Cinema Q: Wild Combination - A Portrait of Arthur Russell
USA, 2008, 71 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Art, Documentary
This biographical tribute to poet and musician Arthur Russell brings to light the long-overlooked talents of an artist whose work is only now being discovered by an international audience, some fifteen years after his death from AIDS.
Russell embraced a wide diversity of musical forms and was equally at home in pop and avant-garde circles. Over the course of more than twenty years of composing, performing, and collaborating, he worked with some of the greats of his time, including composer Phillip Glass and poet Allen Ginsberg. Born in Iowa and trained on the piano and cello, Russell ran away to San Francisco as a teenager. At the height of the Haight-Ashbury hippie era, he joined a Buddhist commune, where he met Ginsberg, his lifelong mentor. Following him to New York, Russell began working with composers at The Kitchen, a hub of experimental arts, where he became musical director in 1974. From early on, it was clear that he was bound by no loyalty to any particular genre, moving with ease and enthusiasm from disco to performance art. Yet despite his talent and his access to the arts community, Russell remained an obscure figure, reticent and puzzlingly defiant toward success, elevating process over product to such an extent that many of his projects went unfinished. Ironically, at the time of his death from AIDS at the age of forty, Russell appeared to be on the verge of popular success with his most solid project, World of Echo, a collection of diaristic works for cello and solo voice.
Wild Combination, the first feature documentary by twenty-something filmmaker Matt Wolf, premiered in 2008 at the Berlin Film Festival. Filmmaker Magazine recently named Wolf one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film.
DIRECTOR: Matt Wolf
Producer: Ben Howe, Kyle Martin, Matt Wolf, (executive) Philip Aarons, Polari Pictures
Editor: Lance Edmands
Cinematographer: Jody Lee Lipes
Principal Cast: Chuck and Emily Russell, Philip Glass, David Toop, Tom Lee, Allen Ginsberg