Imagine a world without rock and roll, or without that obsessive breed of cultural anthropology that favors the margins over the center. That's the world you'd get without Harry Smith. No one better anticipated the sea change of the '60s and its post-revolutionary landscape than this son of Theosophists, experimental filmmaker, Native American ethnographer, alchemical evangelist, speed freak, town crier and collector extraordinaire. His three-volume Anthology of American Folk Music, with its archive of “blues singers, hillbilly musicians and gospel chanters,” in the words of Greil Marcus (whose Old Weird America lends its title), launched Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and the folk revival of the early ‘60s, just for starters. This loving portrait by Rani Singh, Smith’s one-time assistant and co-curator of his archives, blends biography with concert footage of Beck, Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, Nick Cave and other musical archaeologists performing songs from the Anthology, to capture the life of one of America's secular saints.
Dir. Rani Singh, 2006, DigiBeta, 90 min.
Added by la-underground on May 15, 2008