We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
In Enzo Avitabile's song "Mane e Mane", the chorus runs: "All men know it is possible to live together hand in hand", an eloquent summing-up of Avitabile's international outlook on life, as well as his attitude towards music. A jazz saxophonist and world-music composer, Avitabile is so famous in his native Naples that when he visits his childhood neighborhood, people cluster onto the balconies above to get a look at him, or clamor around him trying to get close. Jonathan Demme profiles and celebrates Enzo Avitabile in "Enzo Avitabile Music Life", the most recent entry in Demme's lengthening list of music documentaries.
Unlike his excellent Neil Young concert films, "Enzo Avitabile Music Life" feels strangely vague at times, as though Demme is still searching for a way to present his subject and hasn't quite worked it out yet. The film feels like a first draft. But then there is the music to celebrate: Demme films an elaborate jam session hosted by Avitabile and held in a gigantic stone church with musicians from all around the world. Those jam sessions are the reason to see the film.
Enzo Avitabile is an extroverted and interesting man, with wild hair, a keffiyeh around his neck (given to him by his daughter's Moroccan boyfriend), a dangling crucifix earring, and baggy nondescript clothes. He spills out his theories about the history of jazz (his knowledge is encyclopedic), shares his excitement with discovering Finale, a music notation software program that allowed him to compose entire symphonies and then listen to what he created, a maestro at a laptop.
He lives buried in clutter, with 300 spiral-bound music scores piling up on shelves above his washing machine. He brags about one of his daughters who just had a scientific article published. He likes to start off the day listening to "Stabat Mater" by Giovanni Pergolesi. Avitabile is interested in what connects us, in what holds us together. The foot rhythms of dancers in Sudan and Tanzania have not been properly explored by composers, he thinks, same with rare Middle Eastern scales. The Mediterranean has always been a gigantic crossroads, and Avitabile is very aware of that cultural migration and blending.