Free film series features “Round Midnight”

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By Kelly Dolejsi

The Mesa Public Library Free Film Series shall here forth be known (unofficially) as the Music Film Series, at least until summer. This season’s slate offers a well-chosen selection of fictional and non-fictional biopics of musicians and their fans.
First up will be director Bertrand Tavernier’s “Round Midnight” (1986), homage to tenor saxophonist Lester Young and pianist Bud Powell. The two jazz legends are brought to the screen as the fictionalized protagonist Dale Turner (Dexter Gordon), a sax player whose career seems to be winding — or rather spiraling — down in a soggy ash heap of alcoholism and apathy.
Turner’s gig at a small bar in 1950s Paris seems like it might be his last until he receives a gust of inspiration from, of all people, a French graphic design artist (played by Francois Cluzet), who loves Turner’s oeuvre as though it were a human, his closet friend.
Throughout the film, Gordon’s voice sounds like I’d imagine a cigar’s might: deep, gruff and phlegmy, with all the consonants popped full of air and often too soft and light to fully understand.
Nevertheless, his sax speaks quite articulately of bygone days, playing tunes written by such greats as Herbie Hancock, Cole Porter, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Bessie Smith, Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk.
It’s no wonder Gordon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and that Herbie Hancock won for Best Music, Original Score. It’s also fitting that “The Simpsons,” which regularly features a passionate young sax player, titled an episode, “Round Springfield” in honor of “Round Midnight.”
The film will screen at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the upstairs meeting room theater at Mesa Public Library. As always, admission is free, thanks to the Friends of Mesa Public Library.
The Music Film Series continues on March 3 with “A Mighty Wind,” followed by “No Direction Home” on April 7, “High Fidelity” on May 5 and “Almost Famous” on June 2.
The series is co-sponsored by the Los Alamos Arts Council.

Kelly Dolejsi is a member of the Los Alamos Arts Council.

If you go

What: Mesa Public Library Free Film
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Upstairs meeting room theater at Mesa Public Library
Cost: Free