Remembrances: Lerner, Moschin, and More

“Murray Lerner, a seminal music documentary filmmaker of the 60s and 70s, has died at age 90 in New York City,” reports Paula Parisi for Variety. “Lerner won an Oscar for best documentary in 1981 for From Mozart to Mao: Isaac Stern in China, but it was his second film, Festival, released in 1967, that put him on the map. The chronicle of the Newport Folk Festival from 1963 to 1966 earned Lerner his first Academy Award nomination for a slice of music history that included Bob Dylan’s first public performance using an electric guitar in 1965. Festival has been restored and is getting a special edition release through the Criterion Collection on Sept. 12.”

“Forty years after making Festival, Mr. Lerner drew on the same material to tease out one particular story line in The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival,” writes Neil Genzlinger in the New York Times. “That film drew on three years’ worth of Mr. Dylan’s performances, including the one in 1965, in which he played an electric guitar, a development that may or may not have led the audience to boo (depending on whom you ask). But the film inarguably conveyed why Mr. Dylan mattered so much, then and now. ‘It’s a remarkably pure and powerful documentary, partly because it’s so simple,’ A. O. Scott wrote in his review in The Times. ‘The sound mix is crisp, the black-and-white photography is lovely, and the songs, above all, can be heard in all their earnest, enigmatic glory.’

Gordan Quinn, artistic director and co-founder of Kartemquin Films: “He was a passionate filmmaker who loved the unlikely juxtapositions you see in his films. At the time Festival! was the biggest film I had ever worked on and Murray had the vision and tenacity to see this multi-year project through.”

More Remembrances

La Repubblica’s Alessandra Vitali is among the many Italian journalists reporting on the passing of Gastone Moschin, the actor probably best known to international audiences for his performance as Don Fanucci, the extortionist who demands protection money from neighborhood businesses in the Little Italy of the late 1910s in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part II (1974). Moschin, who was eighty-eight, also appeared in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) and nearly a hundred other film and television productions.

“Harry Gittes, who produced the Jack Nicholson films Drive, He Said,Goin' South, and About Schmidt and was the namesake for the actor's gumshoe character in Chinatown, has died.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Mike Barnes: “Gittes also produced Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976), starring James Caan, Elliott Gould, Michael Caine and Diane Keaton; Richard Benjamin's Little Nikita (1988), starring Sidney Poitier and River Phoenix; Breaking In (1989), written by John Sayles and starring Burt Reynolds; and The Girl Next Door (2004), starring Emile Hirsch.” He was eighty-one.

“Jeffrey Tuchman, a Peabody- and Emmy-winning documentarian whose Bill Clinton bio-film The Man From Hope was shown at the 1992 Democratic Convention, died September 2,” reports Greg Evans for Deadline. Tuchman was sixty-two.

“John Ashbery, a poet whose teasing, delicate, soulful lines made him one of the most influential figures of late-20th and early-21st-century American literature, died on Sunday,” write David Orr and Dinitia Smith for the New York Times. In 2009, the Harvard Film Archive presented a series entitled John Ashbery at the Movies: “A lifelong, ardent cinephile, Ashbery dutifully attended campus and local film club screenings during his undergraduate years at Harvard in the 1940s while fully immersing himself in European film, as well as the classical Hollywood cinema so important to his childhood, during his decade in Paris from 1955 to 1965. An occasional and insightful film critic, many of Ashbery's poems and plays make clear reference to the movies that helped inspire them.” John Ashbery was ninety.

“Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967,” writes Donald Fagen of his Steely Dan co-founder in a statement published at Variety. “We liked a lot of the same things: jazz (from the twenties through the mid-sixties), W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, science fiction, Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Berger, and Robert Altman films come to mind. Also soul music and Chicago blues. . . . I intend to keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.” Flashbak has reposted Becker and Fagen’s 2006 open letter to Wes Anderson. Becker was sixty-seven.

“Holger Czukay, the co-founder and bassist of the iconic Krautrock band Can, has died,” reports Amanda Wicks for Pitchfork. This “marks the second loss for the band this year; founding drummer Jaki Liebezeit passed away in January. A prolific inventor, Czukay helped pioneer sampling, which at the time involved the laborious process of manually cutting tape. Aside from his work with Can, he released several solo albums, including his most recent, 2015’s Eleven Years Innerspace.” Czukay was seventy-nine.

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