Below are the liner notes I wrote to accompany the brilliant score that Anaphylaxis (aka Jason Coffman) provided for my new film RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO. The film will not premiere until this fall but you can listen to the entire soundtrack by streaming it (or, for a measly $3, downloading it!) at Bandcamp now. Enjoy!
The music cues I wrote into the script for RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO describe the soundtrack as containing “dreamy and ethereal electronic pop.” As late as the film’s pre-production stage, in March of 2018, I still had no clue who I was going to approach about composing the original score when a funny thing happened: I heard the sensational new Anaphylaxis album DARK LOVE, DARK MAGIC. I instantly knew that it was the exact sound I had been looking for. The driving rhythm and shimmering synthesizer of “Blue Devil Suite” sounded custom-made for my planned opening-credits sequence featuring abstract shots of the guardrail on Lake Shore Drive. “To Burgundy and Back” — and its accompanying eerie “brushed bell” stem track — possessed a dark majesty that I knew would provide the necessary counterpoint to the rapid-fire screwball-comedy dialogue of my first scene between Clare Cooney and Kevin Wehby. I soon realized that I wouldn’t need a composer after all; digging through the Anaphylaxis back catalogue gave me such riches as “Lin Minmei,” a full-on house jam that proved the perfect accompaniment to our “strip literary trivia” sequence, and “Dr. Nera Vivaldi,” a minimalist, acoustic guitar-driven song that underscored the poignancy of the extended scene where Rashaad Hall and Matt Sherbach’s characters walk from their Rogers Park home to the lakeshore nearby.
There was only one problem: we had one day left to lock picture before the movie was due to move on to color correction and post-sound mixing when my editor, Eric Marsh, informed me that we needed an additional song — one that could play under a scene in which Nina Ganet’s character finds her boyfriend in bed with another woman. As if right on cue, I received an email from Jason Coffman, mastermind behind Anaphylaxis for the past quarter century, informing me he had just composed a new track for the film entitled “Midsummer Masque.” Although Jason had yet to watch any of the footage and I had not spoken with him about the kind of music we needed for the film’s third part, “Midsummer Masque” began with an ominous burst of electronica that seemed to emphasize Nina’s righteous anger with sublime aptness; it was as if Jason and I had been in telepathic communication when he composed the track. When I saw how Eric married this song to the galvanic moment of Nina slamming the front door to her character’s apartment I nearly wept with gratitude at the cosmic coincidence of what Jason had done. Then again I remembered an old saying about how there are no coincidences. The soundtrack album for RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO consists of the aforementioned tracks plus a 1923 recording of blues legend Eva Taylor singing “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home,” a then-new composition co-written by her husband Clarence Williams. The resulting compilation offers something old and something new, and serves as an ideal introduction to the wonderful sonic world of Anaphylaxis.
— Michael Glover Smith, June 2, 2018
In episode 16 of the White City Cinema Radio Hour, I welcome my Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle brethren Jason Coffman (The Daily Grindhouse) and Daniel Nava (Chicago Cinema Circuit) back to the program to discuss the year in film. In this 85-minute “super-sized episode,” we each talk up our top five favorite films of the year as well as engage in a lively discussion of encouraging and discouraging cinematic trends and the most underrated and overrated movies of 2016. This episode was recorded in front of a live studio audience while beer and homemade peanut-butter cookies were consumed!
The episode can be streamed for free on the Transistor Chicago website.
In today’s Cine-File listing, I have a new review of Long Way North, my favorite animated film of the year (barring Tower, a non-fiction film that mixes rotoscoped animation with live action). I’m reproducing the review in its entirety below:
Remi Chaye’s LONG WAY NORTH (New French Animation)
This delightful French/Danish co-production, the directorial debut of one Remi Chaye, sneaks into the Gene Siskel Film Center just in the nick of time to claim the title of best new animated film to play Chicago in 2016. LONG WAY NORTH is a rollicking adventure story that centers on Sasha (voiced by Christa Theret and Chloe Dunn), a 15-year-old girl in 19th century Russia who defies the wishes of her aristocratic parents and sets out for the North Pole to look for her grandfather, an explorer who went missing there while on an expedition during the previous year. The grandfather’s reputation is at stake since his ship, the Davai, was supposed to be “unsinkable” and his ill-fated mission has branded him a laughingstock and a failure. While the story is alternately poignant and thrilling, and likely to give young viewers a genuine and welcome dose of grrrl power, the real star of the show is the beautiful hand-drawn animation; Chaye got his start in filmmaking as one of the layout artists on Jean-Francois Laguionie’s THE ISLAND OF BLACK M’OR (2004), which LONG WAY NORTH resembles both in its conception as an almost Herzogian young-adult adventure on the high seas as well as in its early comic-book style of illustration, where clean lines and broad, clearly separated planes of color create bold and indelible graphic images. LONG WAY NORTH will screen at the Siskel in both its original French-language version with English subtitles and in an English-dubbed version. Check the venue’s website for detailed information on the showtimes of each version. (2015, 81 min, DCP Digital) MGS
On Sunday, December 18, Transistor Chicago will host the first ever LIVE recording of my White City Cinema Radio Hour podcast. This event, which is open to the public and BYOB, will feature me talking with fellow critics Jason Coffman (Daily Grindhouse) and Daniel Nava (Chicago Cinema Circuit) about the year in movies. All three of us will discuss our top five favorite films of the year — with commentary — as well as engage in what is sure to be a lively discussion of the most encouraging and discouraging cinematic trends in 2016. WCCRH listeners may recall that Jason and Daniel were on my year-end show in 2015 and that, miraculously, none of us had any of the same titles in our personal top fives. Will that happen again this year? Show up to Transistor in Andersonville this Sunday night to find out! I’ll be bringing homemade peanut-butter cookies and beer.
The sixth episode of the White City Cinema Radio Hour is now online. I had a lot of fun talking with film critics Jason Coffman (The Daily Grindhouse) and Daniel Nava (Chicago Cinema Circuit) about the year in movies. We each count down our top five favorite films of the year — with commentary — as well as engage in a lively discussion of the most overrated and underrated films of the year. Incredibly, there was no overlap in our top five lists! You can listen to the episode on the Transistor site here (it will also be up on iTunes shortly).
In other news, I will be introducing a screening of Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running at Transistor this Saturday evening to celebrate the Sinatra Centennial. Here is the description I wrote for the website:
Saturday night film screening: Chicago independent filmmaker, author and film studies instructor Michael Glover Smith presents Some Came Running on the Sinatra Centennial. 8:00 p.m. Free, BYOB.
Come celebrate Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday at this special Transistor screening of Vincente Minnelli’s 1958 masterpiece ‘Some Came Running.’ While Ol’ Blue Eyes will always justly be remembered first and foremost as one of our greatest singers, this classic melodrama proves that he also had positively Brando-esque acting chops. In Minnelli’s boldly stylized adaptation of a James Jones novel, Sinatra plays Dave Hirsh, a writer and Army vet who struggles to re-adjust to civilian life after returning to his hometown of Parkman, Indiana. Joining him are Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine in juicy supporting roles, making this the first and best of the ‘Rat Pack’ movies.
Hope to see you there!