences and covers of their songs by contemporary musicians such as T-Bone Burnett, Shemekia Copeland, "E", from the band The Eels, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Garland Jeffreys, Chris Thomas King, Los Lobos, John Mayall, Lou Reed, Marc Ribot, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Lucinda Williams.
Says Wenders: "These songs meant the world for me. I felt there was more truth in them than in any book I had read about America, or in any movie I had ever seen... I want to describe, more like a poem than in a 'documentary', what moved me so much in their songs and their voices."