Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Broad Green Enters Long-Term Home Video Deal with Universal for Burgeoning Slate Broad Green Enters Long-Term Home Video Deal with Universal for Burgeoning Slate Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Watch 'SPECTRE' Trailer: James Bond Meets the Author of His Pain Watch 'SPECTRE' Trailer: James Bond Meets the Author of His Pain 'BoJack Horseman,' 'Rick and Morty,' and Our Love/Hate Relationship with TV 'BoJack Horseman,' 'Rick and Morty,' and Our Love/Hate Relationship with TV Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) First Look at Julianne Moore and Ellen Page as a Gay Couple in 'Freeheld' First Look at Julianne Moore and Ellen Page as a Gay Couple in 'Freeheld' Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

First Louisiana International Film Festival Opens With 'Twenty Feet From Stardom' and Star Merry Clayton

Thompson on Hollywood By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood April 24, 2013 at 6:14PM

I thought I was the canary in the coal mine, attending the First Louisiana International Film Festival, a first for Baton Rouge and for me: I've never before attended a film festival's inaugural iteration. But it turned out to be a fabulous four days, with more movies, parties, and panel discussions than one girl could humanly attend. Not to mention crawfish.
0
"The Savoy King"
"The Savoy King"

Director Morgan Neville introduced his film, mentioning that he'd been married in New Orleans, a city he loved and was happy to return to, and also introduced Merry Clayton and her friend, LIFF Director of Music Programming and venerable producer Alan Abrahams.

Earlier that day, over a plate of charcuterie and drinks at the excellent Cochon Butcher, Neville had told me that he had wanted to elope, but when his fiance balked at that idea, he said he then requested a destination wedding -- "in Memphis, Havana, or New Orleans."  His first film was 1995's "Shotgun Freeway: Drives through Lost L.A.," a particular favorite of mine, and shown by longtime supporter Birnie at LACMA  -- hence LIFF's fortunate snaring of "Twenty Feet from Stardom."

Though Neville's impressive filmography includes movies on subjects including John Steinbeck and Los Angeles' modern art scene, he's most known for his many music films, including  ones on the Brill Building, Leiber & Stoller, and Burt Bacharach, many produced through his Los Angeles-based  company Tremolo Productions.

"Twenty Feet from Stardom" features Clayton, Darlene Love, Julia Hill, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega, and Claudia Linnear, all of whom aspired to solo careers and released albums, but somehow never achieved the kind of stardom of the singers they sang backup to, including Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, who also appear, singing the praises (pun intended) of their lesser-known but equally gifted colleagues. It's moving both in its story-telling as well as the astonishing performances, shown in both vintage footage and scenes shot especially for the film.

Afterwards Merry Clayton (famed for her collaboration with Mick Jagger on the iconic "Gimme Shelter") was presented with a framed New Orleans Certificate of Recognition on behalf of Mayor Mitch Landrieu.  She gave thanks to the late Gil Friesen, famed music executive who produced "Twenty Feet from Stardom" and died suddenly at the age of 75 a month before its premiere. She then sang "a song written and given to me by Leon Russell," "A Song for You," to a recorded backing track, and followed that with a moving a cappella performance of "You Are So Beautiful" by Joe Cocker, for which she brought her sister onstage to sing alongside her, dedicated to Alan Abrahams.

I was only sorry that I missed introducing Clayton to documentary film producer Jeff Kaufman, in Louisiana to present his jazz documentary "The Savoy King" at LIFF, because she co-starred with Kaufman's cousin by marriage, Tyne Daly, for a year on "Cagney and Lacey," and Daly provided one of the voices for "The Savoy King."

A desperate attempt to find a restaurant open late resulted in Neville leading Birnie, Kaufman and his filmmaker son Daniel, and me to a raffish place called Port of Call, which specializes in rather wonderful huge greasy hamburgers (served with baked potatoes instead of fries) and fruity tiki-type cocktails. In the small world department, when Neville said he collected Los Angeles ephemera, I mentioned a Los Angeles bookstore I'd worked in, the late-lamented Other Times on Pico, it turned out that I'd sold many books to Morgan's father, well-known Santa Barbara rare-book dealer Maurice Neville.

I hitched a ride to Baton Rouge alongside Birnie and Ireland, who drove us with aplomb through a striking display of thunder and lightning in pelting rain, to a witty iPod soundtrack.  Tomorrow the choices would become more difficult. But tonight had been just about perfect.

This article is related to: Louisiana International Film Festival, Festivals, 20 Feet From Stardom, Documentary, Documentaries, Reviews


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.