Preview: Jazz At The London Film Festival

The BFI London Film Festival features three movies with a jazz focus - classic Paul Whiteman, the story of Lee Morgan, and Ryan Gosling's jazz romance

The 60th BFI London Film Festival runs from 5-16 October, 2016. The 12-day festival takes place at venues across the capital and will screen almost 250 different movies, with an additional 144 short films also programmed. Two of those movies are of special interest for jazz fans, while a new Ryan Gosling romance is set in the golden age of Hollywood and features Gosling as a jazz-loving pianist.

I Called Him Morgan
Directed by Kasper Collin
Showing on:
Friday, October 7 – 9.00pm Picturehouse Central, Screen 1
Sunday, October 9 – 1.00pm Hackney Picturehouse, Screen 3 GA

Helen Morgan shot her common-law husband, the renowned trumpeter Lee Morgan (pictured above right with Helen), in a New York jazz club one snowy night in February 1972. He died that night, aged only 33. Before his career was cut short, Morgan’s prodigious talent saw him playing alongside greats including Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane and his recording of The Sidewinder became one of Blue Note’s biggest hits. Helen served time for the crime and following her release retreated into obscurity. Over 20 years later, a chance encounter led her to give an interview. Helen’s audio "testimony" acts as a refrain throughout director Kasper Collin’s film, which draws together archive photographs and footage, talking heads and jazz recordings. Collin’s documentary paints a vivid portrait of a legendary artist, an incredible woman and the extraordinary music that brought them together. Part thriller, part love story, it is described by the BFI as an all-out musical treat.

King Of Jazz
Directed by John Murray Anderson
Showing on:
Saturday, October 8 – 3.15pm. BFI Southbank, NFT1

This ambitious 1930 musical was filmed in Technicolor. Though of its time in terms of representation, it’s an entertainment super-production featuring a host of stage talents and showcasing a series of extravagant production numbers, with the music supplied by "King of Jazz" bandleader Paul Whiteman and his orchestra (whose horn section is pictured left in a scene from the film).

King Of Jazz
was directed by John Murray Anderson, best known for his spectacular Broadway reviews. The elaborate staging anticipates later Busby Berkeley production numbers. The film features the first Technicolor animation, a novelty act in which The Stars And Stripes Forever is played on a bicycle pump, a young Bing Crosby, and the Whiteman orchestra pulling out the stops as they perform Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue.

La La Land
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Showing on:
Friday, October 7 – 6.00pm Odeon Leicester Square
Saturday, October 8 – 10.30am Odeon Leicester Square
Sunday, October 16 – 8.30pm Curzon Mayfair Cinema, Screen 1

This is director and writer Chazelle’s bitter-sweet love letter to the city of Los Angeles, the golden era of Hollywood musicals and the visual flair of French maestro Jacques Demy. It follows his 2014 movie Whiplash, which told the story of a drum student and his often tempestuous relationship with his teacher. In La La Land Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a pianist who struggles to keep his job at a family restaurant where he plays freewheeling jazz instead of stale, cheesy favourites. After a series of blunders and mishaps, romance blooms.

Public booking for the festival opens on September 15.

For further information and to buy tickets go to the BFI website.

Bruce Lindsay

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