Archive for the ‘Movies & Television’ Category

In response to some recent-ish posts here about “SJI” and the movies, I got a nice note from reader Maria (writing in from South America, proving once again the global appeal of “SJI”), who pointed out two other films that the song has popped in and that I haven’t mentioned. One is Henry and June. The other is Double Jeopardy, staring Ashley Judd. It’s the latter film that I’m focused on today.

It seems that the version that’s in Double Jeopardy is by the Spirit of New Orleans Brass Band, and Maria wondered if I had any details on how one might acquire a copy of their rendition.

My brief research turned up very little, so I’m throwing it open to you, the no notes reader. What do you know about the Spirit of New Orleans Brass Band?

As far as I can tell, there’s no commercially available sound track to Double Jeopardy. I found some references to the Spirit of New Orleans Brass Band having appeared at Jazz Fest as late as 2004, and I’m guessing that they are local, but they’re not a band I remember having seen or heard anything in particular about while we were in N.O.

I also found some references to at least one CD attributed to the Spirit of New Orleans Brass Band, but it didn’t have “SJI” on the track listing.

I finally, I came upon some references to the passing of one Layton Martens, in 2000, at age 57, indicating that he was the founder, leader, and trombone player for the Spirit of New Orleans Brass Band — and the pricipal cellist for the New Orleans Civic Symphony Orchestra!

Apart from being pretty cool, that suggests to me that this brass band may be one of those that’s gone through multiple personnel changes and lineups, which is not unusual for brass bands in New Orleans.

So that’s what I’ve got. What about you? Know anything?

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Speaking of “SJI” in the movies, here’s another example — rather different from the previously mentioned Taste of Cherry.

I forget how I got wind that the tune appears in the 2001 anime film Metropolis; it may be that I became aware of the sound track first, and then backed into it from there.

In any case, the film is a bit of a big deal in anime circles:

Based on the Metropolis manga created by the late Osamu Tezuka. The movie had an all star production team including renown anime director Rintaro, Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo as script writer, and animation by Madhouse Studios with conceptual support from Tezuka Production.

I’ll leave it to you to decode all that as you wish. After some deliberation, I’ve decided it’s best not to try to summarize the plot here, because, as far as I could tell, there’s no particular reason for the specific use of “SJI” in this scene. It’s a nice version, though, credited to Toshiyuki Honda, who from what I can gather is a composer and arranger, but almost certainly not the vocalist. Here’s the clip.

Sorry this entry is a little threadbare on actual information. If someone out there has something to share on any of the above: Speak up!

Toshiyuki Honda - Metropolis (Original Soundtrack) - St. James Infirmary
“St. James Infirmary,” Toshiyuki Honda

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A year or two ago I checked out the 1999 film A Taste of Cherry, by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, on a tip from a friend. As this recent article about Kiarostami in The Berkeley Daily Planet, by Justin DeFreitas, summarizes, it is:

A slow, meditative film about a man, Mr. Badii, trolling through the outskirts of Tehran in search of someone to help him commit suicide. He has dug a hole in a dusty mountainside and intends to take an overdose of sleeping pills and settle into the pit one night, never to wake up. But he worries that he might survive, and so he goes looking for someone who will agree to check on him in the morning and either rescue or bury him.

Watching the film, I realized I had actually seen it before, in a theater, when it came out. It’s not an easy to movie to watch, in the sense that it’s quite slow, and there’s not a lot of action, or even much dialogue. Badii drives endlessly in a Range Rover, against an unforgiving landscape. But I was curious to watch it again, because my tipster said there was an “SJI” connection.

“What critics of the film have found most baffling about it is the coda which follows Badii’s ambiguous fate,” DeFreitas continues. Specifically, there’s a sudden shift to “behind-the-scenes footage,” like “technicians positioning microphones” and the director interacting with his star. But the most interesting thing — well, to me — is the sudden appearance of a musical score: Yes, “St. James Infirmary.”

DeFreitas says the juxtaposition of a “song about impending death” with these casual scenes of the collaborative and communal process of filmmaking, is the whole point:

It is a gentle reminder, an endorsement of the views of Badii’s final passenger, that simple moments are what defines a life. “Would you give up the taste of cherries?” he had asked Badii, and here Kiarostami gives us that taste, demonstrating in effect that there is much to be appreciated in this life if one is willing to reach for it, and than even a despairing conversation along a dusty road in a beat-up Range Rover is an experience not to be missed.

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