Sunday, February 10, 2008

John Sayles into Alabama, Honeydripping

Friday night I attended, along with about 300 of the more eclectic denizens of Huntsville and its surrounds, the Huntsville Premiere and Party for John Sayles' new film, Honeydripper. Filmed in small towns in Alabama like Greenville, Georgiana and Midway they didn't need to do a lot to make these towns fit into the 1950's movie: clear some modern cars off the streets and swap out some of the merchandise in the store front windows. Standing around in the theater lobby with some of us before the showing, Maggie Renzi, the producer, told us that they are organizing a number of these film co-op parties around the country because they just don't have the 20 million dollars to mount a commercial marketing campaign.

John Sayles was also mingling before the show and at the party afterwards at the new location of the Flying Monkey Arts Center. He is very personable and loves to talk about his craft. I was introduced to Sayles' filmmaking in the early 80's at college by my housemates who were taking film classes. We saw The Brother from Another Planet (1984) and Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980). Maggie Renzi is in both these earlier films. Sayles has Writer and song writing credits to go with his directing credit on Honeydripper.

And this film is really about the music, although we have to build to it through some great dialog and a bit of slow moving slice-of-tough-life drama. None of the big star actors came to our premiere (not Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Vondie Curtis-Hall, etc.). But a couple of the musicians came to the party and sat in with Microwave Dave and the Nukes. Henderson Huggins only plays Danny Glovers' hands at the piano in the film, but he can sing and go to town on the keyboard. Eddie Shaw is the other cast member who sat in. I'm not a sax nut but this transported you to the best of another era and culture. After an hour or so I started to feel bad for Microwave Dave's regular saxist who was standing around the edges of the audience with his instrument dangling at his side, just in case Shaw got tired. That wasn't happening.

It was a powerful evening and a worthy film. Mr. Sayles asked us to ask our friends to see it. Simple enough. Go. Enjoy.

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