Schubert. On Film.

Review – WILD COMBINATION: A PORTRAIT OF ARTHUR RUSSELL

Posted in 2000s, Reviews by schubertonfilm on February 3, 2010

WILD COMBINATION: A PORTRAIT OF ARTHUR RUSSELL (2008)  ***1/2

Directed by: MATT WOLF

Interviewed: PHILIP GLASS, TOM LEE, ERNIE BROOKS, CHUCK RUSSELL, EMILY RUSSELL, ALLEN GINSBURG

Arthur Russell lived out his life as a virtual unknown. A staple of the underground 70’s and 80’s NYC scene, he released few albums and even fewer under his real name. He wrote some disco hits in the late 70’s, but his true genius came in the 80’s, when he began bridging the gap between classical and popular music, creating atmospheric and experimental tunes with his prized cello. His albums were barely released and only now, with the advent of the web, is he experiencing the kind of popularity he so richly deserved.

In Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell, director Matt Wolf mostly chooses to concentrate on Russell’s complex personal life and eccentricities rather than his music, which is fine because he is such a fascinating character. Interviews with his normal, straight-laced parents plot out his beginnings, an Iowa farmboy who moves to the city and hooks up with luminaries like Philip Glass and Allen Ginsburg, who are both interviewed here. He jammed with the Modern Lovers and the Talking Heads before getting caught up in the whirlwind of disco, writing and producing songs under the guises Dinosaur L and Indian Ocean, before finally going under his own name in the mid eighties. Though critically acclaimed, his albums did not sell well, a result of being ahead misunderstood and ahead of his time. He spent most of his life in virtual obscurity until his tragic death of AIDS in 1992.

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