Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme has built a whole side business making films that most other filmmakers would be happy to have as a career: documentaries about music and musicians.
Boswell to Neil Young through three films, Demme has also made a film about Robyn Hitchcock – and now Italy’s cult figure of world music, Enzo Avitabile.
“Enzo Avitabile Music Life” is an engaging portrait of an artist that blends performance and verite footage. Impressionistic, at times a shade too formless, it won’t give you a full – or even partial – picture of Avitabile, his life and career.
But it should whet your appetite for his music. The music itself has both charm and substance, and Avitabile is performer and enthusiast for the various world-music luminaries he draws into his sphere for a song or two, including Naseer Shamma, Amal Murkus and Daby Toure.
A singer-songwriter whose songs deal with man’s capacity for both cruelty and peace, Avitabile is seen playing a variety of instruments: keyboards, saxophones, even a little instrument that looks like a cross between a violin and a harp that he invented himself. He’s seen in what appears to be an ancient, holy space (in fact, it’s the banquet room of a Naples restaurant), engaging with his various guests, moving easily from rehearsal to performance.
In between, he shows off his small apartment, talks about his inspirations and visits the Neapolitan neighborhood where he grew up.
This review continues on my website.