I saw a couple of movies this past week. There are a couple of things which are very strange about this fact. One is that I very, very rarely go out to a movie. I find them too expensive, loud and, generally, the ones I’d want to see are at Downtown West while our Downtown Regal serves up the most popular movies and I rarely find those interesting. I’ve seen a couple or three movies at the Regal: Juno and True Grit come to mind. But generally, I don’t go there and pay the price for a movie. Since I don’t usually leave the downtown area, how did I manage this feat?
First I went to Relix Theater which is really somewhere between a bar and a dance hall, but calls itself a theater. I love the little place. WDVX hosted a great event there last Thursday night which featured the showing of a documentary of the last years of Levon Helm’s life, entitled, “Ain’t in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm.” It covered the period of “Dirt Farmer” and “Electric Dirt,” each of which generated a Grammy Award for Levon.
The opening shot is of Levon smoking a joint while sitting on his tour bus. Through the course of the movie enough marijuana went up in smoke to make Cheech and Chong proud. He had cancer, of course, and after taking his voice for a time, ultimately took his life in 2012. The movie followed him those final years as he fought bankruptcy, vocal loss and cancer. His capacity for telling a story and mounting a great vocal performance remained until the end.
The show, introduced by WDVX radio personality, Grace, began with songs performed by RB Morris backed by Daniel Kimbro and Greg Horne. RB talked at length about the influence the Band had on his music, noting that they were always his favorite group. He played “The Weight” and a couple of other Band songs as well as some of his own. He noted that no one had the courage to accompany them on drums (Levon’s instrument, if you don’t know.)
The night also featured Tony Lawson, general manager of WDVX, introducing the film by showing another film. His video was of an interview with Larry Campbell, guitarist (my favorite with Dylan in the modern era) who produced Levon’s last three albums and toured with him. He appears throughout the documentary, but Tony interviewed him in Knoxville the day the movie was shown. He said this period of his life was the absolute best.
I’m not sure what prompted WDVX to show this movie at this time (it was made in 2009), but I’d love to see them do more events centered around music movies. Judging from the over-flow crowd paying $10 a head, there’s a market for it. And Happy Holler and the Relix provides the perfect venue. Shaft noted that it was the only time he’d attended a movie that was standing room only and the crowd included James Trimble of the Dirty Guv’nahs who recorded an album at Levon’s studio and got to know him during that time.
The next night Urban Woman, Urban Father and myself attended Summer Movie Magic at the Tennessee Theatre. “On Golden Pond” was the featured film and it seemed like an OK choice for Urban Father. I really wanted him to see the inside of the Tennessee Theatre and I thought he would enjoy the organ concert which starts each of these showings.
He did enjoy the theatre and the organ, but not as much the movie. He still holds quite a bit of anger at Jane Fonda, he didn’t care for the language and, really, is a movie about an eighty-year-old man who is loosing his memory and has a bad heart a good movie to which to take an eighty-year-old Urban Father with his own health issues? The answer was pretty clear as we walked home.
I wish a daily tour of the Tennessee Theatre would be offered. For my money a double tour including the Bijou would be great. I would pay to take out-of-town guests. Bill Snyder will guide a tour of the Tennessee if he is available and it is arranged in advance, but I can’t usually project that well with company to make that happen.
Check out Summer Movie Magic if you get a chance. “Rear Window” shows next week and August brings “The Godfather II” and “Animal House.”