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ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA (Film) Review

 
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At A Glance...
 

Genre:
 
Length: 1 hour 17 min
 
Release Date: November 11, 2014
 
Final Score
 
 
 
 
 
2.5/ 5


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Iconic footage that is captivating.

Not so much?


The style of the film may mirror free jazz, but it prevents much of the learning that could have resulted from a film about Ornette Coleman.


Final Fiendish Findings?

ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA is a documentary that really makes you step back and think about what that type of film should entail. It’s a movie about Ornette Coleman, a major name in jazz history. He is actually the inventor of the term “free jazz”. There are so many interesting facets to his life. He […]

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Posted October 27, 2014 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings?
 
 

ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA is a documentary that really makes you step back and think about what that type of film should entail. It’s a movie about Ornette Coleman, a major name in jazz history. He is actually the inventor of the term “free jazz”. There are so many interesting facets to his life. He grew up a very poor young man in a segregated Texas town, and rose from all of that to become a prolific and controversial name in the jazz world, his young son eventually joining him as a drummer. After such humble beginnings, when we first see Ornette, he is accepting a key to the city in his hometown, Fort Worth.

There is just so much to learn about Ornette Coleman’s life, particularly for those who aren’t well versed in jazz history. Unfortunately, if you don’t know much about Ornette Coleman, this film probably won’t change that. Rather than taking traditional documentary form, the filmmaker chose to pay homage to Ornette’s free jazz style by modeling the film after it. What results is a rather confusing back and forth that can honestly be quite hard to follow.

There isn’t really anything in the way of narration, or explanation, and there isn’t any timeline to speak of either. You see Ornette accept the key to the city, and then move on to a symphony concert, all while short flashes of little boys here and there and areas around the city are shown without any real context. There is often text along the bottom, meant to highlight a location or time period, but even that is rarely clear. It’s really all over the place, showing short clips of things like Martin Luther King Jr’s March On Washington, but not giving you any idea of whether Ornette was there, or played any role in it, and then quickly switching to another event.

Where the movie does shine is in the tons of footage it contains. Much of the movie is made up of clips of Ornette himself, whether he is playing, practicing, or discussing his art. As the filmmaker original wanted to make a film based on the relationship between Ornette and his drummer son, there is a focus on that as well. I enjoyed the music, and the many conversations played out in those clips – I just wish they were given more context. There’s a real opportunity to foster a love of Ornette Coleman’s work in a new generation, but it seems to be meant more for those who already know everything about him.

ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA is definitely a very unique film. It’s incredibly arty, and that will definitely be a turnoff for some viewers. Taking the figure of Ornette Coleman riding a bicycle and placing it in front of a film of space is just…well, it seems like they took it a little too far, and in trying to make the film free form and quirky like the jazz it is based on, they sort of lost sight of the task of actually portraying the person responsible for creating it. It’s an interesting watch if you’re very into jazz or art films, but for the average viewer it’s just a little too weirdly done to be an informative look at Ornette Coleman’s life.


Amy

 
U.S. Senior Editor & Deputy EIC, @averyzoe on Twitter, mother of 5, gamer, reader, wife to @macanthony, and all-around bad-ass (no, not really)