Music as Sex: John Turturro's Passione, The Swell Season Open at Belcourt

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Passione / The Swell Season
Where: The Belcourt
When: Passione Oct. 17-20, The Swell Season Oct. 18-19

Not long ago, we spoke to the George Jones of Italy, country singer Carlo Martini, who hails from the Mediterranean city of Sanremo (even though he makes his home now in the States). Although he learned to love country music while spending summers with his New Jersey grandfather and his African American neighbor — who turned him on to the likes of Marty Robbins and Eddy Arnold — Martini says country isn’t so far removed from the “ballad-type romantic” songs of his Italian childhood, filled with emotion and heartbreak.

In his “musical adventure” Passione, John Turturro delivers a cinematic love letter to the singers and musicians of Naples, a rough-and-tumble yet poetically inclined city where (as the actor-director wrote recently in The Guardian) “if you sing a song on the streets, people will pick right up on it and sing along, whether you're a good singer or not.”

Speaking of ballad-type romantic songs of emotion and heartbreak, the movie’s joined this week in The Belcourt’s “Doctober” series by The Swell Season, which follows the saga of Oscar-winning Once songbirds Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová to a not-quite happily-ever-after ending.

UPDATE, 12:38 p.m. 10/17: From The Belcourt's website: "Due to a shipping mishap, screenings on Monday, Oct. 17 have been cancelled. PASSIONE is still expected to play this Tue-Thu." In its place, the theater offers additional screenings of the Ken Kesey/Merry Pranksters doc Magic Trip. Below, the Magic Trip trailer and Jack Silverman's Scene write-up.

For those who aren’t familiar with the subject matter, Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney’s documentary about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters' cross-country bus ride may look like nothing more than a bunch of weird, self-indulgent kids blabbering incoherently and acting like fools (which on some level, is an accurate description). But if you’re a diehard Deadhead, an avowed ’60s-phile or a fan of Kesey (who wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) or Jack Kerouac, it’s a pretty fascinating document. The filmmakers have painstakingly reassembled portions of the 40-plus hours of film Kesey and his troupe of merrymakers shot while driving across the country in a psychedelically painted school bus, gobbling LSD and freaking out the citizenry.

It’s really the first sustained cinematic glimpse into the 1964 journey, the Acid Tests and the surrounding insanity, which was ground zero for the hippie movement that would crest five years later at Woodstock. Bus driver Neal Cassady, the inspiration for On the Road’s Dean Moriarty, is featured prominently in all his ranting, amphetamine-fueled glory. And ringleader Kesey is a compelling and magnetic personality, a mischievous imp with movie-star good looks, kind of a counterculture Paul Newman. It’s not the pinnacle of documentary filmmaking, but if you’re curious about the Pranksters and the acid generation, it’s essential viewing.

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