Note location: The Muffler Shop (359 E Garfield Blvd)
Black Cinema House and Chicago Film Archives present the final screening in our annual “Movies Under the Stars” series at the Muffler Shop. Grab a lawn chair and join us at the SW corner of 55th and King for a night of illuminating cinema that begins when the sun goes down. This summer we’re revisiting the tumultuous and transformative year of 1968 through the lens of three gifted visual artists: Gordon Parks, William Greaves and Thomas Reichman.
Reichman’s documentary portrait of jazz legend Charles Mingus provides a glimpse into the artist’s life at a moment of dramatic personal and professional transition. Released in 1968, the film captures Mingus during a rough period of his career—he didn’t record or release any music between 1966 and 1970. Mingus had just finished a commissioned score for the NET documentary Blues in the Jungle when he cancelled a long-awaited European tour with the Rollins-Mingus-Roach trio and let Reichman into his home on Great Jones Street. Mingus and Reichman’s connection was, in part, based on their shared personal tragedies—Mingus performed at Reichman’s son’s funeral in 1964 and Reichman filmed Mingus at a point of extreme vulnerability as he watched his belongings, sheet music, and instruments be hauled off by the New York City police.
Set primarily in the loft space Mingus lived in on Great Jones Street in 1966 (rented originally with the intention of becoming a “School of Arts, Music, and Gymnastics”), the documentary intercuts material shot on the evening before his eviction with footage of a performance in 1966 at Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike featuring Mingus and Sun Ra saxophonist John Gilmore, Dannie Richmond, and Charles McPherson. Mingus’s musings on his art and life, politics, social injustice, racism, and sexual desire fluctuate between lucidity and paranoia, and Reichman captures both his brilliance and volatility in this complicated and moving film.
(Thomas Reichman, 1968, 58 min.)