Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Victor Mignatti's not-quite-new music doc, THIS TIME, gets its NY theatrical release


How and when new movies appear in theaters is growing ever more interesting. A film I very much enjoyed when I first covered it well over a year ago (when it first appeared on DVD) is suddenly having its NY theatrical debut! (That original post, from which this one is adapted, can be found here.) THIS TIME is a musical documentary that tracks six performers (three of them comprise a single musical group) over a time in which they try to make good (or, in a couple of cases -- the older ones -- make a comeback). The performers have to fight apathy (their own and others'), age (in some cases), and the music industry itself, and if the road is rocky, they are, in general, so full of life, energy and good will, that we follow along, hoping for the best.

The first of these is a musical trio The Sweet Inspirations (shown above), women who sang back-up for the best -- from Elvis to Aretha, Jimi, Dionne, Dusty Springfield and Burt Bacharach, to name a few. Now they're determined, with the help of producer/composer Peitor Angell, to sing and record again. They're very good, too, and they're joined by a newcomer who's also very good. What's to stand in their way?  You'll be amazed....

Angell is also working with another comeback queen, Pat Hodges (above), whose enormous voice is as amazing as her enormous girth is a problem. A child star at 15, she's been through a lot, but it looks like she might be on track to hit it big again.

We watch her work with Angell (shown at right), a very photogenic and (from the sound of things) talented composer, but some of her self-destructive tendencies come to the fore as the film lengthens. And as much as Angell works toward Hodges' success, he's also working for his own, as he is one of our six talents, though he tends to be remain behind the scenes.

Our final performer is a young man (well, not so young anymore; he's nearly 40), Bobby Belfry, who has been playing the cabaret circuit for years, hoping for that breakout opportunity. Bobby's cute, full of energy and positive vibes, and he's clearly talented. But from what we see here -- my take, at least -- perhaps not quite talented enough to be called first rank. (He gets the nice title song for the film, however -- one which he both wrote and sings.)  We watch him at work at a Manhattan bar, and then performing at the Duplex and finally at Feinstein's at the Regency -- his biggest gig so far.

Director/editor/cinematograher/co-producer Victor Mignatti (above, who also directed Broadway Damage) does an excellent job of weaving these stories together. Sometimes the music from one person/group melds into the next, working beautifully to make our performers seem somehow joined. Mignatti handles each person's history well, too, showing us how the past is never quite over. By the end of this most interesting movie -- which reminded me of another fine little independent movie,  Earthwork, in how it captures unsung artists at work -- you'll be left with a strong sense of these disparate performers' accomplishments and frustrations. Though the movie is titled This Time, I'm afraid that you -- and they -- will be thinking more along the lines of Next Time. It's a tough road out there in the land of the music industry....

This Time makes its New York theatrical debut this Friday, August 10, at the Quad Cinema, after which, perhaps even during which, it will remain available on DVD and can be downloaded via iTunes and/or other digital or streaming formats.

2 comments:

Giovanni Vitacolonna said...

Realistic insight into the human experience as it relates to singing and performance. THe true star of this piece is Peitor Angell, a person with a gentle presence who believes in the enduring talents of The Sweet Inspirations and Pat Hodges of Hodges, James & Smith, a flamboyant trio from the 70s. He is there for them. This is a great no frills documentary which demonstrates, especially in the case of Myrna from The Sweet Inspirations that the dream never dies.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks for posting, Giovanni, and reminding me that Mr. Angell has been involved musically in a bunch of movies that I really liked. Readers can view his resume here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0029640/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
Angell's career spans nearly 20 years and includes composing in a number of different genres. Good job!