Also starring: several telephones, puddles, scarecrows, saxophones, orchestrated cities and motors.
January 31, 2008 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Its animated-type opening credits set the tone - and when, soon after, Jonas Mekas stumbles in, explaining his version of the butterfly-wing theory, you know this is a different kind of rock-movie. Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel's 1990 music film "Step Across the Border" matches 35mm black&white cinema direct to several seasons of poly-instrumentalist Fred Frith's round-the-globe improvisational jams (with the likes of Joey Baron, Iva Bitová, Arto Lindsay, John Zorn and others). A big-wig at Cahiers du Cinema has it in his top-ten - now you can watch this masterpiece of visual jazz online (or do yourself a favour and get the DVD). (Thanks to Vincent Moon for the heads-up.)
posted by progosk (10 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't seen this in forever! I was introduced to the cult of Fred Frith by some excellent college roomies, and still dig his work. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Scoo at 12:35 PM on January 31, 2008

this is fantastic so far.
posted by troubles at 2:13 PM on January 31, 2008

Yes, this is a lovely film, inspired and unique. Back around the time it first came out I was playing quite a bit on the European avant-jazz/improvised music circuit, and this film was showing at lots of the festivals there. I think I saw it about 3 times! Wish there'd been more films like this, documenting (in such an artful way!) the under-represented improvised music scene of the time.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:45 PM on January 31, 2008

Anything with Iva Bitová in it has just gotta be good.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:14 PM on January 31, 2008

I played the soundtrack CD to death back in the day, but hadn't thought of the film for ages, nor thought I'd ever actually get a chance to track it down. Thanks!
posted by Kinbote at 4:48 PM on January 31, 2008

Multi-instrumentalist and all-around gorgeous musical soul Fred Frith, by the way, is now a professor at Mills College, so any of you folks looking for a really interesting, creative person to study music under might want to consider Mills.

Also, any of you Tokyo MeFites who might be reading this: the singer and sound experimentalist HACO (who appears with Fred in a segment of Step Across the Border) will be performing tonight (Friday) here in town, sharing a bill with *ahem* my lovely wife, Haruna Ito. Y'all come! She'll also be guesting, with me and guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto (Boredoms, ROVO), on Sunday, here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:27 PM on January 31, 2008

Man, that 80's downtown music has aged pretty badly. Yikes.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:40 PM on January 31, 2008

Wow, Joseph Gurl, driveby diss! Care to elaborate a bit? I mean, by "aged badly", do you mean the music from that period doesn't hold up now? Or that those musicians' current music is bad? Or both?

As for myself, I've done my best to maintain my boyish good looks and keep the music interesting, but, hey, time does take its toll...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:08 PM on January 31, 2008

Ah, Samm, you look terrific!

I mean the music from that period sounds awful to me. I'll admit I was never super into it (and was a teenager in the 80's), but the recombinant exoticism, self-conscious "zaniness," and nervous jump-cutting really bugs me now. This is turning into a derail, though, so if you want to chit chat about taste let's take it to mail.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:41 PM on January 31, 2008

I hear ya, Joseph! :)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:17 PM on January 31, 2008

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