Talk about limited chances to see something amazing– All Magic Sands/ Chappaqua (2012) is a bizarre blend between a soundtrack-that-never-was and two films. The 1966 cult film Chappaqua was understandably close to filmmaker Conrad Rooks’ heart, as an experimental, semi-autobiographical feature based on his own experiences with drug addiction. Rooks hired legendary jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman to write the score for the film — but after hearing the product he subsequently scrapped it, guessing (probably accurately) that Coleman’s incredible sounds would overshadow Rooks’ own work.
But flash forward to 2012: Andrew Lampert fuses Coleman’s visionary work with a little-known and incomplete “Christian children’s adventure” 16mm film, All Magic Sands. The idea was to take what are two effectively unfinished works and put them together. The result is a hypnotic take on these two very disparate things, and a meditation on how brilliant music can transform images that could otherwise be perceived as mediocre or maybe passé into something transcendent, even radiant.
This week our film picks are all ones in which context weighs heavily on the experience. While two of these movies are rendered incredible beyond their usual bounds by some seriously insane soundtracks, whether it’s a live one or a rescued one, the remaining two would be nothing without considering seriously their place within the current state of things. None of the films would function properly on their own without their other pairing. Boom. If that all sounds vague, it is — but I’m taking this opportunity to practice my powers of divination so that when I’m reading my friends’ tarot cards later, they’ll look deep into my eyes and be all, ‘Holy shit.’ Here’s to hoping that’s your reaction, dear reader, when you obediently check out each and every one of these movies and decode for yourselves their star-crossed connectivity.
From July 17 to 23, the Williamsburg micro theater will screen Shirley Clarke’s 1985 documentary Ornette: Made in America as well as Conrad Rooks’s 1966 experimental work Chappaqua. The latter, a psychedelic cult film featuring appearances by Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Ornette himself as the Peyote Eater, will be screened with Ornette’s original score, rather than the Ravi Shanker one that appeared in the finished version.
A little over a year after Sun Ra’s centenary celebration, the far-out work of the jazz musician, poet, and Afro-futurist who taught us that “space is the place” is still alive and well. Case in point, these two upcoming chances to take a trip to Saturn.
Ornette Coleman was buried in Woodlawn Cemetary a little over a week ago, following a memorial service attended by Pharoah Sanders, Cecil Taylor and other fellow luminaries of avant-garde jazz. But even if his final resting place is in the Bronx, the free-jazz pioneer was very much a creature of downtown. At one point he even owned a Lower East Side school building, and you can watch him amble through it in a documentary that will be shown at Spectacle next week as part of “Something Else: A Celebration of Ornette Coleman on Film.”